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Many people believe that putting a piece of text or an idea into Ďtheir own wordsí avoids the issue of plagiarism. There is a formal term for putting text or ideas into Ďyour own wordsí ó it is called paraphrasing. The purpose of paraphrase is often to summarize or simplify the authorís ideas, making them easier to understand, more approachable. You might also use paraphrase to emphasize a particular idea or train of thought from the original authorís text. Paraphrasing is acceptable but it is important to acknowledge the original authorís ideas, even if it is has been substantially re-expressed.

It is important to be cautious rewriting a piece of information in your own words, or paraphrasing. Close paraphrase, where trivial changes are made such as substituting similar words or changing the sentence order, is essentially the same as copying the authorís words directly. This is not enough to count as an original expression of the idea and is still considered a form of exact copy plagiarism.

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Last updated 10/22/2008 by Sue Thompson, Toni Olivas
Cal State San Marcos Library