Paraphrasing myths

By: Lynette Pretorius

Many students think that they can effectively paraphrase by taking individual words, searching through the thesaurus and replacing it with a word that means the same thing. This is not true and is what is known as find and replace plagiarism. That is because you are focussing on the individual words rather than the ideas of the author, leading to plagiarism of the sentence structure. Also remember that a few minor changes in wording does not make something original and it does not demonstrate your understanding of the material. Here I've got an example for you. This is an abstract from a source showing that drinking chocolate milk after exercise is just as good for you as drinking energy drinks.

I've taken the green highlighted words and replaced them with synonyms that mean the same thing on the right side. You will see that I've included the references and I have quoted the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio because I could not find a synonym that would replace that. Now on this side you can see it in the red all the words that are still exactly the same as the original and this is plagiarism of all those individual words. Furthermore, you will see that the organisation of the argument of the authors is exactly the same on the right as it is on the left. This means that you have actually plagiarised the authors' argument construction as well, and this is why finding and replacing individual words with synonyms does not work to paraphrase appropriately. So it does not mean that you can just find some words and replace them with synonyms. You must use your own words and your own sentence structure because you should focus on the key idea from this source rather than the individual sentences. There's also another myth that students think they can use an authors idea in any way they want as long as it proves their point and this is also not true. You should never take an author's idea out of context but you should preserve the original meaning of the text.

Paraphrasing myths

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