By Glenna Jenkins, Peerwith Expert Page:

What is paraphrasing and whose responsibility is it? Paraphrasing is a good way to avoid plagiarism, provided the sources are properly cited. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines paraphrasing as “to repeat something written or spoken, using different words.” The University of New South Wales notes that it is used “to express someone else’s ideas in your own words.” The University of New England states that “… using paraphrasing in your own writing demonstrates what you know and understand about another scholar’s approach to a topic.”

A Google search of paraphrasing will show numerous links to university and journal websites that deal with this topic. These sites note that paraphrasing is a legitimate way to avoid plagiarism. They use phrases such as “in your own words” and “in your own writing.” This implies that paraphrasing is the author’s responsibility. To my knowledge, there is no official policy on paraphrasing. However, nowhere does it say that scholars may pay an editor to do the paraphrasing for them. Editors edit content; they do not rewrite it.

I’m pretty sure that I am not the only editor to receive requests for paraphrasing. Some of these requests are for paraphrasing from 30 to 70% of entire papers. So, essentially these authors are either avoiding being cited for plagiarism, or they have been cited for plagiarism and are looking for an editor to rewrite entire sections of their papers, or they are recycling previous papers under different titles as they wish to increase their number of publications.

The editors I have spoken to, on this topic, are finding the same thing: authors who are merely copying and pasting, verbatim, the work of other authors and then seeking to pay an editor to paraphrase so as to reduce the evidence of plagiarism. None of these editors offers extensive paraphrasing. Most will paraphrase a sentence or two, or a paragraph at most. One editor noted that if an author were to ask him to paraphrase entire sections of a paper, his name had better be on the cover page. However, the ESL editors I contacted noted that they do some rephrasing for authors who are struggling to get a point across in a difficult language.

I do a lot of rephrasing for my clients. I untangle convoluted phrases and address sentence and paragraph structure. Sometimes, I move entire sections around to make the discussion flow better. But this is not paraphrasing, and it is perfectly legitimate. Many of my clients learn from observing the changes I make in their manuscripts. Invariably, I see progress in their subsequent papers. I find this gratifying; it gives my work meaning. I take great pleasure in assisting authors who put in a considerable effort even though they struggle with English. It is even more gratifying to learn that their papers have been fast-tracked to publication with no further changes.

Asking an editor to do extensive paraphrasing is lazy. Further, it does not help authors improve their writing. Rather, the process of writing improves writing.


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