Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How do I avoid plagiarism when I paraphrase information?

Students read a huge amount of information, ideas, opinions and interpretations in the course of their studies.  The ideas come from all sorts of places – lecture notes, books, websites, journals, newspapers, databases etc.  Throughout their studies, students incorporate these words and ideas into their own writings, assignments and projects.  Amongst the key skills required for writing are: knowing how to quote and knowing how to paraphrase.

What is quoting?
When we quote we take the work of another author and use it, word-for-word, in our own writing.  Quotations are punctuated by quotation marks in order to show where we have used another person’s words.

For instance:
Social media can no longer be dismissed as a fad or the preserve of the young.  “Some of the fastest-growing demographics in social media are those above the age of 40” (Evans 2010).  Innovation in this sector is vital for market leaders because of the rapidly changing nature of how internet-users chose to express themselves.

We use quotation marks to differentiate between our words and the words of another author.  We incorporate the quote into our text where it is relevant and where it supports our argument.  We must cite the quotation, i.e. create a reference to indicate the source of the quotation.

What is paraphrasing?
When we paraphrase we take the idea of another author and re-tell it in our own words.  Paraphrased information accounts for the vast majority of information that is cited in college
assignments and projects.  In order to paraphrase correctly, and to avoid plagiarising the source of the information, we must keep a few things in mind:

·         Paraphrases do not change the meaning of the information 
·         Paraphrases do change the structure of the sentences used
·         Paraphrases do change the words used

In order to ensure that we do not change the meaning of the source information, it is very important to understand what we have read.  The best way to ensure that you understand a piece of text is to read it carefully, to close the book and to repeat it in your own words (either by explaining the idea to a friend or by writing it down).   Once you have done this go back to the source of the information and check that you covered all the main points accurately.

Changing the structure of a sentence is challenging; in fact, this is where the “copy and paste” brigade usually fall short.  A proper paraphrase requires you to incorporate the idea in the source of information into the text that you are writing; information which has been copied and pasted invariably stands out because the writing style is different from the rest of the assignment.  When you read an idea, and then close the book and repeat that idea in your own words, you use your own style to repeat it.  Remember, most individuals have distinctive writing styles.

Changing the words used also demonstrates that you understand the source information sufficiently; you are able to re-explain the idea in your own words.  Again, the paraphrase should fit into your writing style; complicated terminology and phrasing may make the paraphrase stand out from the rest of your text.   Technical terms, e.g. user-generated content, should not be changed.

Social media is appreciated by people of many different ages because so many different types of social networking websites allow people to create their own content, otherwise known as user-generated content. Online networking allows group members to communicate their interactions in a variety of ways. The notion that social networking is restricted to young people is more and more untrue. Some of the most rapid increases amongst people are occurring in those over 40 years (Evans 2010).

This is not a good paraphrase; in fact it is plagiarism. Although I have not changed the meaning of the source information and I have changed some of the words used – it is plagiarism because I have not changed the sentence structure. Merely substituting some words is not paraphrasing.

Social networking is no longer restricted to students. In fact, the biggest growth area in social media use is currently among users who are older than 40 years. The ability of users to create their own content, also known as user-generated content (UCG), is proving to be a significant attraction. Online communities are now able to share information in a wide variety of ways (Evans 2010).

A proper paraphrase changes both the structure of the sentences and the words used, without losing the meaning of the source information. And remember, paraphrases must be cited!

No comments:

Post a Comment