Any information from an outside source should be cited. This includes ideas, facts, charts and graphs, paraphrases, and quotations.
Once you have brought source material into your writing (via quotation, summary, or paraphrase), your next task is to cite or identify it. This is essential because giving credit to the creator of the source material helps you avoid plagiarism. Identifying your sources also helps your reader understand which written content is from a source and which represents your ideas.
When you cite or identify source materials, you make it absolutely clear that the material was taken from a source. Note that if you don’t do that, your reader is left to assume the words are yours—and since that isn’t true, you will have committed plagiarism.
For college-level work, citing sources generally means two things: in-text or parenthetical citation and a “Works Cited” or “References” page. What these two things look like will be a little different for different citation styles like APA or MLA. The specific details required and the order in which they appear changes a little between different formats, but the general purpose is the same.
Learn the basics of citing in APA style in this recorded workshop from the Academic Support Center.
Much of the text on this page is adapted from The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Improperly paraphrased text can be plagiarism, even if it is cited. it's important to use your own words unless you are quoting a source.
It can be easy to rely on some of the original author’s phrasing or direct synonyms for the author’s original words. Remember that a paraphrase must be entirely your own writing, not just phrases or words substituted in the same sentence structure, length, etc. used by the original text. Write paraphrases in sentence structures that are natural to you and true to your own writing voice. The only job of a paraphrase is to accurately and completely represent the relevant idea presented in the text you are paraphrasing.
Here is a brief passage from Sarah Boxer’s article in The Atlantic, “An Artist for the Instagram Age”: “The fact that some folks have managed to make the scene while others get left out in the cold is integral to the excitement of participatory art. The thrill is akin to exotic travel, or getting to see Hamilton. Because not everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience, these works, even if their intentions and messages are democratic, tend to become exclusive affairs.”
Which of the following is an appropriate paraphrase of this passage? Why is that one “good” and the other one less functional as a paraphrase?
It was probably obvious to you pretty quickly that the second example is a stronger paraphrase. There is a clearer sense for my writing voice in it, with sentence structures that come more naturally to me and language that is my own.
The first example, by comparison, is a rather awkward attempt to preserve the original quote’s exact structures without directly copying the author’s words or phrases, and I’m not even sure it makes sense in a couple of spots (I had to reach for some similar-but-not-identical language). This type of poor paraphrasing with replaced words would likely be deemed plagiarism.