Taking portions of text from one or more sources, crediting the author/s, but only making ‘cosmetic’ changes to the borrowed material, such as changing one or two words, simply rearranging the order, voice (i.e., active vs. passive) and/or tense of the sentences is NOT paraphrasing.
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 differ between individuals, even within the same discipline (Roig, 2001). We will discuss these issues shortly, but first let’s consider the process of paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing and summarizing
Scholarly writing, including scientific writing, often involves paraphrasing and summarizing others’ work. For example, in the introduction of a traditional IMRAD 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 that form the background and rationale for the hypotheses being tested or for the main thesis of the paper being written. Such reviews call for the synthesis (i.e., summarizing) of relatively large amounts of 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 author’s 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 roughly equivalent textual length as the original, but, of course, with different words and sentence structure. Whether paraphrasing or summarizing others’ work, we must always provide proper credit.