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Knowing how to avoid plagiarism is essential, whether it's writing an academic paper or a blog post. Copying-and-pasting text from the internet can be precarious, but if you know how to correctly navigate three specific areas, you will reduce the risk of being involved with unintentional plagiarism. What are these three areas? Watch this short video to find out what English Professor Renee Nimtz recommends students learn about when it comes to attributing others' work. Watch the short video (2:35 minutes):

3 Ways to Avoid Plagiarism -- Summary, Paraphrase and Quote

There is so much talk about plagiarism these days! But how do you actually avoid plagiarizing? Three ways to save yourself from plagiarizing are summary, paraphrase and quote.

Let’s start with summary.  This is one students are pretty familiar with, but that doesn’t mean it’s so clear cut.

A summary is a condensed version of the original text that highlights the main or key ideas in YOUR own words.  So if you were going to summarize a chapter, it might be a page.  If you were going to summarize a paragraph, it might be a couple of lines.

The second way to avoid plagiarism is with a paraphrase.  A paraphrase is typically the same length as the original text but written in YOUR own words, like a summary. So a paraphrase of a page would be about a page; a paraphrase of a paragraph would be roughly the same length as the original paragraph.  The real trick to paraphrasing is making sure you use your own words and NOT using the words from the original source.

A quote seems so easy because you merely take the original text, put it in quotation marks and put it into your paper.  Well, not so fast.

Students tend to think that they should quote the most in the paper.  And why not? It’s the easiest, and tends to make the paper longer, but by quoting someone, you are saying something about the text.

You are saying that the way the person wrote the text him or herself is so powerful and so impactful that if you were to rewrite it in any way, it would lose it’s impact and value.  If that is not the case, you should summarize or paraphrase it.  You should actually quote the least.

That means that if you put “” marks around text, it better be really powerful language.

So with summary, paraphrase and quote, for which of these do you need a citation?

This is a trick question; they all need a citation.  If you borrow any ideas or language from someone or a text (or a Youtube video), you must include a citation.

A good rule of thumb for summary, paraphrase and quote, is to 1. Introduce the ethos of the author or original text, 2.  include the summary, paraphrase or quote, 3. Cite the original source and 4. Discuss the borrowed material and how it relates to the remainder of your point/paragraph or paper.

Writing with summary, paraphrase and quote is a skill that requires practice and care to get it right, but remember, there are only these three ways to borrow outside sources and each needs a citation.

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Paraphrasing is an often misunderstood component of writing. Without fully understanding how to accurately paraphrase, you could find yourself in allegations of plagiarism, even though it may be accidental.

As seen in the WriteCheck Writing Center, here are some tips for how to effectively paraphrase without plagiarizing:

What is paraphrasing? Paraphrasing is putting someone else's writing into your own words and then citing that text.

Why paraphrase? A writer would decide to paraphrase when he or she doesn't want to quote too much. Paraphrasing can make a paper more readable and make it the writer's own. Paraphrasing well also allows the reader the completely understand the material he or she is writing about. A well-written document will be easier to read and make the author more credible.

How do I paraphrase correctly? The first step for the writer is to read and re-read the text to be paraphrased to grasp the entire meaning. When paraphrasing, convey the intended message of the original author.

For example:

Original text: A purpose statement is a declarative sentence, which summarizes the specific topic and goals of a document. It is typically included in the introduction to give the reader an accurate, concrete understanding what the document will cover and what he/she can gain from reading it. To be effective, a statement of purpose should be:

  • Specific and precise - not general, broad or obscure
  • Concise - one or two sentences
  • Clear - not vague, ambiguous or confusing
  • Goal-oriented - stated in terms of desired outcomes (Washington.edu, n.d., para.1)

Paraphrased text: According to Washington.edu (n.d.), an effective purpose statement summarizes the study topic and its goals. The purpose statement is also clear and precise and states what the study will cover and what the reward will be for the reader.

See citation formats and more paraphrasing examples

Another excellent resource to learn about paraphrasing is the Purdue Online Writing Lab: Paraphrase: Write it in your own words. Or get more writing tips and writing instructions in the WriteCheck Writing Center.

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