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Plagiarism: Understand and Avoid It!: Paraphrasing

What is plagiarism? How do you quote a source without plagiarizing? Review this material to learn how!


Paraphrasing is the process you’ll use to construct an indirect quotation.  In order to paraphrase, you will take an author’s statement and put it into your own words.  At first you may wonder how different a paraphrase has to be from the original passage in order to not be considered plagiarism.  As examples, here is a paragraph from a scholarly article, an unsuccessful attempt at paraphrasing portions of that statement, and a good example of paraphrasing.

The Original Passage

"Despite the fact that he never performed outside North America, Elvis has a huge following around the world. His music and style transformed him from a musician to a pop icon. He is probably the most well-known singer around the world. In fact, the official Elvis Web site contains contact information for more than 500 fan clubs in 44 U.S. states and more than 40 different countries, including Australia, Brazil, and Japan. So, the next time you turn on your CD player or listen to your iPod, you can thank Elvis for the fact that you're moving to the beat of your music, and not the music of your great-grandparents!" (Lusted, 2008, p. 14).

Word-for-word Plagiarism

Here is an example of an unsuccessful attempt to paraphrase that statement.  Notice that the underlined phrases are the same as those used in the original paragraph.  Some words have been changed and a few have been omitted, but the character of the sentences is almost identical to that of the original paragraph.  Even if the writer of this passage gave a citation to the original source this would still be considered plagiarism because he or she didn’t use quotation marks around the passages that were copied exactly. 

Despite the fact that he never sang outside North America, Elvis was very popular around the worldHis music transformed him into a pop icon.  He is likely the most well-known singer in the world.  The official Elvis Web site contains more than 500 fan clubs in the world. 

Even if this were done unintentionally, it would still be considered plagiarism.

A Legitimate Paraphrase

Here is an example of a successful paraphrasing of the original statement.  Even though this writer uses some of the same individual words, like “icon”, he or she does so very rarely.  Generally, the concepts of the original passage are maintained, but using words that are significantly different. 

Although he only performed within North America during his lifetime, Elvis developed a worldwide fan base.  He became a musical icon due to both his singing and his personal style.  He may be the most famous singer in the world.  (Lusted, 2008, p. 14).