October 2017 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

A Dissertation Editor's Tips for Headings in the Capstone Document

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In this post, I want to address the issue of headings in doctoral capstone studies. Drawing from my experience in editing students’ capstone documents for form and style, I’d like to offer some notes about the nature and purpose of headings and subheadings in studies. Then, I’d like to share some information and resources for correctly formatting these headings in APA.
A title image for this blog post featuring a person, drinking tea, editing their Walden capstone document

Headings are a key way that writers help readers make sense of and navigate documents, especially long ones such as capstone studies. By looking at the text of a heading and its formatting, readers can more easily understand your study’s focus and follow your narrative.

In APA, five heading levels are possible. In a Walden doctoral capstone study, an additional heading level, Level 0, is used for main-level headings such as chapter and section titles. Most Walden capstone writers will use Level 0-3 (and possibly Level 4) headings in their documents. The different heading levels’ formatting varies in terms of whether they are centered or indented, bold or in plain text, in upper/lowercase or sentence case, or followed by a period. The Form and Style Checklist includes a helpful overview of the different APA levels used in Walden capstone documents.

The important thing to remember is that headings in APA are hierarchically structured in terms of their APA level. That is, a Level 1 heading is a subheading of a Level 0 heading whereas a Level 2 heading is a subheading of a Level 1 heading. The concept of nesting may be another way to think about this. By looking at the formatting of a heading, especially in relation to other surrounding headings, a reader should be able to glean important details about how content is related to other content (and, more broadly, how the document is structured).

Most headings in your capstone study are specified in your program template and/or checklist. When drafting the different sections of your study, you will want to make sure that the phrasing, ordering, and APA level of your headings match what is in these documents.

In some sections, especially long ones like the literature review, you may want to add additional subheadings (most probably, Level 3 and 4 ones) to help readers better follow the different strands of your narrative. When doing so, I recommend making your headings succinct yet sufficiently descriptive enough that a reader glancing only at the heading would have a good idea of the content that followed it. Definitely, heed the guidance of your committee members.

When using your program template, you can apply a pre-formatted style tag to each of your headings. The Styles section of the Home tab in Microsoft Word includes correctly-formatted tags for each of the APA heading levels. By tagging your headings rather than manually formatting them, you can more easily ensure that they are correctly formatted. Another advantage of using the style tags is that the Table of Contents can be automatically updated to include current Level 0-2 headings and corresponding page numbers. For an overview of how to work with your program template and apply style tags, please click play and watch the Template Demonstration Video embedded below. 



Hopefully with this post, I’ve provided some useful perspective on this aspect of capstone writing. In the Comments section, we’d love to hear your feedback.


Tara Kachgal
 is a dissertation editor in the Walden University Writing Center. She has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and teaches for the School of Government's online MPA@UNC program. She resides in Chapel Hill and, in her spare time, serves as a mentor for her local running store's training program.


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Paraphrasing Series: An in-depth look at paraphrasing strategies

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Paraphrasing is an important part of academic writing. Writers rely on paraphrasing to help them use and integrate research into their writing. Paraphrasing also helps writers avoid plagiarism and merge varied research on a topic into one cohesive piece. Because paraphrasing is so valued, we have a four part series to look deeper into paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing: A four-part series

In this series, we look at how paraphrasing can help all students include research in their writing. If you need an overview of paraphrasing, please refer to our webpage on paraphrasing. We also have overviews of paraphrasing strategies and examples of poor paraphrases. All of this material can help provide background.

Ready to go? Here are the posts in our paraphrasing series:

  • Paraphrasing: An Introduction walks writers through how paraphrasing can be used to weave together multiple sources. Senior writing instructor Matt says this is how writers can tell a "story" about the research.
  • Paraphrasing Statistics tackles ways to paraphrase data. Numbers and statistics may seem difficult to repeat in new words, but our Manager of Multimedia Writing Resources, Beth, shares tips for paraphrasing statistics.
  • In Paraphrasing Enhances Learning, writing instructor Kacy lists the ways that paraphrasing can help not just the writing process, but the learning process as well. Discover how paraphrasing can help you master course material.
  • Paraphrasing to Avoid Plagiarism looks at how paraphrasing not only helps writers avoid overt copy-and-paste plagiarism, but how it can help writers avoid accidental plagiarism. Join Writing Instructor, Jes, as she shares her step-by-step paraphrasing process.


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The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. The center supports students through all stages of the writing process and develops the writer as well as the writing.


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Student Spotlight: Lisa Whiteaker, Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership

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The Walden University Writing Center is privileged to work with talented students. In the Student Spotlight Series, we aim to support incredible work our students do, both in and out of the classroom. The goal of the Student Spotlight Series is to provide the Walden community with a place to build bridges and make connections by developing shared understanding of the diverse and varied student journey. Students share stories about their writing process, their efforts towards social change, and their motivations for pursuing higher education. We ask questions, and students generously answer.
This Student Spotlight features Lisa Whiteaker, student of the The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. 



How would you describe your personality to someone just meeting you?
People often initially describe me as being a sweet, kind person. Upon further inspection, I am also organized, meticulous, and goal-oriented. There are aspects of my personality that people are generally surprised about. I am quiet and sometimes shy, but I love fast cars, the color red, and Bon Jovi!

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
As a teacher, I am passionate about education and making an impact in the lives of children. I love learning  more so I can apply my knowledge to help a child learn. I am passionate about learning. I have always been a reader and hope I can teach my students to love learning as well. 

This is an image of Lisa standing in her backyard, smiling.
Here is Lisa in her backyard!
I live in Wyoming and, as such, I enjoy the mountains and the beauty of nature. I also love to bake. My favorite cookbook is The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook! The recipes for Strawberry Cream Cake and Classic Brownies are absolutely delicious. I love to spend time with my two children and my husband. We enjoy going to the park, watching movies, and reading together.

What is your educational background? 
My educational background is a combination of many experiences. I grew up in Wyoming, but moved to Kansas after graduation to be near my mom. In 1998, I completed one semester at Emporia State University. Then I attended a small Bible college for a few years in Missouri. After a long break from college, and after moving back to Wyoming with my husband and children, I went back to school at the age of 30 years old. I attended our local junior college, Casper College, to begin to finish up my degree. After Casper College, I transferred to the University of Wyoming at Casper. I really enjoyed every step of my journey and am thankful for all the teachers who made deposits in my life. My story shows that it is never too late to go back and pick up where you left off. It is never too late to make a decision to gain more education to better your life. 

How do you fuel yourself during the writing process?
I am not sure if anyone else feels this way, but, for me, the writing process is laborious. There is a definite cyclical process to writing, and I often feel as though I am slugging my way through it. I have found, though, the more time I invest in the process of collecting and organizing my thoughts and systematically relaying my ideas in my rough draft, the less time I have to invest in revising. To make it through the stages of writing, I definitely need something to keep me going. To fuel myself during the writing process, I turn to coffee, ice tea, and the occasional piece of dark chocolate. Also, gathering more information through academic journals and my own personal resource books fuels me. These sources help me to connect all the new information I have acquired with my own personal experiences, tying the entire writing process together.

What inspires you to write?
Currently, deadlines and due dates are my inspiration to write! Beyond what I must complete for the classes I am taking, I truly believe that becoming a proficient writer is an important life skill. Being able to communicate with others through words is a universal means of connecting. This in and of itself is inspiring to me.

What is one Writing Center service you would recommend to new students? 
The Writing Center service I would recommend to new students is having your paper reviewed. At first, it took me awhile to get my paper written long enough in advance that I could have time to have my paper reviewed. Once I got into the flow, it has not been difficult to get my papers finished in time for a review. I would strongly recommend that new students use this valuable resource. I would also recommend choosing one specific person to review your papers. It helps to have the same person looking over your writing because they can give you specific feedback on how you are growing as a writer.

Have you encountered any challenges while at Walden and how did you overcome those challenges? 
Someone once told me, “The process is part of the promise.” Challenges are a part of the process. I have taken this to mean that each valley and mountain I encounter along my journey is part of what makes me who I am. Each experience in my life gives me a skill or understanding that I can later share with others. There have definitely been challenges while I have been pursuing my master’s degree, and I have relied on my family, colleagues where I work, and colleagues in my classes to help give me the strength to get me through to the next phase. I have also relied on myself and I always remember that sometimes the best things in life are those which are difficult to obtain.

What does social change mean to you? How have you worked toward social change in your personal/professional life? 
Part of what drew me to Walden University was the strong view on positive social change, as this has always been important to me in my personal life. To me, being an agent of positive social change means making a difference in someone else’s life for the better. It means giving part of what I have or know to make the way more equitable or easier for someone else. My husband and I have always been people who have given to others. Though the ways in which we have given may be small, they were significant to those who were the recipients. My favorite quote is from The Little Princess by Francis H. Burnett. In the story, Sara, the main character, has lost everything she held dear. It was at this point she declared, “If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that—warm things, kind things, sweet things….”

This has always been my mantra and it guides me daily as I interact with and come across people who need a friend and a helping hand.




The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.


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A Coda to GDS 2017: Writing Center Resources for Positive Social Change

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At this point of Global Days of Service 2017, Writing Center staff have already contributed volunteer hours to help organizations like Habitat for Humanity, presented webinars on service and social change, and have helped students express the ways in which their scholarly and professional work will enact social change. 

To continue this celebration of GDS 2017, we want to share some of the Writing Center's resources related to social change.

Global Days of Service 2017: Help make a difference

How to write for positive social change: This blog post helps students understand how to connect their work to social change.

Writing for social change webinars: We have an entire series of webinars related social change. These include topics like exploring differing perspectives to tips for communicating ideas in grant proposals.

Balance passion and objectivity: In this podcast, listen as we discuss ways to express our passion while remaining objective.

Social change and difficult situations: What do we do when we encounter different points of view related to social change? Writing Center instructors discuss this difficult situation in this episode of the podcast.

How do Walden students create social change: In our student spotlight series, you can read about the ways in which Walden students create positive social change. This link will take you to just one of the blog posts in the series. Feel free to search the "student spotlight" tag for more.

The Writing Center social change hub: Continue to explore the Writing Center's social change resources by starting on this webpage.

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The Walden University Writing Center
 supports students throughout all stages of the writing process, including the development of texts that help to create positive social change.


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Student Spotlight: Heather Graham, College of Health Sciences

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The Walden University Writing Center is privileged to work with talented students. In the Student Spotlight Series, we aim to support incredible work our students do, both in and out of the classroom. The goal of the Student Spotlight Series is to provide the Walden community with a place to build bridges and make connections by developing shared understanding of the diverse and varied student journey. Students share stories about their writing process, their efforts towards social change, and their motivations for pursuing higher education. We ask questions, and students generously answer.

This Student Spotlight features Heather Graham, student of the College of Health Sciences.




Why did you choose Walden? What drew you to pursue a degree at Walden?
I chose Walden because I was moving overseas. My husband is in the Air Force and stationed in the United Kingdom. I needed a school that could work with my living situation. Also the school offers a military discount and accepts the use of the Post 9-11 GI Bill. Living overseas has been difficult at times when trying to communicate with my teachers, however, they have all been wonderful in accommodating my needs.

This is a picture of Heather with her husband during their travels
Heather and her husband during their travels.

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
I am passionate about helping others. I became a nurse for that reason. I am also passionate about my family, they mean everything to me. Soon my husband and I will be expanding ours in June. Hobbies, well before moving to the United Kingdom, I lived in Alaska. My hobbies included snowboarding, fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking. Mostly all the outdoors adventures. Since moving, my new hobbies include seeing the world! Since living in England I have traveled to Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland. I look forward to seeing all that I can while living here. My husband and I also continue to snowboard, now our hobby is to ride all the European mountain ranges. So far we have completed Solden in Austria and Alpspitze and Zugspitze in Germany.
This is a picture of Heather and her husband skiing.
Heather and her husband on a ski trip

How have you created a community around yourself in your program? What do you do to interact with your classmates and colleagues?
After my first semester I learned that there were Facebook groups for each course I was enrolled in where students communicate with each other to help with the struggles we have in classes. We help each other by making assignments more clear or give ideas when we struggle with writing a paper. Some of the classmates I have personally friended on Facebook and we will talk about school and life. It is nice to communicate with others and relate to others in the program.

What are your strengths in writing? What are your greatest challenges?
Since using the writing center, I feel I have developed a strength in the flow of my papers. I have made improvements with my use of commas, semicolons, and colons. I still have a challenge with using passive voice, however, the writing center has been helping me identify and correct my errors. They give me samples and resources to help develop my writing skills.

What is one Writing Center service you would recommend to new students?
I highly recommend using the writing center to have your papers reviewed. I had been out of school for about 5 years and it was rough getting back into it. I had forgotten how to write in APA format and struggled with a few things. The people at the writing center would critique my papers and help give me pointers and resources to be a more developed writer.

How would you describe your personality to someone just meeting you?
Sometimes shy at first, but then very outgoing and friendly. I am an honest person and that can either make or break a friendship it seems. I like people to be open and honest with me and to tell me the truth. This has made it difficult moving to another country. I can be very blunt and honest, but I don’t mean harm. I look at it as constructive criticism. I want people to tell me the truth, even if they don’t think I would like it. However, once someone takes the time to get to know me, I can be the best friend they will know. I am loyal and care about my friends, and I will always have their backs.

How do you hope to apply the work you have done as a student to the work you will do after graduating?
If I have to write up policies or procedures for my nursing, I hope to use what I have learned to portray myself as a professional and produce professional work. I can use this experience to help me complete research and present it in a way that will be easily understood by others. 

This is a picture of Heather, with her arms raised, looking triumphant.
Heather on the steps of an ancient monument.
The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.


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Inclusive Language Policy Announcement

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Earlier in the year, members of the Writing Center formed a working group around social change initiatives, both those sponsored by Walden University and those that we could spearhead on our own. One of our earliest discussions in that group was one around gender-neutral and gender-fluid pronouns, noting that while the American Psychological Association (APA) indeed supported the use of the singular they, APA did not raise awareness of pronouns being used by LGBTQ+ communities and subcommunities.

Inclusive Language Policies Announcement

We looked to address this discrepancy in the following gender-neutral pronouns policy, which we drafted over the summer and was approved by a number of Walden’s committees and academic advisory boards, including Walden’s Research Process Advisory Council, the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, and the Center for Social Change. The policy states:
Gender-Neutral Pronouns Policy: Walden University prides itself as an inclusive institution that serves a diverse population of students. Committed to broadening the university’s understanding of inclusivity and diversity, Walden will now accept gender-neutral pronouns in student writing. This practice acknowledges APA’s recent endorsement of the singular they and also embraces alternative pronouns currently in circulation (e.g., the nominatives xe, ve, ze/zir, ey, and zhe and their associated derivations). Walden recognizes that discussion around gender identity is ongoing. As such, the university will accept any pronoun in student writing so long as evidence can be provided that it is accepted as a respectful term by the community it represents.

Coincidentally, while we were drafting this policy, another opportunity to revisit our language policies arose. Members of the autistic community reached out to us after we had tweeted about APA’s preference for person-first language. We provided an example in our webpage on bias that labeled the phrase “autistic child” as bias and “child with autism” as preferred. What our followers told us, however, was that, as members of the community, this was not their preferred phrasing. In fact, organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Identity-First Autistic had been arguing for identity-first language, and Walden’s director of disability services reported that some in the Deaf community were also moving in that direction. Again, our social change working group was reminded of the importance of language inclusivity. We drafted the following identify-first language policy, which was also reviewed and approved by Walden’s aforementioned institutional bodies:
Identity-First Language Policy: Walden University respects the evolving endorsements of communities and self-advocacy groups. As such, while the American Psychological Association (2010) recommends using people-first language when addressing persons with disabilities (e.g., children with ADHD; p. 76), Walden also recognizes that certain groups or subgroups thereof prefer identity-first language (e.g., autistic children). To this end, the university will accept people-first and identity-first language in student writing so long as evidence can be provided that it is accepted as a respectful term by the community it represents.

Discussions about identity-language inclusivity will assuredly continue, and we're excited to serve on the Writing Center’s Social Change Working Group, which will be partially responsible for uncovering and discovering these conversations. We recognize that language is powerful, that a continued effort toward precision should include an awareness of social advocacy, and that we can support our community of learners with the tools they need to represent themselves and the communities they write about with respect.

With that in mind, we invite you, the Walden community, and all of our readers to join us in this conversation below. An active and diverse community helps broaden these discussions and raises cultural awareness around identity. We welcome your thoughts and ideas. 

Recently, we discussed these policies further in an episode of our our podcast for writers: WriteCast. Please click this link to access our entire WriteCast library, or click play on the player below. Thank you. 





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The Walden University Writing Center reflects the social change mission of the university by supporting the research programs of its students. The Writing Center also reflects this mission by acknowledging that language itself has the power to contribute to positive social change by framing the way groups, individuals, and ideas are researched, written about, and discussed. Inclusive language can be the vehicle by which broader, longer-term social change is enacted. 


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Global Days of Service: Community Partnerships and Social Change

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Working with students, Writing Center Administrative Assistants and those I “see” through the Writing Center, provides me an opportunity to learn about the great work students do in the name of social change as part of their studies, career paths, and volunteer work. In fact, one aspect that drew me to Walden University as a Writing Instructor was Walden’s social change mission—social change is something that is both professionally and personally important to me.   
Global Days of Service Title Image

My own graduate studies were grounded in social change. As a community literacy scholar, studying and presenting how everyday people go public, social change meant helping to disseminate the voices of others—voices not often heard across communities—to wide, disparate, audiences, such as scholars, activists, and others who might find inspiration from these voices to enact their own social change mission. However, writing about communities and people when one is positioned as an outsider to that community is, well, complicated. Thus, as we kick off the Global Days of Service here at Walden University, I’m reminded that it’s important for those who enter a community with the goal of social change to do so ethically by understanding one’s own outsider status and keeping the community’s true needs in mind.

Luckily, as a discipline, community literacy provided me a foundation for facing this complicated situation of studying, writing about, and volunteering for communities I was an outsider to. For instance, I observed and interviewed community members of a group who were going public against the racial discrimination and sanctions they faced in relation to their immigration status. As someone whose race, immigration status, and subsequently, social and political experiences differed from this group, I was a community “outsider” in relation to their status as community “insiders.” That said, community literacy practices are grounded in changing the dynamics of this outsider-insider issue—not by pretending to close this gap, but by acknowledging it and respecting the various insider-outsider dynamics and differences at work. I quickly learned that these dynamics and differences are fluid, much like an individual’s intersecting identities (gender, race, class, etc.) are fluid.

So, while I was observing and interviewing community members, it was important that I considered my own outsider status to include how the group I was writing about was not static in terms of identity or social and political public position. One way to achieve this was to ensure that the group I studied co-created my research—their voices were always at the forefront of my work and they provided feedback on my notes and writing along the way. Thus, my work was not the result of passive, unreflective observation and interviewing group members, but the result of self-reflection and ethically fostered relationships and communications.

Equally important to ensuring that the voice of the community led my work was ensuring that I volunteered for the community for allowing me to study them and did so on their terms. More specifically, in exchange for allowing me to study the group, I provided some much-needed volunteer work—work that helped the group continue to meet and grow. In this case: babysitting.

Admittedly, babysitting was a less glamorous reality of volunteering and social change work than I expected. In my mind, I imagined myself more at the forefront—helping with organizing marches or discussing tactics for going public—after all, I had a background in public rhetoric. I might have requested to do something more “glamorous” as opposed to holding one end of a jump rope up or playing tag. However, I was an outsider to this community and this was not my social and political cause. That said, working with this group allowed me to reflect on my own understanding of what volunteer work means and how it should be driven by the needs of the community one is volunteering for.

If there is an overall “moral” to my volunteer work, it was that, no matter what your area of expertise is or what you think you should do to best support a community, volunteer work should be about what is most needed for that community at the time according to the community being volunteered for. Even the seemingly smallest tasks, such as babysitting, can have a huge, positive impact on a community. For instance, without babysitters, many community members would not have been able to meet with the group at all. Even the smallest task requested can prove to have an important outcome for a community.

When I volunteer during this year’s Global Days of Service,  I will keep in mind that acknowledging and respecting the voices, positions, and intersecting identities of others also means ensuring that the volunteer work I do is on the terms of the community I volunteer for. After all, social change is grounded in the need for people and communities to work together.


Veronica Oliver
 is a Writing Instructor in the Walden Writing Center. In her spare time she writes fiction, binge watches Netflix, and occasionally makes it to a 6am Bikram Yoga class.


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GDS 2017: Part of Something Larger

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Social change is at the center of Walden University’s mission and vision statements for each college. Walden students are often asked to reflect on how their academic work and future professional work can enact positive social change. This week, we want to celebrate the importance of social change here at Walden University.

Global Days of Service 2017 logo


The timing is perfect as well. Global Days of Service is kicking off this week. The Writing Center is always excited to get to take part in GDS and help support the vision for greater social change.

Explore Walden University’s commitment to social change:

Next week we’ll continue our celebration of GDS on this blog with posts that examine the idea of positive social change through action and language. As you learn more about social change at Walden, and how the Writing Center supports that commitment, we hope you'll join us.  

Walden University Writing Center

Walden University and the Writing Center provide a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can affect positive social change.


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Paraphrasing to Avoid Plagiarism

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When I was in high school, I accidentally plagiarized an essay about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and I didn’t get caught. I didn’t even know I had plagiarized. It was years later that I realized the errors of my ways. Since I believe in learning from my mistakes and helping others learn from them too, in today’s post, I’m going to share more about my error, explain what paraphrase isn’t, explain what paraphrase is, and offer an overview of a paraphrasing strategy you can use in your writing to avoid plagiarism.

Paraphrasing to Avoid Plagiarism

Accidental Plagiarism: A Cautionary Tale
The assignment was to write an analysis of the book Pride and Prejudice. I was in an Advanced Placement English class, and this was our summer homework before the course started so I hadn’t yet learned how to write an analysis of a book. As I read, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but when it came to writing the paper I found myself wondering, “What does the teacher mean by analysis? What ideas do I have to share about this book? What does this book mean, other than being a sweet love story?”

Since I didn’t know what to write, I went to the Themes, Motifs & Symbols page of Spark Notes for Pride and Prejudice. Here, I learned that major themes in the book included things like love, reputation, and class.  I knew enough to know it would be wrong to copy/paste what I read here, so that’s not what I did. Instead, I used what I had read there and wrote a paper about the significant themes of love, reputation, and class. I knew the Sparknotes webpage was not an appropriate source for this paper, so I never once cited Sparknotes. I paraphrased the ideas from this source, but I never included a citation. Even though I didn’t copy and paste from the source, this was still considered plagiarism. 

Years later, when I was in college, I was taught in a Composition course what plagiarism is and how to paraphrase effectively. In that moment, I realized what I’d done with that analysis paper in high school: I’d plagiarized.

What Paraphrase Isn’t
From this example, I learned a few things about what paraphrase is not, and I’d like to share those here. 

Paraphrase is not: Reading a source and getting some ideas from it, and then writing those ideas in your own words without a citation.

Paraphrase is also not: Reading a source and copy/pasting it into a paper, but then substituting synonyms for most words so that it’s “in your own words.” 

Nor is it: Copy/pasting a source into your paper without quotation marks and a citation.

What Paraphrase Is
As discussed on our Using Evidence: Paraphrase webpage and our Paraphrasing Source Information webinar, paraphrasing is using your own words and sentence structure to present the key points of an author’s ideas in a new way that is relevant for what you’re writing. Often, paraphrases are shorter than the original information. In addition, paraphrases must always include a citation and a reference entry, to clearly convey where the information was retrieved.

What an Effective Paraphrase Strategy Looks Like
As we discuss at residencies and in other venues like our website and webinars, there are strategies that you can employ to ensure that you’re paraphrasing effectively. Here is an overview of the paraphrasing process:

1.) Read the passage you want to paraphrase until you understand it fully. This might require multiple read-throughs. 

2.) Cover or hide the passage and then write out the author’s idea in your own words, selecting and emphasizing what’s important to you and the argument you’re making.

3.) Compare what you wrote to the original source, and do some analysis to ensure that you’re paraphrasing effectively and adequately reflecting the original author’s intent by asking yourself these questions:
  • Have I accurately reflected the author’s ideas in this paraphrase?
  • Have I emphasized only the part from this original source that’s relevant for my argument and for context for this information?
  • Have I used my own sentence structure and words to reflect this idea?

4.) Revise your paraphrase depending on your answers to the questions above. If you’ve misinterpreted the author’s ideas, revise. If you’ve included irrelevant information, revise. If you’ve included information that’s too closely reflecting the original source, either revise or use quotation marks to enclose the borrowed phrases.

5.) Finish the paraphrase with a citation that should include the author’s name and the year. If you included any quoted materials, also include a page number. If you’re unfamiliar with how to cite, you can learn more on our Citations: Overview webpage.

The next time you’re writing a paper and integrating source information, keep these tips about what’s paraphrase and what’s not in mind. In addition, give this paraphrasing strategy a try and then let us know in the comments how it worked for you! Happy writing.

Author photo for Jes Philbrook, Walden University Writing Center


Jes Philbrook is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Doctoral Writing Assessment in the Walden University Writing Center. Jes has been a writing tutor for over a decade, and because of adolescent struggles with using source information, she has a passion for helping students learn how to paraphrase and integrate source information to avoid plagiarism. In her free time, you can find Jes walking her dog Zoie, harvesting her community garden plot, cooking (but not from a recipe), and reading young adult fantasy series.


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