Differences Between Paraphrasing & Plagiarism

Writing and researching are large parts of the high school and college experience, as well as integral parts of some job descriptions. To ethically and lawfully use another's information, you must paraphrase and cite sources properly. There are times when it is difficult to know where the line is drawn between paraphrasing and plagiarism. The best way to represent your work, as well as another's, is to use your own words to represent your understanding, while still giving the originator of the idea the credit she deserves for her work on the subject.


To paraphrase a source, you must use your own words to express the ideas that you obtained during your research. In essence, you are interpreting and organizing your understanding of the material. You can use some quotes in a paraphrase if you use word-for-word information. Try to avoid using a long string of quotes, as this is still considered plagiarism. You are still required to cite the source of your information, whether you use quotes or your own words, because you are using another's ideas and information.


It is considered plagiarism if you use researched information word-for-word without quotation marks, use a long string of quotes within the text, do not properly cite the source where you got the information or paraphrase the information by only changing a few words. You are plagiarizing if you are using another's intellectual property and thoughts without giving her the credit that she deserves for her own hard work.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism, make sure to take good notes from the source information when you are doing your research. Make sure to cite your sources properly. Use your own words to get your message across. One of the best ways to paraphrase properly is to research several different sources, formulate your own understanding and idea from these sources, write them in a way that expresses your own voice, and compare your finished product to your sources. If the wording is too similar, rewrite the information in a different way. In addition to using a reference page or section, you should cite the information and sources within the text using quotes, footnotes or in-text citations. The in-text citation format you use will depend on the citation style you use. The main thing is to make sure that you indicate where you got your information.

Citing Sources

You are always required to credit the source of any outside information that you obtain and use in a paper. The documentation style that you use will depend on what you are writing. The three most common citation styles are Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA) and Chicago Manual of Style.