User:CaroleHenson/Edited version of Close Paraphrasing

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Close paraphrasing is the superficial modification of information from another source. If the other source is public domain or compatibly licensed with Wikipedia, close paraphrasing is not a problem as long as the source is properly acknowledged. If the source is under copyright, close paraphrasing may violate Wikipedia's copyright policy, which forbids Wikipedia contributors from copying information directly from other sources except in limited cases and with attribution or from following sources too closely.

Editors should summarize source material in their own words, adding inline citations as required by the sourcing policy. Judicious quoting of non-free content is appropriate-so long as it is limited and does not breach copyright. Quoting (with or without quotation marks) or closely paraphrasing public domain source material is appropriate if properly attributed to avoid plagiarism. Compatibly licensed content can be closely paraphrased as well, if fully attributed (see Plagiarism - Sources under copyleft and Plagiarism - Public-domain sources). Content from copyrighted sources should generally not be closely paraphrased, although there are some exceptions.

The best way to prevent close paraphrasing is to understand clearly when it is a problem, how to avoid it, and how to address it when it appears.


In this example, Wikipedia's article text is an attempt at paraphrasing the source. However, almost all of the original word choice, word order and sentence structure is retained. The example was taken from the Let's get serious about plagiarism, The Signpost, Wikipedia Dispatch.

Example Verbiage Comments
Source "A statement from the receiver, David Carson of Deloitte, confirmed that 480 of the 670 employees have been made redundant ... At least 100 Waterford Crystal employees are refusing to leave the visitors' gallery at the factory tonight and are staging an unofficial sit-in. The employees say they will not be leaving until they meet with Mr. Carson. There were some scuffles at one point and a main door to the visitors' centre was damaged ... Local Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Kelly, who is one of those currently occupying the visitors' gallery, said the receiver had told staff he would not close the company while there were interested investors."[1]
Unacceptable Paraphrased verbiage "A statement issued by the receiver, Deloitte's David Carson, confirmed that, of the 670 employees, 480 of them would be laid off. The workers responded angrily to this unexpected decision and at least 100 of them began an unofficial sit-in in the visitors' gallery at the factory that night. They insisted they would refuse to leave until they had met with Carson. Following the revelations, there was a minor scuffle during which the main door to the visitors' centre was damaged. Local Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Kelly was amongst those who occupied the visitors' gallery." Source: Wikipedia article 2008–2009 Irish financial crisis Analysis:
  • "A statement issued by the receiver, Deloitte's David Carson, confirmed that, of the 670 employees, 480 of them would be laid off" vs. "A statement from the receiver, David Carson of Deloitte, confirmed that 480 of the 670 employees have been made redundant". – The structure of Wikipedia's statement is essentially the same as the original. Changing a single word and slightly reordering one phrase is not enough to constitute a paraphrase.
  • "They insisted they would refuse to leave until they had met with Carson" vs. "The employees say they will not be leaving until they meet with Mr. Carson". – The structure of this sentence is the same.
  • "there was a minor scuffle during which the main door to the visitors' centre was damaged" vs. "There were some scuffles at one point and a main door to the visitors' centre was damaged". – The structure and language of the two sentences are the same.
  • "Local Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Kelly was amongst those who occupied the visitors' gallery" vs. "Local Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Kelly, who is one of those currently occupying the visitors' gallery". – This slight rewording does not change the fact that the underlying structure and language are the same. Minor changes, such as "was amongst those" --> "is one of those" and "occupied" --> "currently occupying", are not enough to constitute an original rewriting of the passage.

See below for an example of an unusable paraphrase repaired to become acceptable.

When is close paraphrase permitted?[edit]

There are a couple of specific situations when close paraphrasing is permitted. If information is gathered from the public domain or is free use content, close paraphrase may be acceptable. In some instances it is helpful to capture the verbiage as written, in which case the guidelines for Quotations apply. Lastly, there may be some instances where it's difficult to paraphrase because of the nature of the content, in such cases there are a couple of tips about how to limit the degree of close paraphrasing.

When using a close paraphrase legitimately, citing a source is in most cases required and always highly recommended.

Public domain or free use content

In some limited cases, close paraphrase may be an acceptable way of writing an article. For example, many Wikipedia articles are based originally on text from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica (see Wikipedia:1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica). If the source is public domain, such as work of the U.S. government, or available under a CC-By-SA-compatible free license, it may be closely paraphrased if it is fully attributed. Acknowledging the source in such instances may include accompaniment by in-text attribution that makes clear whose words or ideas are being used (e.g. "John Smith wrote that ...") or in some cases more general attribution (see Sources under copyleft and Public-domain sources).

Indirect quotation of non-free text

If a non-free copyrighted source is being used, it is recommended to use original language and direct quotations, to clearly separate source material from original material. This is in keeping with non-free content policy and guideline. However, brief instances of indirect quotation may be acceptable without quotation marks with in-text attribution. If the text is markedly creative or if content to be duplicated is extensive, direct quotation should be used instead. Extensive instances of indirect quotation are not generally acceptable; even if content is attributed, it can still create copyright problems if the taking is too substantial. To avoid this risk, Wikipedia keeps this—like other non-free content—minimal.

When there are a limited number of ways to say the same thing

Close paraphrasing is also permitted when there are only a limited number of ways to say the same thing. In general, sentences like "Dr. John Smith earned his medical degree at State University" can be rephrased "John Smith earned his M.D. at State University" without copyright problems. Note, however, that closely paraphrasing extensively from a non-free source may be a copyright problem, even if it is difficult to find different means of expression. The more extensively we rely on this exception, the more likely we are to run afoul of compilation protection.[2]

Why is it a problem?[edit]

Copying isn't the only way to violate copyright or plagiarize. Close paraphrasing can be a problem, too.

There are legal, ethical and organizational standard considerations regarding the use of close paraphrasing.

Copyright law

Wikipedia's primary concern is with the legal constraints imposed by copyright law; in many cases close paraphrasing of a non-free copyrighted source is likely to be an infringement of the copyright of the source. For example, in Macmillan Co. v. King (1914), a U.S. District Court found that an economic professor's notes, condensed and closely paraphrased from the textbook, constituted infringement. Close paraphrasing rises to the level of copyright infringement when taking is substantial. Depending on the context and extent of the paraphrasing, limited close paraphrase may be permitted under the doctrine of fair use; close paraphrase of a single sentence is not as much of a concern as an entire section or article.

Wikipedia's guidelines

But even when content is verifiably public domain or released under a compatible free license (see Wikipedia:Donating copyrighted materials), close paraphrasing may be at odds with Wikipedia's guideline related to plagiarism (see Wikipedia:Plagiarism). While in this context, too, close paraphrasing of a single sentence is not as much of a concern, if a contributor closely paraphrases public domain or freely-licensed content, he or she should explicitly acknowledge that content is closely paraphrased. (See above.)
Finally, close paraphrasing can also become problematic when a contributor closely paraphrases a source without understanding it; consequently, the contributor does not possess the ability to assess whether an article conforms to our policies, particularly Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, or to repair it if it does not. The result is frequently content that has a bias similar to the bias of the source.

How to write acceptable content?[edit]

To properly paraphrase content, you review information from reliable sources, extract the salient points, and use your own words, style and sentence structure to draft verbiage for an article.[3][4]

Take notes

One of the key factors in the creation of inadvertent close paraphrasing is starting with text taken directly from the source. The word choice and style can easily resurface since it is foremost in our minds. An approach to ensure that information is fully understood and formed into unique thoughts is to isolate the essential information by taking notes.
  • Start off by taking notes of essential information only, excluding the use of phrases.
  • Record the source for the citation.
  • Collect information from multiple sources. This will have several benefits: it promotes a tone with a neutral point of view and produces a well-rounded understanding of the topic. It also makes it less likely that your end result will follow too closely on any one source.
  • Gather short quotations when they powerfully illustrate a point for your article. Overuse can result in a disjointed article and may breach copyright. (Extensive quotations are forbidden by policy.)

Draft verbiage

  • Gather related items from the multiple sources and explain it to yourself: The point is to rephrase or summarize a body of information in your own words and sentence structure.
  • Add inline citations in accordance with the sourcing guideline.
  • Allow time between note-taking and drafting to clear your mind of the original verbiage and better paraphrase the content.
  • Don't paraphrase information in the same order it was presented from the source.


After material has been written, return to the source to double check for content and properly paraphrased language.
  • Information has been gathered from several sources and distilled in your words.
  • Quotations are used appropriately and infrequently.
  • Words or ideas do not follow the same pattern and order as the source material.

The example above on this page illustrates a common way in which people closely paraphrase content; this one demonstrates how to properly synthesize and paraphrase information.

How to detect and deal with close paraphrasing?[edit]


Unlike straightforward copyright violations, close paraphrasing is notoriously difficult to detect; frequently the contributor will add wiki syntax and write in the style of a Wikipedia article. Here are some ways you might detect it:
  • Look for disjointed and sudden changes in the tone, vocabulary, and style of content introduced by the same contributor. For example, "The cat is a small predatory carnivorous species of crepuscular mammal. Housecats like to kill mice and bats."
  • Look for redundant content; this may be a sign that two or more sources were closely paraphrased. For example, "The cat is a small predatory carnivorous species of crepuscular mammal. Like many pets, domestic cats are carnivorous."
  • Look for content that resembles content included in a quotation.
  • Examine the talk pages of major contributors and other pages where they have written in their own words, and determine if their article contributions substantially differ in tone, structure, and vocabulary from these discussions.
  • Take short phrases from the article and put them in a search engine. Take a look at the results and see if they closely resemble the article.

Deal with close paraphrase concerns

Your approach may vary depending upon the severity of the concern. Here are a couple of ways to manage close paraphrase concerns:
  • Communication — It is important to discuss your concerns with the contributor. Many people who paraphrase too closely are not intentionally infringing, but just don't know how to properly paraphrase. It might help to point them to this essay or to the references and resources listed here, which include some pointers for proper paraphrasing.
  • Insert a close paraphrase template — If you encounter an article or section using close paraphrasing, you can use the {{Close paraphrase}} template, which can be customized to identify the source and to indicate if the source is public domain, to mark it for cleanup:
  • Follow copyright infringement instructions — However if you believe that the close paraphrasing in question is so close that it infringes copyright, instead follow the instructions at Template:Copyvio, which may require removing the paraphrasing content until it can be repaired. Unless close paraphrasing is immediately obvious, it is good practice to cite specific passages alongside the corresponding passage from the source on the talk page to highlight their similarity; this will provide objective evidence of close paraphrasing.

Example approaches to discussing with other editors[edit]

Note: All text in these examples is dedicated by its authors to the public domain

The following examples can be copied and pasted directly from this page, although you will need to fill in your own examples as well as supplying the article's title and the source url. The messages strive to avoid accusations while at the same time pointing to clear instructions on how to fix errors of this sort. The spaces for examples from the editor's inappropriate text are provided because even experienced or good faith editors may not recognize where the issues lie without them. If there is a passage of several consecutive sentences which is a continuous close paraphrase, this may alone be a sufficient demonstration. Otherwise, showing the pattern in several separated sentences is typically better than offering one, brief example.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Staff protest over Waterford Crystal closure". Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  2. ^ In Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, the United States Supreme Court noted that factual compilations of information may be protected with respect to "selection and arrangement, so long as they are made independently by the compiler and entail a minimal degree of creativity," as "[t]he compilation author typically chooses which facts to include, in what order to place them, and how to arrange the collected data so that they may be used effectively by readers"; the Court also indicated that "originality is not a stringent standard; it does not require that facts be presented in an innovative or surprising way" and that "[t]he vast majority of works make the grade quite easily, as they possess some creative spark, 'no matter how crude, humble or obvious' it might be."("Decision". Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991). )
  3. ^ Purdue OWL contributors (2010-04-21). "Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words". The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  4. ^ "How to Paraphrase Without Plagiarizing". Colorado State University. Retrieved 2011-06-28.  Unknown parameter |years= ignored (help)

External links[edit]