When taking notes during a reading session or lecture, sometimes you need to write down a concept, but in your own words. When you do that, you are paraphrasing. However, when you are paraphrasing, there are some important habits to adopt in order avoid plagiarism.
- Avoid analysis or interpretation, as a paraphrased statement includes the same concept or idea without any color commentary.
- Include the author’s name when paraphrasing (e.g., Kelly DeVries believes that . . .).
- Always cite your source. The idea is not your own, and even though you are not quoting it directly you still need to give credit.
- Rewrite the statement in your own words. If you find yourself using the same phrases, then you should use quotations where appropriate.
Paraphrasing in Action
Here is a quote from an article by Kelly DeVries entitled “The Use of Chronicles in Recreating Medieval Military History,” published in the Journal of Medieval Military History (2004).
With care, military history, especially that taking place on the battlefield or at sieges, can be reconstructed by comparing what the various sources say about an event and by further comparing it with traditional practice (Devries 2004, 15).
Here is a paraphrased version of the statement. It follows all the rules above, but it does not give credit to DeVries. Thus, if we publish this statement as such, we are committing plagiarism.
We can reconstruct medieval battles and sieges by comparing medieval accounts of the events, as well as by comparing the descriptions to the known practices of the time.
Here is the same paraphrase, but with proper citations.
Kelly DeVries believes that we can reconstruct medieval battles and sieges by comparing medieval accounts of the events, as well as by comparing the descriptions to the known practices of the time (DeVries 2004, 15).
I put DeVries’s concept in my own words and attributed it to him. Notice that I did not change the meaning of the original statement. I added clarity here and there. For example, I used “medieval accounts” instead of “sources.” DeVries spent an article establishing that he was referring to medieval accounts; I needed to do it in a sentence for my purposes. The key is that the meaning is the same.
Keep these habits in mind when you are paraphrasing. When in doubt, cite your source.
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor