Intellectual Honesty: When to Quote and When to Paraphrase


1. Quote

2. Paraphrase


Generally, you should only quote when you want to analyze or emphasize the actual language of the quoted source. If the language itself is not relevant, then you should paraphrase.

1. Quote

A text that exhibits the following characteristics would be a candidate for quotation rather than paraphrase:
• Conspicuous structural features (i.e., repetition, parallelism)
• Esoteric or otherwise particular language, word choice
• Language that defies paraphrasing
• Tonal emphases (i.e., sarcasm, irony)

2. Paraphrase

On the other hand, if a text or source does not exhibit these characteristics but you find the information important to include, you should paraphrase. This is often where people find themselves in trouble. Anytime you paraphrase, you must document your source.

Basically, you should paraphrase (rather than quote) when
• The information needs summarizing.
• Specific textual issues (language, tone, structure) are not important or particularly revealing.
• The passage includes extraneous information.

There are very specific, widely accepted rules for paraphrasing. Be sure to follow each step or risk creating prose that sounds and looks too similar to the original text and therefore is susceptible to the accusation of plagiarism.

Identify the key elements of the sentence or paragraph that are important to your point.
Change the vocabulary.
Change the structure of the sentence(s) by, for example, moving clauses, forming new parallelisms, shifting from passive to active voice.
Maintain the general chronology and priority of ideas in the source text.
Cite your source according to your professor’s formatting standards.

The original text
“Types of Plagiarism.” 19 July 2010.

“Anyone who has written or graded a paper knows that plagiarism is not always a black and white issue. The boundary between plagiarism and research is often unclear. Learning to recognize the various forms of plagiarism, especially the more ambiguous ones, is an important step towards effective prevention. Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work, or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like ‘copying’ and ‘borrowing’ can disguise the seriousness of the offense” (“Types of Plagiarism”).

A strong paraphrase
According to contributors at, both writing students and professors alike understand the gray zone that plagiarism inhabits. It is frequently confusing to detect when research has, in fact, become plagiarism. If you become aware of the wide range of plagiarizing possibilities, you have a better chance of avoiding mistakes. Most consider borrowing or copying another’s words or ideas to be plagiarism, and therefore fail to recognize that plagiarism is much more serious (“Types of Plagiarism”).

An appropriate summary
Because types of plagiarism are so varied and are more serious than just borrowing or copying, students should familiarize themselves with all the rules of research and plagiarism in order to avoid making mistakes (“Types of Plagiarism”).

Poor paraphrasing=plagiarism
Any student who has written a paper or any professor who has graded one knows that plagiarism is not an either/or situation. The line between plagiarism and research is frequently not as clear as it might seem. Learning to see the different types of plagiarism, particularly the ambiguous types, is a good step towards effectively avoiding them. Many students think of plagiarism as copying someone else’s text or borrowing someone’s ideas, but words like these can confuse the severity of the problem.

It is critical to remember that citing a source after poorly paraphrasing does not exempt you from an Honor Code violation. You cannot have language somewhere between paraphrasing and quoting: you must either paraphrase properly or quote and in both cases cite your source.