I'm working on a term paper that will directly lead into my Master's thesis, so I'm concerned about whether I'm committing plagiarism here. There are two issues: (1) Reproducing a list of technical terms, and (2) reproducing an equation with explanations of the different terms.

(1) I want to include a list of technical terms that were already enumerated in a research article. Here is how that article is written:

However, at the very beginning of the manure life cycle, the fresh animal waste can be characterized with its primary components, the feces and urine. Fecal material contains a wide spectrum of organic compounds such as undigested litter, living microorganisms, carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, celluloses, hemicelluloses and lignin (Clark et al. 2005; ASAE American Society of Agricultural Engineers 2003).

Source: Li, C., Salas, W., Zhang, R., Krauter, C., Rotz, A., & Mitloehner, F. (2012). Manure-DNDC: A biogeochemical process model for quantifying greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from livestock manure systems. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 93(2), 163–200. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-012-9507-z

To what extent do I need to paraphrase this list in order to include it in my thesis? Would changing the order of the list items be enough to constitute a paraphrase?

(2) I want to include an equation from another source, which also explained each of the terms in that equation. Here is how that article is written:

dC/dt = CNR * μ * (S * kl + (1-S) * kr) * [C] [Eq. 3]

Where [C] is organic C content (kg C/ha), t is time (day), S is labile fraction of organic C compounds in the pool, (1-S) is resistant fraction of organic C compounds, kl is specific decomposition rate (SDR) of labile fraction (1/day), kr is SDR of the resistant fraction (1/day), μ is temperature and moisture factor, CNR is C/N ratio reduction factor, SDR is 0.074, 0.074, 0.02, 0.33, 0.04, 0.16 and 0.006 (1/day) for very labile litter, labile litter, resistant litter, labile microbes, resistant microbes, labile humads, and resistant humads, respectively.

Source: Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. (2017). DNDC Scientific Basis and Processes (Version 9.5). University of New Hampshire.

How should I go about paraphrasing the equation and "Where..." statements?

The reason I am confused about this is because MIT's anti-plagiarism resource does not seem to cover these topics: MIT Academic Integrity Handbook: Paraphrasing

  • The first box can be easily rewritten. For the equation I think doing what you have done here is perfect. Alternatively see Anonymous Physicist's answer.
    – Alchimista
    Nov 21, 2020 at 8:29
  • 4
    Paraphrasing doesn't help you avoid plagiarism. Only citation does.
    – Buffy
    Nov 21, 2020 at 10:55
  • My understanding is that insufficient paraphrasing or quotation (i.e. copying someone's exact wording without enclosing it in quotation marks) would constitute plagiarism with or without citation
    – frandude
    Nov 22, 2020 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


If you enclose the text in quotation marks and cite the original source, it is not plagiarism. If it is a list, a quotation makes more sense than paraphrasing.

  • Before concluding that the second sentence here is correct, OP would do well to check his/her institution's thesis handbook/style guide/mark scheme. It may be, e.g., that the thesis is supposed to be understandable by a bachelor's graduate in any STEMM subject, in which case OP would do well to explain what words like "litter", "hemicelluloses", and "labile" mean, rather than just quoting them. Nov 21, 2020 at 13:48

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