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International Relations Comparative Government Subject Guide: Paraphrasing

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Tip!

To avoid plagiarizing, you must change both the sentence structure and the words of the original text.

Steps to Paraphrasing

To paraphrase, follow the steps below:

  1. Read the original text until you grasp its meaning; then set it aside.
  2. Using your memory, write down the main points or concepts. Do not copy the text verbatim.
  3. Change the structure of the text by varying the opening, changing the order of sentences, lengthening or shortening sentences, etc.
  4. Replace keywords within the sentences with synonyms or phrases with similar meanings.
  5. Check your notes against the original to ensure you have not accidentally plagiarized.

Examples

Paraphrasing Example 1.

Original Text
If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists (Davis 26).

Unacceptable Borrowing of Phrases
Davis observed that the existence of a signing ape unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists (26).

Unacceptable Borrowing of Structure
Davis observed that if the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior (26).

Acceptable Paraphrase
Davis observed both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise upon learning of an ape’s ability to use sign language (26).

Paraphrasing Example 2.

Original Text
The automotive industry has not shown good judgment in designing automotive features that distract drivers. A classic example is the use of a touch-sensitive screen to replace all the controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although an interesting technology, such devices require that the driver take his eyes off the road.
- Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi, Letter to a Massachusetts state senator, p.3

Unacceptable Borrowing
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi argue that the automotive industry has not demonstrated good judgment in devising car features that distract drivers. One feature is a touch-sensitive screen that replaced controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although the technology is interesting, such devices require that a driver look away from the road (3).

Acceptable Paraphrase
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi claim that motor vehicle manufacturers do not always design features with safety in mind. For example, when designers replaced radio, CD player, and temperature control knobs with touch-sensitive panels, they were forgetting one thing: To use the panels, drivers would need to take their eyes off the road (3).

Examples taken from: Hacker, Diana. Rules for Writers. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Tips for Notetaking

  • Use index cards to keep notes and track sources of information used in your paper.
  • Create numbered Work Cited cards for each source of information.
    • Include all of the citation information (i.e., author, title, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.) you will need to write your Works Cited page.
    • Record the citation information in MLA format. When it comes time to write your Works Cited page, it will be easier to organize your sources alphabetically.
  • On each card:
    • Use only one side to record notes.
    • Record only one idea, fact or quote from one source on a notecard. It will be easier to rearrange them later when it comes time to organize your paper.
    • Include a heading for the topic of the card. 
    • Include the original source of the information. If you have created numbered Work Cited cards for each source, you will only need to include the source number.
    • Include the page number where you found the information.
  • Taking notes:
    • Use abbreviations, acronyms, or incomplete sentences to record information (as long you will understand them later). This will speed up the notetaking process.
    • Do not write down everything. Extract only the information that answers your research questions
    • Use one of the following notetaking forms:
      • Summarize the main idea of the article, then outline its main points.
      • Paraphrase or record notes in your own words.
      • If you plan to use an exact quote, make sure you copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the original source. Enclose the quote in quotation marks and note the name of the person you are quoting.
    • Use symbols, diagrams, charts or drawings to simply and visualize ideas.