Ways to Use an Online Paraphrasing Tool
In previous posts, we have talked exclusively about what paraphrasing is and reasons for its usage. Today, we will be looking at tools/software used for paraphrasing and the best ways to use online paraphrasing tools.
What is a paraphrasing tool?
This tool is designed to rewrite and restructure an existing article. This is done by replacing words, phrases, sentences and even paragraphs on some occasions in order to provide a varying form of the same sentence.
Why paraphrasing tools are so popular
In the writing world, the ability to paraphrase is seen as a very important writing skill. However, it is often mixed up with plagiarism. In the academic environment, Paraphrasing is frowned upon, nevertheless, it doesn’t make it illegal. In recent time, many academic institutions have begun to subtly encourage paraphrasing as it aids in making research work easier to read. The simplest form of paraphrasing is by perusing the original work and then rewriting the main ideas in your own words. However, there are now tools that help to provide assistance in carrying out this task. Hence, it will be difficult to generically say all paraphrasing tools should not be used when in fact they all perform different functions.
Not every paraphrasing tool is built equal
As it has been earlier pointed out that different paraphrasing tools differ a lot in the functions they carry out. Some paraphrasing tools only give you more word options, suggest easy words for the original words used while some other paraphrasing tools aside from suggesting word options, also restructure and rephrase sentences in order to give your work a different outlook. Amongst all these types of paraphrasing tools, those ones that provide varying options for a particular sentence in order for you to decide on which one to use are the best.
Should paraphrasing tools be used at all?
There is nothing stopping you from using a paraphrasing tool especially if you have mastered the art of paraphrasing. However, the context on which a particular work is being paraphrased matters. If one is making use of a paraphrasing tool to get credit for the work of another author, it is wrong and unethical and it is different from when making use of this tool to assist in understanding a text that has been transcribed; the usage in this way is not illegal in the smallest sense. We are not going to push you away from utilizing a paraphrasing tool when you think it is beneficial to you. Notwithstanding, the vital piece of the past sentence is the word ‘help’. A paraphrasing tool can do a lot of things for you ranging from helping, inspiring and providing new ideas, nonetheless, it can’t accomplish the work for you, you have to do it yourself.
What is the grey area when using a paraphrasing tool?
Many people especially in the academic community agree that paraphrasing is expressing the meaning of something or an idea using different words to achieve greater clarity. However, when one makes use of different paraphrasing tools, one thing a lot of people have established is that those tools do not follow the established definition. In fact, rather than giving greater clarity, on one hand, most of the tools tend to make the work more complicated and on the other hand, they plagiarize. An ethical academic paraphrasing involves understanding the source material and interpreting it in your own words and not just swapping words or making use of synonyms; by so doing, just changing the language. In other words, ethical academic paraphrasing involves a different language and a different structure.
The difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism
A lot of people know that when using an author’s specific words, you should put them within quotation marks, if not it is called plagiarism. Aside from that, you also need to give due credit to the source to avoid being flagged for plagiarism. Many people also often tend to make the mistake that plagiarism goes beyond not referencing the exact words used. You can plagiarize ideas, theories, methods and structure, hence, the need to credit the source. This doesn’t mean you can incorporate the ideas of others into your work; however, you must reference where you got the idea.
Paraphrasing on the other hand is done to restructure a work either to make it shorter or easier to understand and to simplify ideas used by the author for your readers. In any case, you must reference the source to avoid being labelled a copycat.
When is it okay to borrow phrases?
There are cases when you write and make use of the exact words, yet it is not considered plagiarism. This is when you are phrasing common knowledge (Information that is well known and is in the public domain) such as historical dates, political dates, birthdays.
Best ways to use a paraphrasing tool
1. To simplify or shorten text
Some texts are not easy to comprehend, hence the need to simplify it for the readers and this is most especially the case in areas like law and science, where it is being said is not easy to comprehend by individuals who are not in those fields. A lot of paraphrasing tools have been designed to do this and inadvertently, make texts shorter.
2. To enrich the language
It is indeed correct to say that many of us have experienced writers’ block, hence, to pass across our message, we make use of a dictionary. Paraphrasing tools can also be used to achieve this purpose. When you are writing and you consider the words being used not attention grabbing enough or not satisfying, you can make use of this tool. Run it through paraphrasing software to get more ideas, however, make sure you do the final selection of words to avoid clumsy work.
3. To paraphrase a quote
In the academic environment, instead of quoting an author word for word, paraphrasing is always encouraged, this is to encourage easier reading and to avoid bulkiness. In fact, some quotes are really clumsy that one would need a paraphrasing tool to understand the information being passed before one eventually interpret it in one’s words.
4. For adjusting the text difficulty
Paraphrasing tools can be particularly useful for helping you to adjust the difficulty of a text. For example, if you were to run a piece of text through a paraphrasing tool, it would mainly just swap synonyms to show you alternatives. However, some paraphrasing tools allow you to toggle the difficulty setting. This allows you to choose the type of words that are selected as replacements. You could adjust the settings so that words that the tool identified as ‘difficult’ would be replaced by words that are classified as ‘easy.’
5. To help clean up translations
It is very rare that one does not engage in rewriting with a translated text. In fact, translated text often has many of the characteristics of poor paraphrasing tools. It features unusual word orders, and a strange choice of synonyms. Running sentences through a paraphrasing tool can actually help bring the structure and wording closer to native language as the tool will identify when a word order doesn’t make sense in English and suggest a new one. It’s unlikely that it’ll clean up the text completely, but it might still give you a helping hand.
From the above, it is obvious that there is nothing wrong in using paraphrasing tools as long as you don’t intend to do it to assume ownership of another person’s work/ideas. And knowing the type of software to use is as important as the process of restructuring and rewriting.