How to Avoid Plagiarism:
Paraphrasing and Summarizing
Paraphrasing and summarizing are very similar. Both involve
taking ideas, words or phrases from a source and crafting them into new
sentences within your writing. In addition, summarizing includes condensing
the source material into just a few lines. Whether paraphrasing or summarizing,
credit is always given to the author.
Below is a passage taken from Raymond S. Nickerson's "How We Know-and Sometimes Misjudge-What Others Know: Imputing One's Own Knowledge to Others." Psychological Bulletin 125.6 (1999): p737.
In order to communicate effectively with other people, one must
have a reasonably accurate idea of what they do and do not know that is
pertinent to the communication. Treating people as though they have knowledge
that they do not have can result in miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment.
On the other hand, a fundamental rule of conversation, at least according to a Gricean view, is that one generally
does not convey to others information that one can assume they already have.
Here is an example of what would be considered plagiarism
of this passage:
For effective communication, it is necessary to have a fairly
accurate idea of what our listerners know or do not know that is pertinent
to the communication. If we assume that people know something they do
not, then miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment may result (Nickerson,
The writer in this example has used too many of Nickerson's original words
and phrases such as "effective communication," "accurate idea," "know
or do not know," "pertinent," "miscommunication," and "embarrassment."
Also note that the passage doesn't have an opening tag to indicate where
use of the Nickerson's material begins. A citation at the end of a paragraph
is not sufficent to indicate what is being credited to Nickerson.
Here is an example, in APA style, that is considered acceptable
paraphrasing of this passage:
Nickerson (1999) suggests that effective communication depends on
a generally accurate knowledge of what the audience knows. If a speaker
assumes too much knowledge about the subject, the audience will either
misunderstand or be bewildered; however, assuming too little knowledge
among those in the audience may cause them to feel patronized (p.737).
Here the writer re-words Nickerson's idea about what determines effective
communication. The writer re-phrases "generally accurate knowledge"
into "reasonably accurate idea." In the second sentence, the
writer re-words Nickerson's ideas about miscommunication and embarrassment
using instead the words "misunderstand," "bewildered,"
and "patronized." Nickerson is given credit from the beginning as
the originator of the ideas. This is an example of a successful paraphrase
because the writer understands the ideas espoused by Nickerson, and is able
to put them into her own words while being careful to give him credit.
Here is an example, in APA style, that would be considered acceptable
summarizing of this passage:
Nickerson (1999) argues that clear communication hinges upon what
an audience does and does not know. It is crucial to assume the audience
has neither too much nor too little knowledge of the subject, or the communication
may be inhibited by either confusion or offense (p. 737).
Notice that the writer both paraphrases Nickerson's ideas about effective
communication and compresses them into two sentences. Like paraphrasing,
summarizing passages is a tricky endeavor and takes lots of practice.
If you're ever in doubt about whether your summary or paraphrase might
be accidental plagiarism, ask your teacher.