When writing your essays, you must be careful to give credit (cite) to the author for ideas, even when you don't use the author's exact words. Paraphrasing, or rewording something written by someone else, may be used effectively and correctly as long as you cite the author. Cites (credits) are placed in your paper to avoid any accusations of plagiarism. Sometimes, you'll find that paraphrasing makes your research paper easier for readers to understand rather than making a direct quote. Also, paraphrasing allows you to shorten the original author’s lengthy, detailed text into one or two sentences. Other times, you'll choose to express your own understanding of particular passages. In either case, you need to use the appropriate style, and you must credit the source.
There are many types of written work that require credits (citations). Besides your essays, some examples are book reports, research papers and dissertations. When writing book reports or research papers, you will be quoting directly or paraphrasing (re-wording) an author’s work. Your instructor may provide explicit instructions for the style he or she requires. The most commonly used styles are either APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association). Depending on your instructor’s preference, you will use one or the other. The same goes for a book report.
First, let's look at how to correctly credit (citation) paraphrasing with APA style. When paraphrasing or referring to an idea or concept contained in an author’s work, the writer must provide credit. If the source is in print form, you offer the author’s name, year of publication, and publishing year within parentheses.
Here’s an example of paraphrasing using APA style ‘cite’:
Consider the first computer that was built in 1945. It was housed in a 30 by 50 foot room, weighed approximately 30 tons, and today’s laptop computers, whose speed and superior abilities put the 1945 model to shame (Howden, 2000).
Since the writer paraphrased information taken from an author’s work in a scientific journal, one must provide a reference. References are placed at the end of your work on a separate page.
Here is an example of APA style reference:
Howden, H. (October, 2000). Lessons from the past look to the future. Science & Mathematics, 6(100), 304 – 309.
Note where names, dates, titles, journals, editions, and page numbers are placed. Also, the first line is a ‘hanging indent.’
Here is an example of paraphrasing using MLA style:
Consider the first computer that was built in 1945. It was housed in a 30 by 50 foot room, weighed approximately 30 tons, and today’s laptop computers, whose speed and superior abilities put the 1945 model to shame (Howden 1).
Note the differences in MLA style. The comma and date are missing, and the page number given.
Here is an example of MLA “Works Cited list”:
Howden, Harold. “Lessons from the Past Look to the Future.” Science & Mathematics 6.100 (October 2000): 304 – 309. Print.
Note where names, dates, titles, journals, editions, and page numbers are placed. There are quite a few differences from APA style. For instance, there is no hanging indent, and the article title is within quotes using correct title capitalisation.
In conclusion, think of paraphrasing and plagiarism in this way. It is better to give credit (or citation) to every outside source (including ideas) that you use when writing any paper, and if you have the slightest doubt, reference it anyway.
More on referencing and plagiarism
- Overview of referencing
- Using reference management software
- Referencing and bibliographies - what's the difference?
- Avoiding plagiarism
- Self plagiarism
- Accidental plagiarism