If you are not quoting other scholars directly, you must express their ideas in your own words: close paraphrasing, where only a few words of each sentence are changed from the original, has no place in academic writing. This not only avoids the danger of plagiarism but also demonstrates that you have fully understood your source. Always take care to point out where paraphrasing occurs in your work and, as with direct quotations, acknowledge your source with an accurate citation.
It is very often obvious to a marker when close paraphrasing has taken place. Do not be tempted!
This is a passage taken from Oliver Rackham, The History of The Countryside (London: Phoenix, 2000), p. 39.
Wild cattle are probably the longest-running example in Europe of the conservation in semi-captivity of an otherwise extinct subspecies. They owe their survival to being a medieval status symbol; how they came to be such is unknown.
Here is an example of a properly referenced use of this passage. The words of the source are clearly distinguished from those of the author with single quotation marks and the source of the ideas expressed is acknowledged with a full reference in a footnote.
There are a number of herds of so-called 'wild cattle' in country parks in Britain. In his 'History of the Countryside', Oliver Rackham suggests that these herds are 'probably the longest-running example in Europe of the conservation in semi-captivity of an otherwise extinct subspecies' and attributes the cattle's survival to the fact that they were 'a medieval status symbol'.1
1 Oliver Rackham, The History of the Countryside (London: Phoenix, 2000), p. 39.
The following passage is an example of the wrong way to make use of the Rackham extract in a piece of work.
There are a number of herds of so-called 'wild cattle' in Britain. Their survival is due to their being a medieval status symbol, although it is unknown how they came to be such, and is one of the longest running examples of the conservation in semi-captivity in Europe of an otherwise extinct subspecies.
The author has copied Oliver Rackham's words and only made minor adjustments to their order. The ideas of the author have not been distinguished from those of Rackham and there has been no attempt to acknowledge the source of the information or ideas. This is plagiarism.
Here is another example
This is an extract taken from Jeremy Paxman, The Political Animal (London: Penguin, 2002), p. 197.
For the most part, senior civil servants have tended more to be noted for their sinewy persuasiveness or their mental gymnastics, like the 1960s Cabinet Secretary Burke Trend, of whom it was said that he could draft the most complicated White Papers in his head. But the problem with clever minds is that they need something to occupy them. Some ministers seem better able to grasp this than others. Aneurin Bevan, creator of the Labour Party's most lasting monument, the National Health Service, was one.
The following passage is an example of an acceptable use of this source. The author clearly distinguishes the words of Jeremy Paxman from his own with single quotation marks and acknowledges the source of the ideas and information in the main text and in a footnote.
While many may question the ability of the majority of the current stock of British politicians to run a government department, few express the same doubts about this country's senior civil servants. As Jeremy Paxman has recently observed, many civil servants have been 'noted for their sinewy persuasiveness or their mental gymnastics.' However, Paxman goes on to point out that even the best minds can achieve little without direction: few ministers, with the notable exception of Nye Bevan, have had the wisdom to make the most of their civil servants' talent.2
2Jeremy Paxman, The Political Animal (London: Penguin, 2002), p. 197.
This next passage is an example of an unacceptable use of the extract from Jeremy Paxman's book.
Few doubt the ability of Britain's senior civil servants, many of whom have been noted for their sinewy persuasiveness or their mental gymnastics. Indeed, one Cabinet Secretary, Burke Trend, was reputed to be able to draft the most complicated White Papers in his head. Unfortunately, few ministers, with the exception of Aneurin Bevan, the creator of Labour's most lasting monument, have been able to grasp that even clever minds need something to occupy them.
Much of the passage has been very closely paraphrased and there is no acknowledgement of the source. The author has attempted to pass the words of Jeremy Paxman off as his or her own. This is plagiarism.