Even when you have a topic for an academic paper, it still does not mean that you know exactly what to write about. For starters, some subjects may be a bit too broad for just one paper, so a student will have to narrow them down. After that, one usually needs a plan on how to reveal your ideas in a clear and comprehensive style. This includes some thinking and structuring, which often takes more time and energy than writing itself.
Of course, there is always a shortcut. After all, you’re not the first person ever to work on an academic paper, which means that you can always use someone else’s experience as a source of inspiration. Besides, going through what other people have written on the subject is a necessary step during the research phase. Reviewing other writers’ work gives insight on practically any topic and teaches students to structure their own academic papers. Still, looking for information and inspiration should not come down to plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense.
So, when you refer to other people’s findings in your paper, you’ll have to paraphrase without plagiarizing. The good news is that you have the right to make any references and paraphrases you want, especially if the topic itself is not new. Besides, if you know the basic rules of paraphrasing, you’ll have a chance to make other writers’ ideas work for your paper. The advice is simple and goes down to five essential tips.
- Tip 1: Understand the reference
One cannot just take words out of context, so when referring to a particular source, you’ll have to read it all and make sure you understand it. If you really grasp the original author’s ideas, you’ll easily restate them in your own words.
- Tip 2: Introducing your reference
Even when restating other writers’ findings, you always have to mention the original source. Otherwise, your teacher might think that those ideas are yours; so, (s)he’ll have the right to question how exactly you came up with that particular line of argumentation. Even though, let’s be completely frank: in social sciences, some more or less generic thoughts can be borrowed without reference, especially if many people share a particular idea.
If however, you are working on a paper that needs proper research and evidence, always credit the original source. Usually, students do so either before a paraphrase (i.e., “according to Author,” “based on the research,” etc.) However, crediting an original author after you’ve given a summary of his ideas is also an option.
- Tip 3: Coming up with a plan
Decide how many ideas you are going to use from another writer’s research and where exactly you are going to use them. If you have an outline for your paper, make notes. Also, when paraphrasing a paragraph from another paper, don’t rephrase it sentence by sentence. Give the gist of the whole paragraph, do not just switch words in every other sentence.
Sometimes, you don’t need to go overboard to credit an original source. Just paraphrase what needs paraphrasing and give the author’s last name in parentheses — just like you would with any other citation. Here, however, it is important to mind the academic format your professor specified. APA, MLA, Chicago — they all have their quoting and referencing requirements, so double-check the latest manual and don’t forget to list every source in the reference section.
- Tip 5: Use anti-plagiarism software
There are plenty of useful tools that scan for plagiarism online. Most of them come at a price, but a few cents (literally) per check is not something to worry about, even on a tight budget. Especially when working on an important paper.
Bottom line, a summary without plagiarism is not brain surgery, and even high school students can easily cope with the task. All it takes is understanding the topic and the original source. If you do, finding your own words to restate the information should not be a challenge. But, of course, if you have difficulty with the topic itself, it’s better to assign the paper to professional writing services, just like ours.