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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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Inappropriate paraphrasing

Guideline 4: When we summarize, we condense, in our own words, a substantial amount of material into a short paragraph or perhaps even into a sentence.

* Taking portions of text from one or more sources, crediting the author/s, but only changing one or two words or simply rearranging the order, voice (i.e., active vs. passive) and/or tense of the sentences.

Inappropriate paraphrasing is perhaps the most common form of plagiarism and, at the same time, the most controversial. This is because the criteria for what constitutes proper paraphrasing differs between individuals even within members of the same discipline. We will discuss these issues shortly, but first letís consider the process of paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Scholarly writing, including scientific writing, often involves the paraphrasing and summarizing of othersí work. For example, in the introduction of a traditional scientific paper it is customary to provide a brief and concise review of the pertinent literature. Such a review is accomplished by the cogent synthesis of relevant theoretical and empirical studies and the task typically calls for the summarizing of large amounts of information.

Guideline 5: Whether we are paraphrasing or summarizing we must always identify the source of your information.

At other times, and for a variety of reasons, we may wish to restate in detail and in our own words a certain portion of another authorís writing. In this case, we must rely on the process of paraphrasing. Unlike a summary, which results in a substantially shorter textual product, a paraphrase usually results in writing of equivalent textual length as the original, but, of course, with a different words and, ideally, different sentence structure. Whether paraphrasing or summarizing othersí work, we must always provide proper credit. In fact, when paraphrasing in the humanities, one may thoroughly modify another authorís text and provide the proper citation. However, if the original sentence structure is preserved in the paraphrase, some will classify such writing as an instance of plagiarism.

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