Avoiding Plagiarism: How to Quote and Paraphrase in Your Writing

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  • 0:01 What Is Plagiarism?
  • 0:59 Including Information…
  • 3:43 Citing a Source
  • 6:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Learn how to avoid plagiarism by giving clear credit to your sources by directly quoting or paraphrasing them and properly citing them in the following video!

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism can take a few different forms. Let's start by talking about some of those forms. One form of plagiarism is when a student turns in the same paper for multiple classes without checking with the teachers in all of those classes. You must let your instructors know that you plan to use the same essay for your assignments, so they can let you know whether or not that will be acceptable.

Students can also knowingly turn in a piece of writing that is not theirs, such as when they find an article or essay online and copy and paste that article into a document with their name in it. This sort of plagiarism is easy to catch because of the number of computer programs that search for duplicate essays (not to mention the use of regular old search engines that can track down duplicate essays and articles). Plagiarism also occurs accidentally; students are sometimes unclear on how to properly format their sources. They do not know how to include the quoted information, what punctuation to use, and how to give credit to the original source.

Including Information From Sources

When we choose to add information from another source to our essays or papers, we have a couple of options for how we add that information. We can choose to write down the words EXACTLY as they are written in our source. This is known as a direct quote. Direct quoting is very useful when you have part of a source that is extremely well-written and that explains the ideas in it clearly so that any reader might understand those ideas. Direct quotes are also useful for writing famous sayings or quotes from famous figures. For example, it would be a good idea to directly quote parts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 'I Have a Dream' speech since many of the quotes from that speech are memorably worded.

On the other hand, we can choose to take an idea from another source, but to write that idea in our own words. This is known as an indirect quote or a paraphrase. Paraphrasing is usually the best strategy for writing for a number of reasons. First, it allows the reader to see that you understand the content that you are writing about. Second, it gives you a chance to reword ideas that are good, but that may not be written in a particularly clear or memorable way. Much of the information that we get from studies or from sources with very dry writing might need to be restated for clarity, and other sources might present data numerically and need paraphrasing so that the numerical data can be clearly worded in sentence form.

Here is an example of a paraphrased piece of information taken from Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom:

Original words from the author: 'In 1953, the Nationalist-dominated Parliament passed the Bantu Education Act, which sought to put apartheid's stamp on African education. The act transferred control of African education from the Department of Education to the much-loathed Native Affairs Department.'

Paraphrase: The Bantu Education Act, passed in 1953, was meant to turn over local African schools to the government in order to institutionalize apartheid within them.

You can see here that the paraphrase is shorter and cuts out some of the specific details that the original author wrote in order to focus on the major idea from the original paragraph. This paraphrase looks to explain the purpose of the Bantu Education Act, so it cuts out some of the information about how it specifically worked in order to focus on defining the act.

A good paraphrase cuts away the fat of a short quote or paragraph in order to get down to a specific explanation of an idea. Try to paraphrase more confusing or complex parts of your research in order to present those parts in a clearer, simpler way so that your reader can better understand them.

Citing a Source

When you cite a source, you must make sure to give the reader enough information to explain your citation. Depending on the school you are attending, the type of course that you are taking, or the preferences of your teacher, you may use one of two citation formats: American Psychological Association (APA) format or Modern Language Association (MLA) format. In order to cite information from a source in APA format, you must have this information:

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