Paraphrasing is the technique of using your own words to represent someone else’s ideas and information. In other words, it is the restatement of a writing piece with different words and sentence structure while keeping the meaning unchanged.

Paraphrasing is a common practice while writing an essay or research paper. It can help students deliver important ideas more concisely that still expressing the original idea.

However, learning to paraphrase effectively is essential unless you want your writing piece to look like someone else’s work. Improper paraphrasing is called plagiarism, an unethical and even illegal practice in some cases.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into when is paraphrasing plagiarism and how you can avoid it.

When is Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Paraphrasing is plagiarism when a writer copies another author's idea without citing the author and the reference page or publication in the text. Students often commit this mistake — accidentally or intentionally — while deriving and using sources from libraries, journals, and online publications.

For example,

Original text: Your eyes can take up to 20-30 minutes to get used to sunlight to darkness and become 100,000 times more sensitive to light.

Paraphrased text: If you go from bright daylight to a dark room, your eyes will take approximately 20-30 minutes to adapt to the darkness and become 100,000 times more sensitive than in sunlight.

Plagiarized text: Your eyes can take about 20-30 minutes to adapt from bright daylight to darkness and become 100,000 times more sensitive to sunlight.

Plagiarism is a serious offense. As a student, it can result in your paper being rejected, failing grades, and even your suspended. Or worse, it can get your degree revoked, which may prevent you from finding a job or enrolling in another school.

Additionally, by plagiarizing someone else’s work, you take credit or profit away from the original author, which may result in legal action against you. The best way to avoid such severe consequences is to avoid plagiarism while paraphrasing others' work.

6 Tips to Avoid Plagiarism While Paraphrasing

Now that you’re aware of how scary plagiarism can be, here are a few ways to successfully prevent it while paraphrasing.

1. Understand the original text

The first and foremost way to avoid plagiarism while paraphrasing is to read the original text a few times until you’re sure you understand it. Many students often overlook this, but it is crucial for a smooth paraphrasing experience.

If you know your topic by heart and have enough information, paraphrasing will become a cakewalk. Give yourself enough time to research the subject. Further, decide what information you will include in your assignment and how you will proceed with it.

Knowing things in advance allows you to present your message naturally and originally. This is because when you are under pressure due to time constraints or don’t have a concrete outline, to begin with, there’s a huge chance of making unnecessary mistakes, such as plagiarism.

2. Put the original aside

When paraphrasing, don’t look at the original text as it can lead to confusion. So, after reading a section or paragraph, keep it aside, rewrite it in your language, and review your text later.

You must also take notes when reading the original material and include keywords that you can refer to while writing.

Furthermore, you can use note cards, colored pens, and pencils, or highlighters to distinguish ideas from different sources. This can help you track where you found certain information while citing.

3. Compare with original

Next, compare your paraphrased text with the original text to ensure that your version accurately captures the original meaning in a new form. Read both versions and make minor adjustments if the wording of your text remains too similar to that of the original.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you just replaced a few words or phrases with their synonyms?
  • Have you included exact sentences from the original? If so, either put quotation marks around them or rewrite them until they become unique.
  • Have you mentioned the critical information accurately?

In short, make sure your paraphrased version is original, accurate, and subjective.

4. Cite your sources

Another effective way to prevent plagiarism is to include citations in your writing identifying the original author, the date it was published, the name of the source, page numbers, and other elements essential for the style guide you’re adhering to.

There are many different citation styles, each one with different rules. Some common styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago styles. So, check with your instructor which style guide you should use and apply that consistently throughout the text.

Include each citation in the reference list or bibliography at the end of your document so that readers can refer to the original source to learn more.

Furthermore, it is possible to plagiarize yourself while taking information from your previous research papers. So, make sure you cite the text just like any other material that you use — even though you are the one who wrote it.

No matter how many citations you use, write down every source you’re considering in advance. This is because it is easy to lose track of where you found different information. Further, it is risky to include anything in your paper when you aren’t sure about its source.

Remember: Information that is considered common knowledge does not need citations. For example, you don’t need to cite universally accepted facts, like a day has 24 hours. However, if you’re in doubt about whether or not something should be cited, go ahead and do it. Failing to do so can cause plagiarism, followed by other problems.

5. Use quotations

If you insert a complete passage of someone else's words, the best way to avoid plagiarism is to use quotation marks around the text to credit the original author. Failing to do so will indicate that the words are coming from you, which is ethically unacceptable.

To quote a source, ensure:

  1. The copied text is formatted as a block quote or enclosed in quotation marks. However, the exact quote format depends on how long the text is and the citation style you are using.
  2. You have cited the original author.
  3. The text is similar to the original.

A good thumb rule is to avoid quoting as much as possible. It can make your readers feel like you didn't work hard for your paper and just gathered ideas from different sources and put them into one article without inserting your thoughts.

However, there are some situations in which quoting is necessary:

  1. When you want readers to focus on the author's language.
  2. When giving evidence to your readers for your argument.
  3. When you want to present the author's theories, arguments, definitions, or ideas.

The amount of quotes you use depends on your topic of research. For example, in scientific research papers, the information is more important than how it is expressed. So, fewer quotes should be used. On the other hand, arts and humanitarian papers require well-chosen quotes.

We recommend keeping your quotes not more than 5-10% of your text. Or, you can also ask your instructor about the appropriate usage.

Here’s a useful video by the University of Derby on the difference between quoting and paraphrasing.

6. Use a plagiarism checker

Accidental plagiarism is a risk many college students face while paraphrasing. This is where a plagiarism checker can come in handy to make sure you've correctly paraphrased the original text and cited all the sources.

Before submitting your writing piece, run a plagiarism check. There are plenty of tools available online — both free and paid.

Grammarly's plagiarism tool is one of the best plagiarism detectors that check your writing against 90 billion online texts to find any unoriginal words or phrases. It even highlights the wordings of concern and where the text originated from.

Other plagiarism checkers include Scribbr's plagiarism checker, Duplichecker, and Copyscape.

Apart from detecting unoriginal text, these tools also allow you to identify any parts you've forgotten to cite or include quotation marks. Then you can follow the tips above to fix any potential plagiarism quickly.

However, not all plagiarism-checking tools are similar. The quality and pricing of these checkers vary widely, making it hard for you to select the right one.

The best plagiarism tool is the one that detects unoriginal text more accurately, even if the original words or phrases have been replaced by synonyms. Other factors to consider are:

  • Level of user-friendliness and security;
  • Access to an extensive database;
  • Comprehensive plagiarism report;
  • Highest quality of matches;
  • Pricing plans;
  • Number of scans per day;
  • Ability to scan content in different file formats;
  • Extensions available.


Whether you're writing research papers, essays, or other academic assignments, you should ensure that your document is entirely original and in your own words. We hope the above six tips can help you understand when paraphrasing is plagiarism and how to avoid it to develop a fresh, updated writing piece.

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Custom Essays:

Crafted from Scratch for You.

Plagiarism Removal:

Ensuring Your Work’s Originality.

Rewriting & Paraphrasing:

Transform Your Draft into Excellence.

Editing & Proofreading:

Perfecting Your Paper’s Grammar, Style, and Format (APA, MLA, etc.).