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How to Recognize Plagiarism

Non-Plagiarism Pattern: Parroted Paraphrase

Definition

A parroted paraphrase gives the appearance of paraphrasing by rewriting of another author's ideas through substitution of synonyms and by other minor editing, while maintaining the overall structure of the source. Although such writing includes both the in-text citation and the reference, some may question whether or not this is plagiarism because it is really just a minor variation from the original source. Parroting is basically an imitation of something.

While parroted paraphrasing is technically not plagiarism according to criteria used here, this can be done with without full comprehension of the original source material. Worse, if done carelessly, a parroted paraphrase could misrepresent the original author's intended meaning.

Original Source Material:

Five first principles are elaborated: (a) Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems. (b) Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge. (c) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner. (d) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner. (e) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.

Source:

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.

Correct Version: Technically not plagiarized, but ... unoriginal writing that maintains much of the structure of the original source material.

Merrill (2002) claims that learning is promoted when learners solve real-world problems. Learning is further fostered when learners activate existing knowledge to connect it to new knowledge. Learning is also supported by teacher demonstration of new knowledge to students. Learning is further enhanced when the learner subsequently applies the new knowledge. Finally, learning is advanced when students integrate new knowledge into their own lives, according to Merrill.

Reference:

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.

Explanation: Merrill's ideas are paraphrased , since the in-text citation and reference are included. No word-for-word plagiarism is present.

Caveat: While this is technically not plagiarism as defined here, such parroted paraphrasing often can be done with little original writing or comprehension of the original author's ideas. This can be done mechanically by:

  • substituting synonyms (e.g., synonms for "promote" are foster, support, enhance, advance), and
  • changing the syntax (e.g., "when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems" is changed to when learners solve real-world problems).

As analogy, parroted paraphrasing is not a violation of the "letter of the law." Some scholars may nonetheless view this as a violation of the "spirit of the law"--i.e., the spirit of avoiding plagiarism. Parroted paraphrasing is a gray area that teachers may want to address, particularly if their students frequently write this way.

Note that if a significant portion of someone else's published work is largely paraphrased by parroting in this manner, a good case could be made for copyright violation, which is against the law in the U.S. (see Standler, 2012, p. 13).

Reference

Standler, R. (2012). Plagiarism in Colleges in the USA (PDF). Retrieved March 9, 2015 from http://www.rbs2.com/plag.pdf


See full list of plagiarism patterns.