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I am currently writing my master's thesis. I came across paraphrasing tools quite recently too. I saw that sometimes my texts are not very clear and repetitive (although I can explain an idea in an understandable way). For documentation purposes, would it be okay if I use a paraphrasing tool for my own texts? An example is shown below :

My text : This can reduce the burden on the hand worker to walk long paths before reaching the machine stations where they can view the actual data or updated info

Paraphrased : This can alleviate the need for hand workers to go large distances before reaching machine stations where they can view real-time data or information.

It sounds very good from the tool T.T

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    What's your goal? Do you want to stay clear of self-plagiarism, or are you looking for better phrasings?
    – henning
    Jun 23, 2021 at 10:06
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    @henning, paraphrasing is no guard against plagiarism, self or other.
    – Buffy
    Jun 23, 2021 at 14:58
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    @Buffy I know, but I don't know if OP knows. :)
    – henning
    Jun 23, 2021 at 15:02
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    @henning, they do now, at least. Carry on. ;)
    – Buffy
    Jun 23, 2021 at 15:06
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    Have you looked at grammarly? It doesn't just blindly rephrase your writing but checks for grammatical mistakes and ambiguities, while explaining what it does. This might actually improve your writing.
    – henning
    Jun 23, 2021 at 18:03

4 Answers 4

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If you mean would it be okay ethically. the answer is yes, unless your institution has a specific policy forbidding it (which seems unlikely as I doubt very much this is something anyone has thought of forbidding, but it’s theoretically possible).

On the other hand, if you mean to ask whether it’s a good idea in the sense that it will actually produce better writing than what you put in to it that preserves the meaning of what you want to say, the answer is almost certainly not.

A good way of getting some benefit out of the paraphrasing tool perhaps is to run it on your paragraphs and use the output just to get some ideas about alternative ways that might exist for saying what you want to say. But to produce a coherent, readable text you need to be 100% in charge of the writing and hand-pick every word and every sentence in your text. Letting the tool be in the driver’s seat and just blindly using its output without understanding the nuances of language involving differences between words and other language structures that you used and those that the tool substituted for them (like “reduce” versus “alleviate”) is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster.

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In looking at the example you gave, this could be disastrous for statements that have to be very precisely worded.

Examples:

  1. Replacing "reduce" with "alleviate" is bad if you want to clearly suggest (although perhaps not explicitly state, because maybe you don't know) that what follows might not be eliminated.

  2. Clearly, a task that is a "burden" for one to perform is not necessarily a task that one "needs" to perform.

  3. If the first version is intended to suggest this for a specific (previously mentioned) hand worker, then the second version is obviously not the same.

  4. For the second version, we don't know whether some of the hand workers can go to the same machine station or the machine stations must be different for different hand workers.

  5. The first version could be interpreted to mean that the burden is having to walk more than one long path (because "paths" is plural), which could suggest that the multiplicity of paths is the relevant issue, and not the fact that the path/paths is/are long.

  6. In the first version, "paths" might mean something specific (e.g. sidewalks), whereas the second version allows for non-path travel.

  7. Clearly, each of "actual data" and "updated info" is NOT necessarily the same as, respectively, "real-time data" and "information".

Of course, for the actual context of what the original sentence might be intended to convey, none of these distinctions may be important. However, I'm treating the sentences you gave as an artificial example, not what you actually want to rewrite.

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    I assume no one would use such a tool without reflection on the results. Mindless application would seem to be foolish enough not to be considered.
    – Buffy
    Jun 23, 2021 at 12:35
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This should be acceptable since your field isn't something like creative writing. Of course, your advisor needs to agree. But this is just another tool. Spell checkers are ubiquitous and, while this is a bit more sophisticated it doesn't introduce any ethical issues.

Be certain, of course, that paraphrasing doesn't change the meaning of what you want to say. But it can be helpful if the writing seems less pedantic.

OTOH, it is worth the effort to learn to improve your writing, say, by taking a writing course at some point. If you think the tool is providing an improvement, think about why that is for each use.

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  • Thank you. If I had enough rep I would have voted as useful :)
    – panda14
    Jun 23, 2021 at 10:00
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The writing in your question suggests that you are not a native English speaker. (That's an observation, not a criticism.) I think by "my texts" you mean your own words in your thesis, not words from textbooks or articles you have read and want to paraphrase.

As @DaveLRenfro notes, paraphrasing can change meaning a lot. You cannot use a paraphrasing tool to improve your writing style in an automated way.

I can imagine that such a tool might be useful. Try it on a sentence of yours. Then try reading the result as if you did not know what it meant and had to figure that out as a reader. You might think "this isn't what I want to say" - which would suggest that your original text was unclear, since it confused the paraphraser.

You might try something similar with a translator: write what you want to say in your native language and see what an automatic translation tool suggests.

As @Buffy says - work on your writing using anything that helps.

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