Is paraphrasing plagiarism? The short answer is: it depends. What defines the difference between the original text based on respectful resources and the plagiarized one is the quality of information processing.
Is it illegal to paraphrase?
Definitely, it is not illegal to paraphrase. However, one should not confuse proper paraphrasing with synonymization. You need actually to work with information, absorb it, and transform it into something new instead of just replacing the words.
The common mistakes leading to poor paraphrasing are:
- to maintain the author’s sentence structure and tone of voice, repeating their method of expression;
- to apply only minor changes to the structure;
- not to use quotation marks to indicate the phrases coming from the author directly;
- to mix up paraphrasing with synonymization, which, when overused, is considered plagiarism.
The thing is, modern plagiarism-checking tools can detect these kinds of changes and define your work as plagiarised. Let’s pay attention to an example from PurdueOWL website:
When we scan the poorly paraphrased version, it is evident that rewording is not good enough to trick the detector. PlagiarismCheck.org still finds similarities:
So, is using paraphrasing tool cheating? Not necessarily, but you need to work with the text.
Can you avoid plagiarism by paraphrasing?
Actually, paraphrasing is a legitimate way to borrow others’ thoughts. You just need to learn how to use it wisely and moderately.
1 Develop critical thinking and a unique writing style. Enhance your paper with original examples, rely on your experience, and strive to find a new angle or approach to the subject. Paraphrase the part of the source you need to ground your ideas, but spice it up with new details.
2 Always credit your sources. Use quotation marks when you provide direct citations, and pay attention to proper attribution.
3 Dig into the topic. Read several sources, formulate a comprehensive impression, and distill the essence of the subject instead of rewriting a particular text.
4 Run a plagiarism check. Use a reliable tool to catch potential plagiarism and edit the paper before you submit it to the professor.
So, let’s sum it up. Is it plagiarism if you paraphrase? No, if you do it properly.
How can you be sure you have done a good job? Use a plagiarism detector to highlight the text’s parts requiring more effort and polish your paper.