Teaching the Egg Before the Chicken – Paraphrasing Before Citation

By Sandra Maenz, Kaplan University Composition Instructor

Chicken and egg

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The problem with teaching APA is the old chicken and egg issue. It seems that too many educators think citations when they teach APA, and completely ignore the egg – or would it be the chicken? In order to use citations, a person must first write the material to be cited, and that is for many, the hard part. It is also the most difficult concept for the teacher to teach. It is far easier to teach the student where to find the citation formulas than to teach paraphrasing.

There are two basic parts to paraphrasing. The first is learning how to take someone else’s research and adroitly turn it into your words coming from your voice in your personal style. The second part is to learn to take that well worded rhetoric, weave it into writing, and create a smoothly readable piece. These are both difficult tasks, because they are, in essence, abstract, while teaching the nuts and bolts of APA citation is essentially concrete.

First the egg -Paraphrasing

When the teacher tells the student they must use words other than what the author has used, they frequently turn the task into a concrete exercise I call thesaurusizing.   As an example, consider the following sentence:  The vast majority of scholars enjoy being scholars.   This statement thesaursizes nicely into: Some titanic common intellectuals relish the actuality of being intellectuals. We all know students do this. There is no way on earth they could possibly come up with some of the writing they do if they didn’t. They are avoiding plagiarism, but they are not writing well, either.

The best thing to do is to teach the student how to create a decent paraphrase.

Method 1- (Somewhat pedantic, but it gets the message across)

Choose a paragraph:

The relationship of forests to healthy fish populations has drawn a good deal of scientific and regulatory attention over recent decades in British Columbia. Indeed, according to one recent report, almost five hundred rivers, streams, and lakes have “suffered major losses” in fish habitat as a consequence of industrial forestry. Habitat degradation more generally has played a part in the extinction of at least 140 salmon runs. Environmental organizations point the finger of blame at weak enforcement of the federal Fisheries Act and equally poor performance by provincial environmental regulators under a referral process that provides for joint assessment of practices that threaten salmon stocks. The province’s 1995 Forest Practices Code, drafted to protect riparian zones, had by many accounts failed as a regulatory instrument even before a 2002 Liberal government deregulation initiative, thanks to the reluctance of industry and the Ministry of Forests to accept restrictions on clear cutting practices.

Rajala, R. (2012). Streams being ruined from a salmon producing standpoint.  Clearcutting, Fish Habitat, and Forest Regulation in British Columbia, 1900-45. BC Studies, (176), 93-132

Now break it down sentence by sentence and write what you think that sentence means, but do it in your own words.

1.The relationship of forests to healthy fish populations has drawn a good deal of scientific and regulatory attention over recent decades in British Columbia.

1r. There is a lot of concern over the relationship of wood lands to aquatic life. Both the scientific community and the Canadian government have been doing research on the issue.

2. Indeed, according to one recent report, almost five hundred rivers, streams, and lakes have “suffered major losses” in fish habitat as a consequence of industrial forestry.

2r .One recent report states that several hundred waterways have been seriously impacted.

3. Habitat degradation more generally has played a part in the extinction of at least 140 salmon runs.

3r. Many salmon runs have been lost.

4. Environmental organizations point the finger of blame at weak enforcement of the federal Fisheries Act and equally poor performance by provincial environmental regulators under a referral process that provides for joint assessment of practices that threaten salmon stocks.

4r. Concerned environmentalists blame a Department of Fisheries Act.

5.The province’s 1995 Forest Practices Code, drafted to protect riparian zones, had by many accounts failed as a regulatory instrument even before a 2002 Liberal government deregulation initiative, thanks to the reluctance of industry and the Ministry of Forests to accept restrictions on clear cutting practices.

5r In the mid 1990’s a Forestry Department code was drawn up to protect natural habitats. It was not adhered to and in the early 2000’s a change in government allowed poor forestry to flourish.

The finished collection of revised sentences

You have now created an entire paragraph paraphrase that follows the thoughts of the original writer.

There is a lot of concern over the relationship of wood lands to aquatic life. Both the scientific community and the Canadian government have been doing research on the issue. Recently a report stated that several hundred waterways have been seriously impacted. Many salmon runs have been lost. Concerned environmentalists blame a Department of Fisheries Act. In the mid 1990’s a Forestry Department code was drawn up to protect natural habitats. It was not well adhered to, and in the early 2000’s a change in government allowed poor forestry practices to flourish.

Now the writer needs to incorporate it into his own writing.

Many of us picture Canada, and particularly the Province of British Columbia, as a land of salmon filled rushing rivers, and magnificent boreal forests untouched and unharmed by man. Although the forests are indeed vast, they are not unharmed and untouched. According to Rahala in an article in BC Studies, there is a lot of concern over the relationship of woodlands to aquatic life. Both the scientific community and the Canadian government have been doing research on the issue. A recent report noted that several hundred waterways have been seriously impacted by poor forestry management causing many salmon runs to be lost.  Concerned environmentalists blame a Department of Fisheries Act from the mid 1990’s. At that time a Forestry Department code was drawn up to protect natural habitats. It was not well adhered to, and in the early 2000’s a change in government allowed poor forestry practices to flourish ( 2012).

Obviously a sentence by sentence breakdown of a paragraph is time consuming and laborious.  However, once students understand that paraphrasing can be accomplished in that manner, the next step for them is the phrase breakdown. The key to this is to make sure they change the words when they paraphrase and don’t just copy phrases from the sentences.

Method 2- Phrase oriented paraphrasing notes using the same paragraph. It’s important that the student do each sentence as above, but using phrases, not sentences.

  • Deep concern- scientists and gov.
  • Report- several hundred salmon streams impacted
  • Hugh loss of salmon
  • Eco blames old gov. Forestry code 1990’s- and 2000’s change of government.
  • Rules not followed. Forestry run amuck.

Resulting paragraph:

There is a great deal of concern among both scientific and government factions that salmon production is being hugely and negatively impacted by the Department of Forestry. According to a recent survey, streams are not being protected as they should be. Environmentalists blame this on the Forestry code that was enacted in the 1990’s and a recent change in government. The rules set up by the code are not being adhered to, and the new government is doing essentially nothing to enforce them (Rahala, 2012).

Method 3 – Highlighting

 I would hazard a guess that most students believe if they highlight important phrases and words in a sourced paragraph, they will be able to write without taking notes. To create your own syntax while referring to another’s writing is extremely difficult. The results are generally a one sentence paraphrase of a multi sentenced paragraph, or a use of words and phrases that are copied verbatim.

 

 

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One response to “Teaching the Egg Before the Chicken – Paraphrasing Before Citation

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