Paraphrasing vs. Plagiarism & Drafting Counterclaims

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SWBAT accurately paraphrase source material and effectively connect and integrate selected evidence to their arguments using varied, appropriate syntax.

Big Idea

Tired of seeing remixed paraphrases? Check out this collaborative practice that's sure to get kids saying, "WOW. THAT'S how you do it?!"


25 minutes

Since I was absent for the last class period, I will begin today by reviewing the last class period with students and allowing them to ask any questions that they encountered while revising their background and introduction sections and drafting their claim sections.  Allowing students free and open time to ask questions and collaboratively solve problems is crucial in my classroom and to the Common Core, which advocates students to engage genuinely in activities as critical thinkers and problem-solvers.  With all of the work we've done with argumentative outlining, building paragraphs with an appropriate mix of evidence and student-voice, and integrating quotes, I don't anticipate tons of questions, but I've been proven wrong before.  

A few of the questions that I do anticipate hearing which will need to be answered by me include:

  • Do I have to put an in-text citation after every sentence that I use information in, or can I just put a citation at the end of a paragraph?  (YES, you have to put a citation after every sentence that you use words or ideas from someone else.  If you find yourself in a situation where you have several sentences in a row from the same source or have a paragraph with multiple bits of information from the same source, you need to evaluate how well you've used the PIE structure to incorporate your own voice and finesse in articulating the argument.  Also, you need to be careful that you're not lifting chunks of a source's ideas and placing them into your paper in the same order.  That's another form of plagiarism, actually.  You're copying someone else's STRUCTURE, which is plagiarism.  To avoid this, look closely at your own information and organize it in a way that supports YOUR unique argument.  Don't refer back to your sources after the information is on your notecards, or you may fall prey to "accidentally"--or purposefully--stealing their structure.  Recall that even accidental plagiarism IS plagiarism, so it's your job as an academic researcher and writer to take every precaution to avoid this.
  • What if I don't have an author or page number?  (Go back and rewatch the video from last class period.  It is fully explained there for you.  Reference this as often as you forget the answer to your question.)
  • Do I have to use every source that I have?  (No, but you have to use information from each of your required 5-7 sources, including at least a piece of information from each of your 3 database sources and your book.  Obviously, book information should include page numbers in your citation.)
  • What if I don't have evidence for the "I" part of the paragraph?  (You absolutely should include evidence in each paragraph that's making an argument.  Recall that your evidence doesn't have to explicitly agree with what you are saying, but you can use evidence in an extremely effective manner to provide the factual framework from which you build your inferences.  For example, if I want to argue that there should be stricter punishments for a certain crime, I could get evidence that shows the number of crimes, the average incarceration length for the crime, and the recidivism rate for that crime.  Based on those facts, I could build an argument that shows the current policy to be ineffective.)
  • Should I address the counterclaim in my claim section?  (While this is largely up to you, I would suggest you build your paper to firmly make the claim, then include a paragraph or two of concessions, then include the counterclaim with rebuttals.  You don't want to duplicate information, however, so you will likely want to screen the information you're putting in your claim very carefully to see if it would be more effective if it were used as a rebuttal.)

After we address whatever questions students have, we will move on to our revision time for today.  Students will be given about 15 minutes to look for and eliminate the following features from their papers:

  • All instances of 1st and 2nd person
  • Informal language
  • Contractions
  • Numerals to represent numbers that are three words or less (which need to be written out)
  • Any citation format which places quotation marks to the right of citations or periods to the left of citations
  • Paragraphs containing more than one idea
  • Redundant phrases 

I will encourage students to use the sources we used last time and digital "shortcuts" like CTRL+F to quickly find these errors in their documents.


Building Knowledge

30 minutes

One of the biggest issues that I routinely face with the research paper is with successful paraphrasing.  I'm not sure where exactly it's happening, but it seems that somewhere my students are learning that they can either drop in whole chunks of direct quotes (in quotation marks) into their papers OR slightly change or reword information from a source and include it as their own words (with or without citation).  I've been fighting this battle all year, but we will continue "the good fight" today by looking specifically at this misconception about paraphrasing.  This is also an ideal time to address plagiarism in general (again!).  I will show students the following video from Melissa Huseman D'Annunzio and TED Ed to clarify common forms of plagiarism that students routinely use in courses not actively looking for them.

After the video, students can ask questions or get clarification before moving on with the proper paraphrasing activity below.

First, I will write the following sentence, which comes from the PEW research article we're using today as one of our examples, on the board to provide an example of this type of egregious error.

In addition, Millennials and Gen Xers are less likely than older generations to say that a child needs a home with both a father and a mother present to grow up happily.

Then, I will change the sentence to an improper paraphrase on the board using a "think aloud" model that students may (WRONGLY!) use.  I try to make this humorous to avoid being condescending, but it's so helpful for students to see this practice that they think is acceptable being modeled and called out as wrong.  Without the "think aloud," they sometimes think that what they are doing is different, and therefore, acceptable.  We're here today to tell them it's not.  I will use lots of comments like "hmmm, what's another way to say this..." and "well I'll just switch this around..." and even Google specific terms like "Millennials" and "Gen Xers" to find out what ages that would make them now to "replace" those terms.

Also, when compared to previous generations, people like the Gen Xers, born between the 1960s and 1980, and Millennials, born between the 1980s and early 1990s, think it's less necessary for two parents to be in the home in order to be happy as they grow up.

This example will illustrate a couple of things for students.  First, it's blazingly apparent that when sentences are "remixed" like this, they are structurally WORSE.  The amount of commas and lack of concise, formal language is a dead giveaway for remixing.  It should be obvious to students that the original author was as concise as possible, so it's going to be darn near impossible to reword it any better than they already have.  Also, it shows how "remixing" really does fit the profile for plagiarizing.  There is no way to remix without purposefully taking the author's ideas and structure and pretending they are your own.  This will be an important clarification moving forward, as if students do this in their papers, you can return to this particular class day to show that they were both aware of what remixing was and the direct correlation to plagiarism.  (Can you tell I've fought this battle before??)

Next, we will practice as a class how to correctly paraphrase using the same PEW research article and an article from The Atlantic.  I chose these articles because they are both interesting and "data heavy," which students find particularly difficult to paraphrase without plagiarizing.  All students will pull up the research articles.  Additionally, I will open the "How to Paraphrase, not Plagiarize" image and "Using Source Material Without Plagiarizing Process" sheet, which we will use to practice making some collaborative paraphrases.  In order to walk through this example, we will follow the procedure below.

  1. Students will read through the articles, highlighting whatever they think is interesting or that may appear as evidence in a research paper.
  2. Then, students will pick 1 statement as a group that they find is particularly interesting or well-worded for evidence in a research paper.  I will copy/paste this direct quote onto the "Using Source Material Without Plagiarizing Process" sheet.  We'll use this for our first class example.
  3. After we've selected one idea, we will work together to come up with a sample thesis statement for a paper that may contain this evidence.  This is a critical step to show students, because without a strong focus on the argument, paraphrasing often turns into remixing.  It's also great practice for writing thesis statements and considering what kinds of evidence you'd expect to see in a paper based on a thesis.  
  4. I will copy/paste the statement again, and solicit student input to determine which specific parts of the statement would be important or necessary for evidence.  I will highlight these portions.
  5. Next, we will brainstorm why exactly we think that evidence is important, and I will note this connection on the document.
  6. Finally, I will facilitate while students come up with various paraphrases, offering all students the chance to revise and make their statements the best as they can be.  I will also be sure that we are including introductory phrases, appropriate and varied syntax, and incorporating chunks of direct quotes in cases where they feel that the author has said something so perfect that they cannot state it better.
  7. To complete our last step, we will go back and review our transformations.
  8. I will repeat this process with students until each student has participated and all students can demonstrate an understanding of this process in practice.



30 minutes

For the remainder of the class period, students will have time to work on drafting their counterclaim and revision sections.  Here, students should focus on both fairly and accurately representing the counterclaim's points and respectfully rebutting those points with evidence.  I will reiterate my suggestion that if they have an concessions, they place them between the claim and counterclaim sections as well.  I will individually meet with students that I've seen struggling during this time as well.


5 minutes

Before students check out for the day, I want to get some feedback on how this new paraphrasing activity is going.  I will informally ask students for feedback on the process and how it differs from what they do in other classes or have done for previous papers.  I anticipate that many students will be surprised at how much more work it seems like at the beginning, but I will encourage them to persevere!  Year after year, students who push through this process reflect on their own writing with so much more pride than students who do the minimum and simply string together other people's words. 

As they are walking out, I will also want to reiterate how vital it is that they arrive with complete drafts (sans introductions and conclusions) for next time, as we will be completing a peer review activity.

Next Steps

Before next class period, I will make a goal for myself to review and comment on at least 1/3 of my students' digital drafts.  Every year I review and comment on every student's draft before they submit their final drafts, but this year I'm slightly concerned about my ability to get this done with such huge class numbers.  I will try to get SOME of the students' work commented on before next class period to try to offset some of this gigantic load, and I will also again reach out to students who are struggling with their drafts to come in for extra help appointments after school.  I've found that it's so much easier to work with students who are struggling in a few hours after school than it is to grade struggling students' work, both in formative and summative settings.  If students aren't welcoming of my extra help, I will reach out to parents to try to facilitate this if it all possible.