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Using Evidence: Incorrect Paraphrasing

Incorrect Paraphrasing

Incorrect paraphrasing is another way plagiarism can be present in an author's writing. Incorrect paraphrasing is usually when an author replaces just a word or two of a source's phrasing with synonyms. This type of paraphrasing does not show enough understanding and engagement with the text. Instead, the author needs to strive to take ideas and information and place them in his or her own words. Two common characteristics of incorrect paraphrasing includes when the paraphrased version:

  1. Has the same sentence structure as the original and
  2. Has key words from the original that the author simply rearranged or replaced.

Note that the material here only discusses how to avoid incorrect paraphrasing as it relates to plagiarism. There is much more that goes into effectively paraphrasing a source, however, so we also encourage you to visit the paraphrasing portion of the website for more in-depth discussion of how to best use paraphrasing.

In the following examples, notice the difference in the three attempts at paraphrasing. In Attempt 1, no credit is given to the original authors at all. In Attempt 2, citations appear, but nearly all the words and sentences flow one after another as in the original. In Attempt 3, the student successfully rewrote the essence of the original idea in his own words.

Original: Severin and Tankard (1992)

There is evidence to suggest that newsmakers are becoming particularly savvy about placing items on the media agenda. When, for example, President Reagan was running for his second term, he took a tour to promote his administration's record on environmentalism. The tour was full of photo opportunities, including the president's standing on a fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay and the president's wearing a park ranger's hat at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.

Attempt 1: Plagiarism

Evidence suggests that newsmakers are becoming particularly savvy about placing items on the media agenda. When President Reagan was running for his second term, he took a tour to promote his administration's record on environmentalism. The tour was full of photo opportunities, including the president standing on a fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay and the president wearing a park ranger's hat at a cave in Kentucky.

Attempt 2: Plagiarism Despite Citation

Evidence suggests that newsmakers are becoming particularly savvy about placing items on the media agenda (Severin & Tankard, 1992). When President Reagan was running for his second term, he took a tour to promote his administration's record on environmentalism (Severin & Tankard, 1992). The tour was full of photo opportunities, including the president standing on a fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay and the president wearing a park ranger's hat at a cave in Kentucky (Severin & Tankard, 1992, p. 256).

Attempt 3: Successful Paraphrasing

Severin and Tankard (1992) noted President Reagan's shaping of news coverage when he ran for reelection in 1984. By posing for a photo opportunity in a boat on the Chesapeake Bay, Reagan, according to Severin and Tankard, aimed to present himself as especially concerned about environmentalism.