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Sometimes you will want to include someone else’s ideas in your paper without directly quoting them. To do this, you can paraphrase or summarize and give the author credit. A paraphrase or summary is a rewrite of the original author’s ideas in your own words; for more information on paraphrasing, see Paraphrasing (American Psychological Association). You need to be careful when you summarize and paraphrase to make sure that you are really rewriting the text, not just changing a few key words.
Paraphrase: to rewrite the text in your own words so that it is about the same number of words as the original.
Summarize: to rewrite the text in your own words so that it is shorter than the original.If you're looking for more information on summarizing, please visit Five Keys to Writing Effective Summaries (Southern Illinois University Writing Center) and Summarizing (Leora Freedman, University of Toronto).
Tip: To avoid plagiarism, don’t look at the original source as you write. Also, be careful about using the copy and paste feature on your computer so that you don’t accidentally take text without rewriting it in your own words.
Remember, although the summary or paraphrase will be written in your own words, it is important that you clearly identify the outside source and attribute the borrowed ideas to it. Make sure that you use words that will clarify whose ideas you are using when you introduce your paraphrase.
Example: Whittaker (1966) noted that the simple presence of a motorcycle in the room raised the heart rate of the chimps to a dangerous level (p. 26).
See Introducing Quotations for more information on signal phrases.
The following is an original passage:
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 and the growth of large cities (like Fall River, Massachusetts, where the Borden lived), which became the centers of production as well as of commerce and trade. (Source: William, J. G. (1981). Lizzie Borden: A case book of family and crime in the 1890’s. Bloomington, IN: T.I.S. Publications Division).
The increase of industry, the growth of cities, and the explosion of the population were three large factors of nineteenth century America. As steamdriven 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.
The preceding passage is considered plagiarism because the writer has only changed around a few words and phrases and failed to cite a source for any of the ideas or facts.
Acceptable paraphrase (1)
Fall River, where the Borden family lived (William, 1981, p. 1), 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 US, they found work in these new factories (p. 1). As a result, population grew, and large urban areas arose (p. 1). Fall River was one of these manufacturing and commercial centers (p. 1).
This is an acceptable paraphrase because the writer accurately relayed the information in the original using his or her own words and provided a citation for the material.
Acceptable paraphrase (2)
Fall River, where the Borden family lived (William, 1981, p. 1), 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 industrial laborers” (p.1), and created jobs for immigrants (p. 1). In turn, growing populations increased the size of urban areas (p. 1). Fall River was one of these hubs “which became the centers of production as well as of commerce and trade” (p. 1).
This is acceptable paraphrasing because the writer recorded the information in the original passage accurately, gave credit for the ideas in this passage, and indicated which part is taken directly from the source by identifying the passage in quotation marks and citing the page number.
For more information on avoiding plagiarism when paraphrasing, please see the Avoiding Plagiarism Guide (American Psychological Association), which includes explanations, examples, and tips for how to avoid plagiarizing words and ideas. For practice exercises, please see Paraphrasing and Citation Activities, also by the American Psychological Association.
*Special thanks to Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN for the use of the examples of paraphrasing vs. plagiarizing.
For additional practice exercises, please refer to these excellent materials:
Practice with Paraphrases (Royal Roads University)
Paraphrasing and Citation Activities (American Psychological Association)
Writing in Your Own Words (The Open University)
Adapted from "Using someone else's words: Quote, summarize, and paraphrase your way to success" © Center for Teaching and Faculty Development at San Francisco State University. Adapted with permission.