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Paraphrasing/Plagiarism Exercise

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Earlier, when we covered paraphrasing and plagiarism, we offered various examples of properly paraphrased and plagiarized text. Because inappropriate paraphrasing appears to be one of the most common forms of plagiarism it is important that contributors to the scientific literature become sensitive to this problem and integrate proper paraphrasing practices in their writing. To that effect, an exercise has been developed for the purpose of offering instruction on acceptable paraphrasing strategies.

For this exercise, the reader is asked to imagine the following scenario: you are working on a manuscript in which you review published studies on the colony raiding behavior of fire ants, S. invicta. One of the journal articles you are reading for your review contains a short paragraph that you deem very important and thus, you decide that you want to include the information in your manuscript. Here is the paragraph:

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.1

1Balas M, Adams ES, 1996.Intraspecific usurpation of incipient fire ant colonies. Behav Ecol 8:99-103.

You could copy the above paragraph verbatim, enclose it in quotation marks, and include it in your manuscript. But while the use of quoted text is fairly common practice in certain disciplines within the humanities, the practice is typically shunned by most authors and editors of biomedical journals. Another option would be for you to summarize the important points of the above paragraph by condensing it into one or two shorter sentences that fully capture the essence of the ideas being conveyed. However, let’s assume that your intention is to paraphrase the entire paragraph, thereby preserving all of the information contained in the paragraph. How would you paraphrase the paragraph without committing plagiarism and in a manner that is consistent with the principles of ethical writing?

For the first part of this exercise, please paraphrase the above paragraph to the best of your ability. Take your time and use whatever resources you deem necessary (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus). Before commencing, keep in mind that when paraphrasing you must substantially modify the original text while preserving the exact meaning of the ideas conveyed in the original paragraph. You should note that when faced with the task of paraphrasing text, many individuals often complain that the reason their paraphrases are too close to the original is because there are only a limited number of ways that one can express the same thought. Although this may be true to some extent when the original text is comprised of highly technical language, such as the paragraph on mammalian histone lysine methyltransferase used earlier in our discussion of plagiarism, it is not true for most other writing. It is certainly not true for the sample paragraph on fire ants that we have selected.

You should also remember that your paraphrase must also indicate the source of the original material. This is typically done with either a footnote or with some form of parenthetical notation indicating the source of the original. For example, in the style suggested by the American Psychological Association, you might insert the following at the end of your paraphrase: (Balas and Adams, 1996). For this exercise, please assume that your paraphrase contains the proper reference notation indicating the source of the material. You should also assume that a full citation has been placed in the reference section of your paper.

Use the space below to paraphrase the paragraph:

The second part of the exercise will help you to determine whether your rewritten version of the paragraph meets the requirements of an appropriate paraphrase. For this portion of the exercise, you are to place yourself in the same scenario as described above: That you are writing a paper on the ecology and behavior of fire ants and that you discover a paragraph that you wish to paraphrase in your paper.

Below you will find several rewritten versions of the original paragraph. Please examine each version and determine whether it has been properly paraphrased or whether it constitutes an instance of potential plagiarism. As you consider each rewritten version, please assume that you have already incorporated it into your manuscript and that you are now reviewing that section of your paper for accuracy and proper scholarship.

Immediately after you select your answer you will be given feedback as to the correctness of your responses.


Version 1

ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.


REWRITTEN VERSION 1:

A study was conducted to examine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations. The first hypothesis tested was whether queens of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. For the second hypothesis, the researchers tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. The researchers observed aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.

Please indicate whether the above paragraph is:

  1. Properly paraphrased.
  2. Definitely plagiarized.
  3. Cannot determine.

FEEDBACK: This rewritten version is definitely plagiarized. The author has merely added or substituted a few words at the beginning of each sentence, and copied verbatim the remainder of the sentences. Notice that although none of the sentences in the rewritten paragraph are identical to their counterparts in the original, the rewritten version is still deemed as an instance of plagiarism because the author has simply appropriated too many phrases from the original. Thus, the attempted paraphrase falls way short of the requirement for the original text to be thoroughly modified. This is a clear-cut case of plagiarism. See the following tables for comparisons between the original paragraph and its rewritten counterpart.

ORIGINAL VERSION

“This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.”

PLAGIARIZED VERSION

A study was conducted to examine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations. The first hypothesis tested was whether queens of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. For the second hypothesis, the researchers tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. The researchers observed aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.

* Red colored, underlined strings of text indicate that they have been taken verbatim from the original paragraph.

* Blue highlighted text indicates that it has been appropriated from the original paragraph with a change in the order of the words or phrases.


Version 2

ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.


REWRITTEN VERSION 2

An investigation was carried out to examine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations. The first hypothesis tested was whether queens of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. The second hypothesis tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressiveness during these usurpation attempts was measured to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.

Please indicate whether the above paragraph is:

  1. Properly paraphrased.
  2. Definitely plagiarized.
  3. Cannot determine.

FEEDBACK: The author has not truly paraphrased the original paragraph. As with the first rewritten version, only a few words have been substituted, deleted, or added, leaving the rest of the sentences in the new paragraph virtually unchanged. Once again, too many of the phrases that make up the original paragraph are reproduced in the rewritten version. The author has simply failed to modify the original material sufficiently. For these reasons, the current rewritten version is considered an instance of definite plagiarism.

ORIGINAL VERSION

“This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.”

PLAGIARIZED VERSION

An investigation was carried out to examine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations. The first hypothesis tested was whether queens of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. The second hypothesis tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressiveness during these usurpation attempts was mesured to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting ussurpation

* Red colored, underlined strings of text indicate that they have been taken verbatim from the original paragraph.

* Blue highlighted text indicates that it has been appropriated from the original paragraph with a change in the order of the words or phrases.


Version 3

ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.


REWRITTEN VERSION 3

To determine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations, two researchers have conducted a study in which the following hypotheses were tested: First, they wanted to see whether queens of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, they tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. The ants’ aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of related or familiar workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting a colony take­ over.

Please indicate whether the above paragraph is:

  1. Properly paraphrased.
  2. Definitely plagiarized.
  3. Cannot determine.

FEEDBACK: The first sentence of the rewritten version is probably an acceptable paraphrase of the first sentence in the original paragraph. However, with the exception of a minor transposition of words in the last sentence, the rest of the sentences have only been superficially changed by the addition or substitution of a few words at the beginning of each sentence. The remaining phrases in these sentences have not changed. As with the previous example, none of the sentences in the rewritten paragraph are totally identical to their counterparts in the original. Because there is still a significant amount of verbatim material taken from the original, the rewritten version would still be deemed as an example of plagiarism.

ORIGINAL VERSION

“This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.”

PLAGIARIZED VERSION

To determine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations, two researchers have conducted a study in which the following hypotheses were tested: First, they wanted to see whether queens of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, they tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. The ants’ aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of related or familiar workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting a colony take-over.

* Red colored, underlined strings of text indicate that they have been taken verbatim from the original paragraph.

* Blue highlighted text indicates that it has been appropriated from the original paragraph with a change in the order of the words or phrases.


Version 4

ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.


REWRITTEN VERSION 4

To determine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations, a study was conducted in which the following variables were investigated: First, S. invicta queens’ hypothesized ability to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved was examined. The second hypothesis tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. During these usurpation attempts aggressive behavior was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced aggression toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting colony usurpation.

Please indicate whether the above paragraph is:

  1. Properly paraphrased.
  2. Definitely plagiarized.
  3. Cannot determine.

FEEDBACK: In this version the first two paraphrased sentences appear to have undergone moderate modifications. However, the second two sentences have not been adequately paraphrased. As with previous versions, the third sentence was changed by a mere substitution of the first two of three words and the fourth sentence has not been changed at all making these two sentences plagiarized versions of the original. Because the first two sentences were not sufficiently modified and because the last two sentences contain only minimal changes, this rewritten version of the original paragraph is still considered as a case of plagiarism.

ORIGINAL VERSION

“This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.”

PLAGIARIZED VERSION

To determine whether workers of S. invicta can assist their mothers in colony usurpations, a study was conducted in which the following variables were investigated: First, S. invicta queens’ hypothesized ability to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved was examined. The second hypothesis tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. During these usurpation attempts aggressive behavior was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced aggression toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting colony usurpation.

* Red colored, underlined strings of text indicate that they have been taken verbatim from the original paragraph.

* Blue highlighted text indicates that it has been appropriated from the original paragraph with a change in the order of the words or phrases.


Version 5

ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.


REWRITTEN VERSION 5

An investigation was carried out to determine whether S. invicta mothers are helped by their worker offspring during colony usurpations. The study’s focus of investigation was the question of whether colony take-over by S. invicta queens is more effective when their daughters first invade the colonies. One hypothesis concerned the extent to which daughters’ familiarity with the queen, or their genetic similarity to her, affects successful colony take-over. During attempts at taking over another colony, behavioral observations were made of usurping workers that were either familiar or genetically related to the queens to see if these variables were related to aggressive behavior toward the resident or the invading queen.

Please indicate whether the above paragraph is:

  1. Properly paraphrased.
  2. Definitely plagiarized.
  3. Cannot determine.

FEEDBACK: Although some of the terms from the original paragraph have been retained in the rewritten version, the current paraphrased version has been sufficiently modified from the original and is, therefore, classified as having been correctly paraphrased.

ORIGINAL VERSION

“This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.”

PLAGIARIZED VERSION

An investigation was carried out to determine whether S. invicta mothers are helped by their worker offspring during colony usurpations. The study’s focus of investigation was the question of whether colony take-over by S. invicta queens is more effective when their daughters first invade the colonies. One hypothesis concerned the extent to which daughters’ familiarity with the queen, or their genetic similarity to her, affects successful colony take-over. During attempts at taking over another colony, behavioral observations were made of usurping workers that were either familiar or genetically related to the queens to see if these variables were related to aggressive behavior toward the resident or the invading queen.

* Red colored, underlined strings of text indicate that they have been taken verbatim from the original paragraph.

* Blue highlighted text indicates that it has been appropriated from the original paragraph with a change in the order of the words or phrases.


Version 6

ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH

This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.


REWRITTEN VERSION 6

Balas and Adams carried out an investigation to determine whether S. invicta mothers are helped by their worker offspring during colony take-overs. These authors asked whether colony take-over by S. invicta queens is more effective when their daughters first invade the colonies. A second hypothesis concerned the extent to which daughters’ familiarity with the queen, or their genetic similarity to her, affects successful colony take-over.

During these occupation attempts, aggressive behavior of usurping workers that were either familiar or genetically related was observed to see if these variables mediated aggressive behavior toward the invading or the resident queen.

Please indicate whether the above paragraph is:

  1. Properly paraphrased.
  2. Definitely plagiarized.
  3. Cannot determine.

FEEDBACK: If you selected “properly paraphrased”, you are correct. Although as in the earlier example (No. 5) the structure of the paragraph (i.e., order of the sentences) has been preserved, the present rewritten paragraph represents a thoroughly modified version of the original. The reader is reminded; however, that in some disciplines, particularly within the humanities, a proper paraphrase entails a change in the overall structure of the paragraph as well as a change in the wording. Given, that scientific writing is sometimes multidisciplinary in scope, authors should make every effort to be thoroughly acquainted with the rules of scholarship encompassing the readership of their work.

ORIGINAL VERSION

“This study examines whether workers of S. invicta are able to assist their mothers in colony usurpations. First we tested whether [queens] of S. invicta are better able to usurp colonies to which their daughters have moved. Second, we tested whether the effect of daughters on usurpation success is due to familiarity with the queen or to genetic relatedness. Aggressive behavior during these usurpation attempts was observed to determine if the presence of familiar or related workers influenced the aggressive response toward either the resident queen or the queen attempting usurpation.”

PLAGIARIZED VERSION

Balas and Adams carried out an investigation to determine whether S. invicta mothers are helped by their worker offspring during colony take-overs. These authors asked whether colony take-over by S. invicta queens is more effective when their daughters first invade the colonies. A second hypothesis concerned the extent to which daughters’ familiarity with the queen, or their genetic similarity to her, affects successful colony take-over. During these occupation attempts, aggressive behavior of usurping workers that were either familiar or genetically related was observed to see if these variables mediated aggressive behavior toward the invading or the resident queen.

* Red colored, underlined strings of text indicate that they have been taken verbatim from the original paragraph.

* Blue highlighted text indicates that it has been appropriated from the original paragraph with a change in the order of the words or phrases.