Skip to Main Content

Plagiarism

What counts, what it costs, and how to avoid it.

Using Ideas & Words

There are two components to any source of information you use: the ideas and the words.

There are two ways of using information in your work: direct quotes and paraphrasing. (We'll call summarization a kind of large-scale paraphrase. The big idea of a book or article may be summarized, while a sentence or two at a time may be paraphrased. Same principle applies to both, however.)

Direct Quotes = Borrowed Words + Ideas

Ideas and Words (light bulb and speech bubble graphic)

Paraphrasing = Borrowed Ideas

Ideas (light bulb graphic)

Importance of Citation Styles

You will generally be instructed to follow a particular style guide for each class that makes you respond to or research other works. Each style serves the same purpose: to create consistency and predictability, but different disciplines like to emphasize different things, which is why there are so many different style guides.

Your style guide will determine not just how you set up your document but also how you write your citations, both the long, in-depth citations as well as the shorter in-text citations.

Every citation has two parts: the in-text citation and the full citation on the Works Cited/References/Bibliography page.

Paraphrasing

The "bad paraphrase" examples very closely follow the source material. Sometimes a word is out of order, and there are usually synonyms used... but that's not enough to put an original twist on the material. The highlighted text calls out where the phrasing in the original and the bad paraphrase closely resemble (or exactly match) each other.

The "better" paraphrases try to summarize more rather than repeat every detail with different words. Each one pulls a little bit of extra info from the source, beyond what's copied on this page, as well, which helps makes them better, too: we're not mimicking one or two sentences, we're processing more of that work to make it work for our own purposes.

Summary:
  • Bad: same ideas in same order
  • Bad: changing some words to synonyms
  • Good: pulling from more parts of the source to create the paraphrase

Source Text 1:

Mochi is Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice, and sometimes other ingredients such as water, sugar, and cornstarch. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape.

Turned Into a Bad Paraphrase:

Mochi is a kind of Japanese rice cake made of a glutinous short-grain rice called mochigome, along with other things like water, sugar, or cornstarch. They pound the rice to a paste and then shape it into the desired form ("Mochi").

Turned Into a Better Paraphrase:

Mochigome rice is the main ingredient for Japanese mochi, though they may also contain additives for texture, flavor, and color. The rice is cooked before being mashed into a sticky paste and molded into shapes, usually round balls ("Mochi").

 

Source Text 2:

These salty-sweet plums are also thought to have medicinal properties. Legend has it that umeboshi were included in samurai rations as an extra boost of energy. And to this day umeboshi are stewed into a cold-fighting porridge during flu season, dropped into the bottom of a hot cup of shochu (a Japanese distilled spirit) to pre-emptively combat hangovers, and chewed on to aid digestion and stave off nausea.

Turned Into a Bad Paraphrase:

The pickled plums are believed to have medical properties, too. Samurai received them as rations for extra energy, and today umeboshi are cooked into porridge during cold and flu season, used to preemptively fight hangovers, and chewed on to improve digestion and stop nausea (Goldberg).

Turned Into a Better Paraphrase:

The pickled plums have long been believed to have health benefits, from samurai supposedly eating them for energy to modern times, where they're consumed as digestive aids and immune system boosters (Goldberg).

Source Text 3:

If fine sushi-making is a culinary art form, you could think of onigiri as culinary arts 'n' crafts. More humble and practical than sushi, and with a lot of potential for cuteness, onigiri is, not surprisingly, a mainstay of the Japanese bento box and a popular quick meal.

Turned Into a Terrible Paraphrase:

If great sushi-making is a cooking artistic expression, onigiri may also be regarded as cuisine crafts 'n' artifacts. Onigiri, which is more modest and utilitarian than sushi rolls and has a lot of promise for adorableness, is a centerpiece of the Japanese bento box and a renowned easy dinner.


Paraphrase courtesy of an online so-called paraphrasing tool. Re-read this page (or ask a librarian or writing coach) if you don't yet understand our skepticism of that description!

Turned Into a Better Paraphrase:

Another common Japanese food for quick meals and bento lunches is the simple onigiri. This versatile rice ball can be filled with whatever odds and ends are on hand, without the pretensions sushi may have (Mitarai).

Direct Quoting

What to Pay Attention to in These Examples

Quoting too much is a common bad habit, as is neglecting to integrate a quote into your own writing. The shorter your assignment, the shorter and fewer your quotes should be. Even if you've documented your sources, a paper that is mostly direct quotes doesn't actually show your thought process and wouldn't be considered original.

Always remember to add commentary about what's significant about the quoted material -- don't let quotes stand on their own. Integrate them into paraphrases that help hold them up, or at least make the sentence the explanation. (Don't summarize the quote, though! Unless it's an especially dense and horrible sentence, your reader probably understood it and doesn't need it restated.)

Summary:
  • Bad: long quotes, especially lots of long quotes
  • Bad: standalone quotes
  • Good: short pieces of quotes strung together with paraphrasing and your own comments

In the examples below, note the quantity and proportion of the highlighted text around the quoted material.

Source Text 1:

If fine sushi-making is a culinary art form, you could think of onigiri as culinary arts 'n' crafts. More humble and practical than sushi, and with a lot of potential for cuteness, onigiri is, not surprisingly, a mainstay of the Japanese bento box and a popular quick meal.

Turned Into a Bad Quote:

Another common Japanese food is onigiri. "If fine sushi-making is a culinary art form, you could think of onigiri as culinary arts 'n' crafts. More humble and practical than sushi, and with a lot of potential for cuteness, onigiri is, not surprisingly, a mainstay of the Japanese bento box and a popular quick meal" (Mitarai).

Turned Into a Better Quote:

Another common Japanese food is the "humble and practical" onigiri, a "mainstay of the ... bento box and a popular quick meal," unlike sushi, which is more "culinary art form" (Mitarai).

 

Source Text 2:

The Japanese are credited with first preparing sushi as a complete dish, eating the fermented rice together with the preserved fish. This combination of rice and fish is known as nare-zushi, or aged sushi. Funa-zushi, the earliest known form of nare-zushi, originated more than 1,000 years ago near Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater lake. Golden carp known as funa was caught from the lake, packed in salted rice, and compacted under weights to speed up the fermentation. This process took at least half a year to complete, and was only available to the wealthy upper class in Japan from the ninth to 14th centuries.

Turned Into a Bad Quote:

The oldest form of this kind of aged sushi, funa-zushi, "originated more than 1,000 years ago near Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater lake. Golden carp known as funa was caught from the lake, packed in salted rice, and compacted under weights to speed up the fermentation. This process took at least half a year to complete, and was only available to the wealthy upper class in Japan from the ninth to 14th centuries" (Avey).

Turned Into a Better Quote:

The oldest form of sushi was a method of preserving rice and fish through fermentation, a "process that took at least half a year to complete." Golden carp (funa) were fished from Lake Biwa, "packed in salted rice, and compacted...to speed up the fermentation" to create funa-zushi (Avey).

  LSC-CyFair Library (building #3) is open with limited capacity and services.

hcpl lsc logos

Harris County Public Library

Lone Star College-CyFair Branch

9191 Barker Cypress Road

Cypress, TX 77433

281.290.3214 - Reference Desk, 1st floor

281.290.3219 - Reference Desk, 2nd floor

CyFairLibrary@LoneStar.edu

LoneStar.edu/library/cyfair.htm