How to Paraphrase Correctly to Avoid Plagiarism

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Madeline Shields

09 Dec 2021

The purpose of this helpful guide is to explore plagiarism and paraphrasing peculiarities to help you understand and use them correctly.

The difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing is quite simple. Paraphrasing stands for rewriting an already existing content in your own words while plagiarism is direct use of someone else's words as if they were your own. Nevertheless, a paraphrase that includes the author's words or the same pattern of thoughts or ideas is also considered plagiarism. It makes it extremely difficult for college students, bloggers, and even educators to avoid it as most cases represent unintentional plagiarism. A way more serious problem is failing to provide reference and give due credit as one cites or paraphrases. It is still necessary to include your original source when someone’s idea or concept has been paraphrased.

How to Paraphrase Correctly to Avoid Plagiarism

This helpful guide will focus on the major differences and rules of correct paraphrasing to help you understand what must be avoided and how things must be approached as you avoid direct quoting. Remember that close paraphrasing of someone else’s words is just as bad as placing a quote without a reference. When you provide a direct quote with all the necessary information, however, such parts are usually skipped by detection tools, yet it may not please your college professor. The reason for that is understanding what must be cited and what should be paraphrased to help your audience see why it is necessary for your college paper or a team project research. Paraphrasing should not be seen in a different light. You are still borrowing information from a certain source. That is why it must be credited in every case. By doing so, you also make your research sound more credible. It shows that proper research has been done.

Summing things up, paraphrasing is a way to rephrase words in a special way to help the plagiarism detection systems see it as the unique text, which is essential for systems like TurnItIn where similarly index is always important. The most important is to provide an original reference while staying as close to the author’s original idea as one possibly can. If you do some research and use several helpful tricks, it will help you to offer something unique that explores and synthesizes already existing ideas. Our guide will help you learn about these simple tricks and correct paraphrasing rules.

Paraphrasing VS. Plagiarism: The Main Differences

It is crucial to understand that paraphrasing may easily become a form of plagiarism when it is approached wrong. While plagiarism stands for using ideas penned by other people and passing them as something of your authorship, paraphrasing also works with these ideas as a person tries to put them in their own words. As a way to help you understand the major differences, we thought about creating a simple table with the major plagiarism vs paraphrasing differences.



  • It will aim to stay close to the original text by rewording the original content.
  • Paraphrasing may not use an original source reference, which makes it a form of plagiarism.
  • Paraphrasing is not considered plagiarism if one uses a specific or unique structure by maintaining the same idea and providing an author’s or organization’s name.
  • Paraphrasing will use synonyms to describe things.
  • What makes any paraphrasing distinguishable is closeness to the original text. It may vary from total rewording to insignificant changes, which always comes down to the writing skills of a person and good grammar knowledge.
  • It will use either direct quoting or text that has little to no changes.
  • Plagiarized content may provide an author’s name incorrectly, which will also be considered plagiarism.
  • Plagiarism will include information “as is” by not changing active or passive voice or making things fit within what is being written.
  • Plagiarized content will not address such aspects.
  • Even though we have so-called mosaic plagiarism that has certain text editing or changes, it cannot be considered paraphrasing as it is an intentional plagiarism case.

Learning how to paraphrase, remember that paraphrasing must be used only when it is absolutely necessary, meaning that when you must use a direct quote to deliver some message, it must be left without crucial changes. When some idea plays the role of a special conductor between your idea and an outcome or a thesis statement, paraphrasing helps readers to understand things in a clear and more accessible way.

Paraphrasing vs. Quoting

The difference here is not hard to understand. If you have more than four words that follow the same order of words as provided in your original source, it is considered a quote. Paraphrasing works differently. It changes the original sequence and uses different words to deliver what has been said by some author or organization. Paraphrasing does not require the use of quotation marks or any specific elements, yet it always requires citations. In other words, when you paraphrase something, provide a citation at the end of your sentence by referring to the original source. It must be done according to your specified academic style format (APA, MLA, or Chicago). While quoting will include a total copy of some text that you take, paraphrasing must be totally different in terms of structure, use of voice, grammar, style, and some phrasing aspects. It is also possible to add certain information to make things clearer for your reader. Remember that if some idea has been borrowed, it requires a reference.

Many college students often worry about not knowing the difference between using quotes and paraphrasing things. Using direct quotes must be used only when it is essential for statistical data or information that must be provided precisely for literary works or subjects like journalism, or political science. It is also vital for medical assignments as it plays a critical role regarding accuracy. Paraphrasing, on the other hand, must be used when you have consulted some ideas and want to deliver the general message based on what you have read and understood. Paraphrasing approach also decreases levels of similarity as some assignment is checked for originality.

Use quotes when it is absolutely necessary but remember to always provide due referencing and do not exceed allowed limitations. The paraphrasing plagiarism approach allows for your text to become longer since it is using a more flexible approach. Regarding formatting, it works the same as using a quote, meaning that a reference must be placed and an author must be provided in your references list.

Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing

This aspect is a bit more complex. Summarizing (as in a movie or book summary assignment) will involve ideas and notions positioned in your own words by focusing on the main points alone. Of course, it's still vital to attribute all these ideas to original sources. Summarizing things, it must be shortened when compared to original content with a broader analysis of things since it only starts with a certain idea by proceeding with the analysis. Paraphrasing will also include the delivery of some message in different words with a source reference. The main difference is that paraphrasing also includes details and won't sound like bullet points as is the case with summary writing.

When thinking about paraphrasing for your paper or turning to summaries, remember that the general rule is to include no more than 15-20 percent quoted material. Using too many direct quotes will also be risky as these parts are skipped by most plagiarism detection tools. Still, when dealing with summary assignments or annotated bibliographies, most college professors will check for the presence of direct quotes and summarization parts. Therefore, using paraphrasing is helpful when some idea is important for your assignment and can be used for supplementary purposes.

Using different wording, you also summarize an article without plagiarizing information but do so in a specific way that suits your writing style and the general essay tone. This way your paraphrasing will fit in a much better way. Paraphrasing and summarizing must use more than just merely substitute phrases. Some analysis is required to alter the original sentence structure. The only thing that must remain the way it was is the clarity of certain ideas.

Note: As you collect information for your summary, when paraphrasing, avoid so-called patchwork paraphrasing where you are using the author’s idea and implement it here and there by turning to a mosaic style of writing without placing a reference. 

How to Paraphrase: The Main Rules

Without a doubt, paraphrasing is always risky even if you place a reference by providing an original source. The reason for that is the possible lack of proper writing skills and the person's inability to change the sentence. Unfortunately, many colleges and universities all over the world use systems like TurnItIn where a high similarity index always becomes a problem if some paraphrasing has undergone minor changes only.

Some proper paraphrasing rules to consider include:

  • Expanding original sentence by bringing in more analysis and personal thinking without ruining an original author's idea.
  • Focus on your main thesis and the reasons why something is significant.
  • Analyze the structure of words and stylistic changes. For example, you can alternate between passive and active voice (allowed in this scenario) or use a gerund. 
  • Research synonyms to address risks of repetition and same-sequence structure.
  • Read some parts aloud and try to explain the author's idea the way you would do it for a friend.
  • Reverse-engineer each sentence by researching the logos and pathos of the message in question.

Paraphrasing in APA

The rules state that writing information from some source in your own words requires adding an in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased part:

Sound engineering of transient waveforms became a leading subject of modern research not only among professional engineers but also among amateur college students involved in DJing and music production following the success of recent publications in the United States (Bridges, 2007).

Paraphrasing in MLA

MLA Handbook 9th edition rules are mostly the same as they were in MLA 8. The only difference is the inclusion of sensitive or diverse language that is gender-neutral and uses “they’ instead of “he” or “she” when paraphrasing things.

It adds an in-text citing portion at the end of the paraphrasing part:

The medical research in the field of autism spectrum has shown that not all parents have been equally supportive of Montessori teaching methods (Jones 4).

Note: Notice that the period is placed outside the brackets right at the end of your in-text citation. 

Paraphrasing Examples

Without a doubt, the most important is to paraphrase an original source correctly by staying as close to original source as one possibly can. Below are some examples that have both sufficient and insufficient paraphrasing to show you what and how trouble can be avoided.

Original Source: 

Advancement in computing has opened up the possibility of mechanizing the process of music creation. Through Concatenative Sound Synthesis, best-matched segments between target and source sounds are found and synthesized. Factors that affect the distance of the match, such as the order and weight of the features are examined and presented here. A robust algorithm to automatically assign consistent weights to all features through the use of Analytic Hierarchy Process is also designed and described.


Norowi, N., & Miranda, E. (2011). Order dependent feature selection in Concatenative Sound Synthesis using Analytical Hierarchy Process. 2011 IEEE EUROCON - International Conference On Computer As A Tool.

Insufficient Paraphrasing Case:

Advancement in computing helped reveal the mechanizing possibility of music creation. Using Concatenative Sound Synthesis, best-matched segments between target and source sounds have been found and synthesized. Some factors that affect the distance of the match include the order and weight of the features that have been examined and presented. It also describes and designs a robust algorithm that assigns consistent weight to all features automatically by using Analytic Hierarchy Process (Norowi & Miranda, 2011).

 Correct Paraphrasing Example:

 The latest changes that have taken place in the field of computing and engineering have paved the way for keeping various processes in music creation mechanized. The process itself implements the Concatenative Sound Synthesis method. It takes best-matched segments in the passage between source and target sound content to determine ground for synthesis processes. The list of factors that play an important role, such as the order and the weight of the features, affects the distance of the match. This information has been presented in the research along with a robust algorithm calculation that helps to assign weights to all aspects in question by turning to studies of the Analytic Hierarchy Process method (Norowi & Miranda, 2011).

As you might have noticed, the second paraphrasing example has somewhat expanded and changed the original structure while still keeping the original message unchanged.

Paraphrasing Tips

Some helpful paraphrasing tips to consider:

  • Convert your ideas from notes that you have taken when composing your research paper or college assignment.
  • Always provide a reference according to a specified writing style.
  • Always check original source twice to ensure that what you have paraphrased remains true and original.
  • Use different wording and play with grammar and sentence structure.
  • Add a piece of more detailed information to help your readers understand the subject and the importance of some idea or research.
  • Do not alter the original idea of the author. It will be seen as plagiarism that is caused by false content that is matched to a certain source.

Still, it is crucial to check the similarity index to avoid plagiarism as paraphrasing is a creative process. Consider using online plagiarism checker to evaluate your written content in terms of similarities and plagiarism risks. It will also help you to address various formatting and citing issues that you may have.


  • Is it plagiarism to paraphrase?

Paraphrasing per se is not plagiarism when it is done correctly with the presence of sources and relevant references. Paraphrasing should not be a carbon copy of the original text with a different beginning or use of changed words. The trick here is to preserve an author's idea by incorporating it with a reference at the end.

  • What is acceptable paraphrasing?

It is acceptable when it contains the same meaning as in the original, the sentences have been restructured significantly, and the information that has been provided is referenced correctly. Of course, it must not exceed the volume of your original ideas, too.

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