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Distinguishing Paraphrasing from Patchwriting

By Ted Roggenbuck, Emma Slotterback, and Morgan Mickavicz

Lesson Plan

Grade Levels

10–12 or first-year college writing


Students will learn how to distinguish paraphrasing from “patchwriting”—that is, copying language from their sources and making small changes.

Total Estimated Class Time

45–70 minutes

Additional Outcome

Students will recognize that to effectively paraphrase from their source material they must comprehend what they have read. 

Course Work or Assignment Underway

Students are conducting research and making notes of what they might use as sources in their own writing.

Work Completed before Class

Previous classes will have introduced students to types of writing that require them to quote or paraphrase from sources and what incorporating sources adds to their texts. Students may have read the appropriate excerpt (by Simon Sinek for high school classes or by Doris Lessing for college classes) before class.

Students should have access to on a portable device, such as a laptop, tablet, or cell phone, or to a response clicker. If not, the presenter should hand out four note cards labeled 1–4 to all students.

Sequence of Classroom Activities

  1. Begin the PowerPoint presentation Reading and Writing with Sources. Use the high school or college presentation as appropriate. Explain the learning objective for today’s lesson (paraphrasing correctly), as well as the two topics (quoting and paraphrasing) that will be covered.
  2. Give students a few minutes to read over the paragraph (Sinek, slide 3 in the high school presentation, or Lessing, slide 4 in the college presentation) on the screen. While students are reading, pass out lined paper.
  3. Next, ask students to paraphrase what they read. Give students about five minutes to complete this task. As students are paraphrasing, observe which students are looking back at the screen frequently as they paraphrase.
  4. When students have finished, ask for a few volunteers to share what they wrote. After a few students share, explain how you noticed many of them looking back at the source as they paraphrased. Then explain how this habit suggests that they are likely to be accidentally patchwriting or plagiarizing. You can inform students that they will learn more about how to avoid this problem in today’s presentation.
  5. For the high school presentation, pass out copies of the Simon Sinek paragraph from slide 3 so that students can refer to it throughout the presentation.
  6. If using Kahoot, before continuing with the presentation, have students log onto their devices and go to Give them the game PIN. Explain that they will be answering questions throughout the presentation. While students participate in the presentation, their responses will be anonymous, so the presenter should assign each student a random number or other nonidentifying username as their nickname. If not using Kahoot or clickers, pass out note cards labeled 1–4.
  7. Then begin the presentation. The presentation focuses on quoting and paraphrasing. Since most students have had more experience with quoting than paraphrasing, take a few minutes to define (or ask students to define) how one paraphrases. Follow the PowerPoint speaker notes for guidance.
  8. Before asking students to respond to example citations, explain to them the four possible responses, as noted in the PowerPoint (slide 6 in the high school presentation, slide 5 in the college presentation). These points will need to be explained several times throughout the presentation:
    • The sample is accurate and ethical.
    • There is not enough credit for language.
    • There is not enough credit for ideas.
    • The source is misrepresented.
  1. Read aloud each example that cites the original text. Discuss why the sample quotations and paraphrases are incorrect. It might be helpful to ask students who answered correctly to explain why they answered that way to get a conversation started about how to correct the sample quotation. 
  2. After completing the section on quotations, present the punctuation slides (slides 11–12 from the high school presentation, slides 10–13 from the college presentation), which review when and how to use quotation marks, in-text citations, and brackets. It might be helpful to offer students an example of how brackets are used as provided in the speaker notes. These slides also present the opportunity to discuss the two distinct tools for in-text citation: quotation marks for showing use of language and parenthetical information for showing the use of ideas. 
  3. Next have students respond to sample paraphrases as they did with the quotations. The presentation refers to “patchwriting.” The presenter should spend a few moments defining patchwriting as a way of misusing sources in which someone copies the original language but changes every few words or uses synonyms. Patchwriting is not paraphrasing. A paraphrase uses one’s own words to capture an idea. This moment in the presentation is critical because most patchwriting occurs unintentionally and often results when a student does not understand how to paraphrase and does not fully comprehend a text.
  4. Slides 23–24 in both presentations are meant to provide an example of patchwriting. It should be noted to students that it is OK if they do not fully understand the sample text. When students paraphrase challenging texts, patchwriting is more likely to occur. Slide 24 demonstrates how many words from the original text are similar to the sample. The slide provides a visual representation of patchwriting.
  5. The last few slides reiterate the difference between patchwriting and paraphrasing. Slide 25 in the high school presentation and slide 29 in the college presentation describe patchwriting as editing rather than representing ideas in one’s own words.
  6. To conclude the presentation, discuss the slides (28 in the high school presentation and 30 in the college presentation) that provide tips for improving paraphrase and summary skills. It might be helpful for the presenter to add ideas and strategies that directly coincide with projects and types of writing students will be completing. When reviewing the consequences of plagiarism, the presenter might add the consequences for academic honesty at the presenter’s institution, since the examples on the slide are generalized. Note to students that the consequences are highlighted not to scare them but to make them aware that paraphrasing is an important aspect of writing that needs attention and practice.

Alternative Approaches

A lesson on how to properly include quotations and citations in specific writing formats may be done before or after this lesson.

When students have completed this workshop, they can complete the group activity outlined below to practice the skills introduced to them.

Before or after this lesson, students may complete hands-on activities in which they must evaluate the quotations and paraphrases in anonymous student writing samples and explain how to correct them.

Lesson Materials

SmartBoard or projector

Lined paper

Reading and Writing with Sources (college or high school), portable devices for students, and student response clickers, or—if not using Kahoot—note cards labeled 1–4 for students to respond to the presentation’s questions

Group activity 

Published 21 April 2020

3 comments on “Distinguishing Paraphrasing from Patchwriting”

  1. Thank you for this engaging lesson idea. Can you share the PIN for I don’t see it in the post. Thank you!

  2. Solid ideas!! Like working in a Kahoot for this lesson as I teach them how to research an author’s life as it relates to his/her poetry.

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