Teaching Students to Paraphrase and Avoid Plagiarism

Paraphrasing is a key part of research writing.  It is also a learned skill that can be very difficult for students.  Many students are accused of plagiarism because of improper paraphrasing.  Research writing is a complex skill that asks students to interact with the ideas of others.  Students must choose which things to quote, which to paraphrase, and how to connect these ideas with their own.  Research writing is a matter of thinking, writing, and citing correctly.  As to be expected, many mistakes are made as student learn to master this skill.  Here are some tips you can give your students to help them paraphrase.

Teaching Students to Paraphrase

  1. Paraphrased passages need to be all of your own words, except for technical terms for which there is not other word. (Changing a  word or two in a sentence or paragraph does not make it “your own words,”)
  2. A citation after a sentence does not automatically make it a paraphrase.
  3. A citation after a sentence does not mean mean you have not plagiarized.
  4. A reader must always know which words and ideas belong to whom.

Common Errors that indicate students are struggling with paraphrasing, citation, and research writing.

Example 1

It is very important for people not to be obese. This is a big problem for America and even other countries.  People need to diet and avoid to much sugar (Smith 2012).

  • This example demonstrates the student knows she must cite the ideas of others, but exact authorship is still unclear leaving the reader to wonder which words or ideas belong to someone else.   This is a good faith attempt at citing, but it falls short demonstrating a need for further research writing instruction and practice.

Example 2

Cogs help people build interactive technologies by making them simultaneously flexible and sturdy. Cogs are understood to be the future of building and architecture (Jones & Kyle, 2013).

  • The text indicated in red demonstrates the exact words that a student took from an  source.  Many students truly believe  this is paraphrasing. Students also struggling with knowing when to quote and how to smoothly incorporate quotes into their writing, so they will try to paraphrase like the example above. 


See our blog post New Plagiarism Tutorial.

 Try this KUWC Effective Writing Podcast:  Paraphrasing Podcast.

Come visit us in the KUWC or Contact Us for further assistance with teaching and learning paraphrasing.

by Melody Pickle

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