Examples of Acceptable and Unacceptable Paraphrasing
The examples below will show you how paraphrase correctly. They're adapted from Paraphrasing by University Libraries, University of Arizona with its gracious permission.
Here's the original text, from page 1 of Lizzie Borden: A Case Book of Family and Crime in the 1890s by Joyce Williams et al.:
The rise of industry, the growth of cities, and the expansion of the population were the three great developments of late nineteenth century American history. As new, larger, steam-powered factories became a feature of the American landscape in the East, they transformed farm hands into industrial laborers, and provided jobs for a rising tide of immigrants. With industry came urbanization the growth of large cities (like Fall River, Massachusetts, where the Bordens lived) which became the centers of production as well as of commerce and trade.
Here's an unacceptable paraphrase:
The increase of industry, the growth of cities, and the explosion of the population were three large factors of nineteenth century America. As steam-driven companies became more visible in the eastern part of the country, they changed farm hands into factory workers and provided jobs for the large wave of immigrants. With industry came the growth of large cities like Fall River where the Bordens lived which turned into centers of commerce and trade as well as production.
What makes this passage plagiarism?
This is unacceptable paraphrasing because the writer has:
- only changed a few words and phrases
- only changed the order of the original's sentences
- failed to cite a source for any of the ideas or facts
Here's an acceptable paraphrase:
Fall River, where the Borden family lived, was typical of northeastern industrial cities of the nineteenth century. Steam-powered production had shifted labor from agriculture to manufacturing, and as immigrants arrived in the U.S., they found work in these new factories. As a result, populations grew and large urban areas arose. Fall River was one of these manufacturing and commercial centers (Williams 1).
Why is this passage acceptable?
- accurately relays the information in the original using his/her own words
- lets the reader know the source of information
Here's an another acceptable paraphrase, using a quotation and paraphrase together:
Fall River, where the Borden family lived, was typical of northeastern industrial cities of the nineteenth century. As steam-powered production shifted labor from agriculture to manufacturing, the demand for workers "transformed farm hands into factory workers" and created jobs for immigrants. In turn, growing populations increased the size of urban areas. Fall River was one of these manufacturing hubs that were also "centers of commerce and trade" (Williams 1).
Why is this passage acceptable?
- accurately records the information in the original passage
- gives credit for the ideas in this passage
- indicated which part is taken directly from the source by putting the passage in quotation marks and citing the page number
Strategies for avoiding plagiarism
1. Put quotation marks around everything that comes directly from the text, especially when taking notes.
2. When you paraphrase, be sure you're not just rearranging or replacing a few words. Instead, read over what you want to paraphrase carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close the text so you can't see any of it (and so aren't tempted to use the text as a "guide"). Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.
3. Check your paraphrase against the original text to be sure you haven't accidentally used the same phrases or words, and that the information is accurate.