In this month's Ask WriteCheck column, a student asks about the legitimacy of paraphrasing the majority of his research paper.
This is an example. I am writing an essay about biology, something I have no clue about. I find information online and use it on my essay with citation and quotes. However, I am paraphrasing everything I found online and quoting them. Basically, my essay is a big essay quoted with a few sentences not quoted. Is that plagiarism? I feel your answer will be yes, but how can I write the essay without quoting everything when every information I got was something new to me and the way the information is structured is the same way I would have said it in my own voice with some paraphrasing.
Thanks for your question! I can understand your concern about a completely unoriginal work and you are right. An essay that almost has no original work/content from the author would be considered plagiarism. While it is going to be challenging to find an original and unique way to write about these ideas, I would suggest that you look at the prompt as a way to guide your discussion. For example, if the assignment asks you to do research and make a claim about the research, then the "making a claim" part would be completely original and based off your own ideas on the subject matter. If however the assignment just calls for research and to synthesize it into a digestible chunk, then the content will be unoriginal (after all, you're not going to reinvent the wheel). This still doesn't absolve you from combining your sources and expressing yourself in an original way.
If you're really stuck, I'd suggest that you talk to your instructor and see if there are any ways to improve the originality of your work.
Hope this helps!