When was the last time you paraphrased something?

Most students think of paraphrasing as something we do for research papers, but in actuality we paraphrase all the time.

Suppose you went to see your school’s basketball game, but your friend, Jeeter, couldn’t go. Your team won in a major upset. As you’re walking to school the next day, Jeeter wants to hear about the game. You don’t tell him about every moment, nor do you simply summarize it by saying something like “We won by seven points.”  Instead, you give him the best plays of the game, including your feelings about those highlights.  That’s paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing and Syntax

Most students think paraphrasing refers to putting information into their own language. However, that’s not correct. Paraphrasing means to put information into your own syntax. Syntax is the order of language.

Thus, paraphrasing means to put information into the way you say things and not into the words you typically use. 

Pretend you were taking notes in, say, world history class.  You write as fast as you can, but there is no way you can write as fast as the instructor speaks.

You later return home, and you write up the lecture. It will have the information from the class, but it will not sound like what how the instructor said it.

That’s paraphrasing!

Task 5.14.1 – Class

Your instructor will conduct paraphrasing practice with you. You will find that even if everyone has the same information, they express themselves differently. That’s paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing vs. Plagiarism 

Paraphrasing means to put information into your own syntax. Plagiarism means to copy sentences. There are three types: 

    1. Outright copying
    2. Patchwork plagiarism
    3. Failure to document

Outright Copying

Outright copying means you copy material word-for-word and turn it in as your own. You have stolen the material. It’s like copying off someone else’s paper during a test. Good instructors will not simply say to redo the paper. They will fail you for the course. In fact, outright copying is so serious that in the military it is considered a violation of the UCMJ, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Direct Quotations

Rather than outright copying, many students copy large chunks of material word-for-word and put quotation marks at the beginning and end. That, of course, makes it a direct quotation. Many instructors, in fact, encourage the use of direct quotations.

However, quoting directly does not demonstrate that you understand the material. It only shows that you know how to type. Therefore, never directly quote more than five percent of your paper.  (This rule does not apply to literature papers, which require considerable direct quoting.) If possible, do not use direct quotations at all. As you will see in a later lesson, direct quotations are very hard to do correctly.  

Patchwork Plagiarism

Patchwork plagiarism means that you changed a little of the original text but you did not change it enough. 

Let’s pretend you are writing a paper on Giotto, the first megastar of Renaissance art. You are going to compare one painting of his to that of Duccio, who lived a little later than Giotto.    

The original text from a book:

With Giotto it is the figures, rather than the architectural framework, that create the picture space.  As a result, the space is more limited than Duccio’s—its depth extends no farther than the combined volumes of the overlapping bodies in the picture—but within its limits it is very much more persuasive.  To Giotto’s contemporaries, the tactile quality of his art must have seemed a near-miracle.  It was this quality that made them praise him as equal, or even superior, to the greatest of the ancient painters, because his forms looked so lifelike that they could be mistaken for reality itself.

Below is patchwork plagiarism.  The text is nearly identical to the above.  The student has not changed it to their own syntax.

With Giotto it is the people, not the architecture, that gives the picture space.  This is more limited than Duccio’s – its depth extends only to the combined bodies – but it is very persuasive. To Giotto’s fellow painters, the tactile quality of his art must have seemed miraculous. This quality made them praise him as equal, even superior, because his forms were so lifelike that they could be mistaken for reality.

Correct Paraphrasing

Below is the same text, correctly paraphrased.  Notice that it sounds very different even though it uses the same material.  We know the student understands the information:

It was the people he painted that brought Giotto praise.  As Janson notes (2008), there is a “tactile quality” to the piece.  Compared to the flat, one-dimensional people that Duccio portrayed, with Giotto we seem to have breathing beings—Christ and His disciples depicted with enough realism to draw us into the scene rather than causing us, as with the Duccio piece, to stand back and view it only as a painting.

Improper Documentation

Finally, unless the information is common knowledge, you must show where you found it.  The citation (which tells where the information came from) must be correct – and be correctly formatted. Failure to do the citation correctly is also a form of plagiarism.

We will cover documentation in another lesson.

Task 5.14.2 – Class

But they [later Native American running greats ] all followed in the steps of the 19th century champion Lewis Bennett (1830–1896), Seneca, who was popularly known as “Deerfoot.” 

Deerfoot was the master of pedestrianism, a sport of long-distance running popular in the 19th century, especially in England, Ireland and Scotland. Official challenges were advertised in the press by promoters, who were often shady characters, and terms were negotiated at prominent taverns or inns that were adjacent to cricket fields or horse tracks. These promoters served as managers as well as trainers and gave their runners colorful names, such as “Crowcatcher,” “American Deer” and “Young England,” to sell the event to the public.

Pedestrian races attracted thousands of paid admissions. A great cause of their popularity was that spectators were encouraged to bet heavily on the outcome. Victors in races were rewarded with prize money, sometimes a share of the admission receipts and a championship cup.

Deerfoot dominated distance racing from ten to 12 miles. He held the world record for the one-hour run – 11 miles, 790 yards – from 1863 to 1897! Deerfoot competed and won against the most accomplished runners of his day.

Making his achievements even more spectacular, the Seneca was no young aspiring runner when he ran in championship races in the British Isles. He was 32 years old when he set the world record in the one-hour race!

Deerfoot decided to accept [promoter-trainer George] Martin’s invitation [to run in England] during the first year of the American Civil War. But he was not seeking to avoid military service. He and his fellow Seneca tribesmen were not United States citizens and were initially excluded from enlisting in military service in New York State by the Adjutant General’s office in Albany. (This position was not reversed until March 1862.) Deerfoot was strictly motivated by his desire to compete internationally with the world’s best runners and to win prize money. 

On July 27, 1861, Deerfoot set sail for Liverpool on a 12-day trans- Atlantic voyage on the steamship City of Washington. From Liverpool, he travelled to London and checked into the Spotted Tavern on the Strand, in an area of the city heavily infested with drunks, gamblers and prostitutes.

Members of the Six Nations had long journeyed to England to cement alliances or entertain as performers. Too often they were viewed as relics of the ancient past or gawked at much like wild animals in a zoo. Other times, they were presented as noble, innocent denizens of the forest. By the end of the second decade of the 19th century, a broadside advertising a “Chief & Six Warriors of the Seneca Nation” demeaned them as “Wild Indian Savages.”

His appearance was quite dramatic. It undoubtedly shocked many in Victorian England when he uncovered his wolf skin cape/blanket and revealed his tall lithe body with his chest fully exposed. From head to toe, he played the role of the “Indian,” in a manner that suggested that at least some of his actions were choreographed by George Martin, his unsavory manager-trainer.

At the September 16 race, Deerfoot wore an eagle feather in his headband, a modified breechclout, actually more of a skirt, ornamented with porcupine quill-work, beads, wampum and jingling bells, and beautifully crafted moccasins on his feet. The English publication Sporting Life called him a “fine specimen of the sons of the forest.” The reporter rightly predicted Deerfoot’s future success and gave a warning to British runners: “We should advise our clippers to look well to their laurels, as he means business and nothing else.”

Later, Deerfoot added other aspects to his repertoire, including wild leaps in the air and so-called war cries. In sharp contrast to the favorable Sporting Life story, the New York Clipper constantly accused Deerfoot of “pulling the rug” over his British hosts and criticized Martin for making Deerfoot a laughingstock, “dressing him in all manner of queer costumes.”

2. Rewrite the above using proper paraphrasing. Use the following starter sentences.

Once Europeans conquered the Americas and Native Americans entered the White society, however, racism crept into the events in which Native Americans competed. One of the first Native American great runners was a Seneca, during the 19th century. Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett.

Deerfoot became famous for winning pedestrian races. Pedestrianism … [finish]

In England, Deerfoot and other Seneca were referred to as Noble Savages and “Wild Indian Savages.” To make money racing, Deerfoot … [finish]