Integrating Sources

How to Paraphrase Without Plagiarizing

Plagiarism is a serious offense. It means that you have used someone else's words or ideas without proper acknowledgement. This is easy to do unintentionally, especially when paraphrasing. Once understood, it can be avoided.

One useful technique is to read the passage carefully several times to identify its main points; then set it aside. Try rewriting the main points in your own words without looking at the original. In other words, explain it to yourself.

When finished, set your draft aside and move on with the rest of your writing, or to some other activity. Turning your attention to something else puts distance between yourself and the original passage. It clears your head, so to speak.

When you return to it you will have a fresh perspective. Your recollection of the exact words being paraphrased will have faded to some degree and it will be easier to focus on your own language choices and sentence structure.

At this point, still not looking at the original, revise and polish your draft. You will discover your own voice asserting itself in the writing process. After editing and revising, compare your paraphrase with the original passage. Do your words accurately convey the original contents? Are they sufficiently different to avoid a charge of plagiarism?

You may find it useful to repeat the process several times. Revise your paraphrase, in other words. Examine your results carefully and compare them with the original to see that what you have written is original, gives credit and repeats the essential information. Below is an example that walks you through the paraphrasing process.

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