I was having my students practice paraphrasing sentences from an academic article, and so I thought I would make it really meta and have them paraphrase an article about international students paraphrasing.
Here is the paragraph they used which is from page 116 of Introna and Hayes (2011) (which happens to be a very informative article on the issues involved in using plagiarism detection software):
I can remember when I wrote papers in college, I used the text fragment strategy. Since this is becoming a dominant strategy used by students, rather than viciously cling to the old note card system*, I say go with it and offer these words of caution (if these steps are not followed, there is a BIG risk for accidental plagiarism):
- When you copy text from another source and paste it into your paper, put quotes around it and add bibliographic citation information IMMEDIATELY (e.g. author last name and year if using APA). Even if you will paraphrase it later, still put quotes in case you get distracted and forget. Every semester I tell them about how when I was "seventeen and crazy," one time I put the quotes around my source fragments, but I didn't give the bibliographic information (author and page number) since I reasoned that it would take too much time ("I'll go back later and add the citations"). In the end, I spent over 2 hours re-finding all of my source locations. This seems insane to me now, but with my age has come wisdom. Remember, young people are still very smart, but their impatience makes them reckless (am I actually referring to young people as a "them"? Oh dear!).
- Not putting quotation and citation information puts you at risk for plagiarizing because you might forget where the information came from! One of the saddest [#firstworldproblem] things about my seventeen-and-crazy story is that I had to delete some of my quotations because I couldn't find where the page number was (I highlighted it, but I highlighted many other portions of the text).
- Think of writing your research paper as cleaning your kitchen or house: It will be much more time efficient if you clean up (cite!) as you go.
- Read over your quotations and consider paraphrasing them (remove the quotation marks but keep the bibliographic information!)
- First, find good quotations.
- Copy them.
- Paste them into a document.
- Add quotation marks.
- Add bibliographic information (author, date, page)
- Repeat steps 1-5 until you have "enough" information (this is obviously subjective)
- Begin writing your own ideas and connecting them to the quotations you have added.
- When the quotations are not particularly striking, keep the citation but change the wording and paraphrase it. I like to keep the quotation and write my paraphrase below it so I can see that it is in fact different from the original.
Regarding Step 7, this is something I recommend for my ESL students. When teaching native speakers, we tell them to read the source, understand it, and then look away from the source and write what can be remembered from the gist of it. This sounds practical, but for a non-native with a less-than-native vocabulary, it may be very difficult to find other words. Many of my good students (read: conscientious and hardworking) who have plagiarized insist they did not copy and paste but that they typed every word. I like to take this at face value and assume the student is actually telling the truth. The most likely explanation (in my mind, anyway): The students have no other vocabulary to "fall back on" so to speak, so along with the idea (the gist), they get the exact wording stuck in their heads, and they cannot separate this idea from the wording. Therefore, I tell my students to stare the source text in the face and write their paraphrase below it until they can SEE that it is using different vocabulary and grammar.
Soon I will write about paraphrase strategies for ESL students since the "read it and then look away and write your summary/paraphrase" strategy does not work for non-natives.
Have a good one, and good luck out there!
*Comments on the "Note Card Method": When I was in high school, I was required to use note cards for research papers. I loved my high school English teachers, but I hated this approach. It was incredibly frustrating, time-consuming, and unnecessary. I hope no one still does this.