Writing for is hard work. You research a topic and find tons of information. Then need to read, understand, and paraphrase these information sources by writing about them in your own words. How do you paraphrase information easily and successfully without plagiarizing?
To speed up your writing, it might be tempting to try online tools such as paraphrasing tools or article spinners, but in truth, these don’t work well at all. For example, a set of case studies from vappingo.com using a free rewriting tool, an AI rewriting tool, and an article spinner never achieved text that was less than 50% plagiarized with the greatest amount of plagiarizing being 80%. Their final case study was using a human rewriter who achieved 0% plagiarism. The human writer did a much better job than any technology at paraphrasing without plagiarizing.
This suggests the best shortcut is learning how to paraphrase things ourselves.
There are a few different methods to help you learn to paraphrase easily and successfully without plagiarizing. The main goal before starting to paraphrase is to make sure you understand the idea behind the topic you want to paraphrase. You may need to reread a section several times or read similar information from other sources to understand the topic, but before paraphrasing, make sure you understand what the topic truly means. After you have read the passage you want to paraphrase and are sure you understand it, there are a few ways to organize your thoughts to paraphrase the topic.
- Notecard, Rewrite
- Outline, Rewrite
- Think, Rewrite
One effective way to organize thoughts for paraphrasing is to make notes about main points (not write verbatim) on the topic on a notecard as you read a passage.
Putting main points on a notecard will help you itemize thoughts in order in a small space. The small space doesn’t allow for word-for-word copying of a whole passage and you are then less likely to plagiarize entire passages. Another benefit of this method is the act of physically writing main points on paper helps you think through the topic and solidify its meaning in your mind. You can use the back of the notecard to then record information about the information source for citing later. If you are a person who likes tactile organization, physical notecards can also allow you to shuffle and reorganize thoughts to plan the layout of a paper.
Once you have a notecard with itemized thoughts on a topic, you can use it to rewrite a similar passage in your own words. If there are any sections in your rewritten passage that use the same wording as the source, make sure to use quotation marks around them. Make sure you revisit the original passage to make sure the paraphrase is accurate.
Instead of using notecards, using an outline for organizing thoughts from a passage is also very effective.
Putting main points in an outline will help you itemize thoughts in order. Using outlines for paraphrases can also help you plan and shuffle thoughts as you write a paper.
You can outline several topics in one document and then shuffle and use the outline as the framework for a paper. Outlining is often convenient because you keep your research and topic side-by-side on the same computer or even in the same document. As with the notecard method, if there are any sections in your rewritten passage that use the same wording as the source, make sure to use quotation marks around them. Make sure you revisit the original passage to make sure the paraphrase is accurate.
The main drawback with the outline method is that researching and outlining digitally can more easily allow for copy-paste plagiarism. Using the outline method is very convenient and can make writing and paraphrasing easy and successful as long as you work hard to ensure you create your outline with your main points, to begin with.
Another, often more difficult, option for paraphrasing is to read the topic passage you are wanting to paraphrase and then rewrite directly in your own words. Using this method, it is very important to make sure you understand the topic before trying to directly rewrite. In this case, it is less likely to plagiarize the topic you are paraphrasing if you:
- Read the topic passage you want to paraphrase
- Close your eyes and think through the topic, making sure you understand it thoroughly
- Set the source material aside (close the book, minimize the source window, etc.)
- Write the paraphrase from the idea in your mind
This method can become a speedy method if you practice. You may also remember the topic well if you spend sufficient time thinking about and understanding the topic before working on the paraphrase.
This method may be the most difficult as it relies on understanding the topic outright and doesn’t provide a “paper trail” of bullet points like the other two methods. It is also important to immediately cite source information using this method.
When paraphrasing anything, plan to cite your sources as a paraphrase is still someone else’s idea and should be noted as such. Several free citation managers make this easy – my personal choice is Mendeley but I have also used Zotero and Endnote. They all have their benefits and drawbacks but that is for another post.
Paraphrasing is the act of writing another person’s idea in your own words.
Paraphrasing // Purdue Writing Lab. (n.d.). Retrieved January 2, 2022, from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/using_research/quoting_paraphrasing_and_summarizing/paraphrasing.html
The Indisputable Proof Rewriting Tools and Article Spinners Simply Don’t Work – Vappingo. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://vappingo.com/word-blog/rewriting-tools-and-article-spinners-dont-work/