The “Copyright Perspectives” video below describes more subtle type of plagiarism which is the “inappropriate paraphrase.” This is where quoted text is altered only slightly from the original and no acknowledgment of the original author is given.

Here is another example of an inappropriate paraphrase.

Original Text

The minds of children are “wired” to acquire language automatically (undergoing exactly the same stages, no matter what the language is). From ages 1-5, kids can acquire any possible language (from English to Chinese to Hawaiian), and acquiring multiple languages is no problem, provided children have enough exposure. From 5-10, kids still have an easy time, but once adolescence hits, most people lose the ability to pick up languages easily.

— Pyatt, 2000

Inappropriate Paraphrase ([bold, green text] = altered text)

The minds of [infants] are [“configured”] to acquire language automatically (undergoing exactly the same [processes],[regardless of language]). From ages 1-5, kids can acquire any possible language (from English to [Tibetan] to[Navaho]), and acquiring multiple languages is [not difficult], provided children [are exposed to them enough]. From 5-10, kids still [can learn languages easily], but once adolescence [begins], most people lose the ability to [acquire]languages easily.

Even though the second paragraph is not a direct quote, it is still a form or plagiarism because the re-edited paragraph preserves the same ideas in exactly the same sequence. The second paragraph is merely inserting some synonyms without expressing a new idea.

The key to avoiding an inappropriate paraphrase is to acknowledge the source of your material as in:

Acceptable Paraphrase

According to Pyatt (2000), the ability to acquire new languages is strong in childhood but weakens by adolescence thanks to the way the young brain is inherently “wired” Pyatt (2000).  Ruuskanen (2003) further elaborates that “there appears to be a ‘window’ of language learning” which Ruuskanen further  notes “opens at about 10 months.”

The items make this paraphrase acceptable – (1) the paragraph specifically identifies the sources of information with the citations “(Pyatt 2000)” and “Ruskaanen (2003)”  (2) passages that are copied from the original are put in quotation marks and (3) the remaining content is phrased in the writer’s own words as much as possible.

Final Tips

Before leaving this page, here are some other suggestions to consider when transferring your research information to a final written assignment.

  1. Be sure that your written work includes your own analysis or synthesis of the topic. Closely paraphrasing multiple paragraphs, even when properly cited is not acceptable work.
  2. If it is not your concept or fact, include a citation to the source in your paraphrase. If in doubt, more citations are better than fewer.
  3. Read the academic articles you use in your research to determine how information from other sources is cited and how it is phrased.
  4. To avoid unintentional copying, try writing passages with your own words first, and then review the passage to add key quotes and citations based on your notes.
  5. If you like a quote from an article and want to use it highlight it or write it in quotation marks in your notes so you remember it’s a quotation later and cite it properly.
  6. For many assignments, it may be better to minimize direct quotes to the most compelling words or phrases as “too many direct quotes from sources may weaken your credibility” (Purdue OWL, Avoiding Plagiarism).
  7. Finally, ask your instructor for guidance on how to avoid this kind of plagiarism.
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