As part of a thesis, I paraphrased a text from a peer-reviewed research paper and cited it at the end. But one of my friends thinks it's plagiarism. I wonder if anyone can make a comparison between the source and paraphrased sentences and let me know if that can be considered plagiarism.

Main source

Resorption begins with the migration of partially differentiated mononuclear preosteoclasts to the bone surface where they form multinucleated osteoclasts. After the completion of osteoclastic resorption, there is a reversal phase when mononuclear cells appear on the bone surface. These cells prepare the surface for new osteoblasts to begin bone formation and provide signals for osteoblast differentiation and migration. The formation phase follows with osteoblasts laying down bone until the resorbed bone is completely replaced by new. When this phase is complete, the surface is covered with flattened lining cells and a prolonged resting period begins until a new remodeling cycle is initiated. The stages of the remodeling cycle have different lengths. Resorption probably continues for about 2 weeks, the reversal phase may last up to 4 or 5 weeks, while formation can continue for 4 months until the new bone structural unit is completely created.

Paraphrased text

The migration of partly differentiated mononuclear preosteoclasts to the bone surface, where they become multinucleated osteoclasts (OCs), starts the resorption process. There is a reversal process after osteoclastic resorption is complete, where mononuclear cells emerge on the bone surface. These cells provide cues for osteoblast (OBs) differentiation and migration, as well as preparing the surface for new osteoblasts to begin bone forming. Osteoblasts lay down bone until the resorbed bone is fully replaced by new bone in the development process. After this process, the surface is coated with flattened lining cells (LCs), and a long resting period occurs before a new remodeling cycle starts. The lengths of the steps in the remodeling period vary. The resorption process lasts around 2 weeks, the reversal period up to 4 or 5 weeks, and the forming phase up to 4 months before the new bone structure is fully formed \parencite{hadjidakis2006bone}.

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    You should consider reading and understanding the original text, then keeping only the parts that are directly relevant for your research. It is unlikely that both the details of the bone regeneration process at the cellular level, and the precise timings of the resorption phases are relevant for your research. This may not be plagiarism, but it is most likely an indication of lack of understanding and / or lazyness. On top of that, you have made the original text worse by paraphrasing it (harder to read and understand).
    – Louic
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 15:57
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    Why would you do this? Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 20:40
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    I do not think it is plagiarism. If it is, then we should normalize quoting complete paragraphs taken from other research papers. If the original text is simpler to read then why to make it complicated by paraphrasing it.
    – IY2
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 7:40
  • Plagiarism requires intent to deceive or at least reckless disregard for the impression you're giving the reader as to whether or not work is yours. At worst, this is just poor citation hygeine. Although in this instance, a block quote is probably worthwhile Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 11:47

3 Answers 3


The single citation mark at the end of the paragraph does not fully convey just how close your paraphrased text is to the original paragraph. It would make a lot of sense to assume that the reference is just the source for the numerical values in the last sentence. As such, the charge of plagiarism isn't absurd here, as one could consider you to be misleading the reader into thinking that much more of the paragraph should be credited to you than it really should.

If you take an entire paragraph almost literally from a source, you should ideally make it much clearer. I'd usually recommend having a (half)-sentence at the beginning of the paragraph explaining its relationship to the source material.


This is where different styles of writing and standard bump into each other in unpleasant ways.

In scientific writing, we generally do not directly quote unless the exact words of the original author have some importance. The strong preference is to paraphrase and cite.

That said, some assert fairly arbitrary rules, such as "four words that are the same require direct quotation". I think that's silly, as sometimes there really is no other cogent way to say something, but if a prof, institution, or journal wants to write down such a silly rule in official guidelines, I'll certainly enforce it that way if it comes before me in an honesty hearing.

Arno offers a perfectly valid point. I think in this case, because the synopsis offered by your source is so succinct, and it looks like you're bending over backwards to avoid directly quoting, a block quote might certainly be in order. To make it look less silly, I might start it with something like: "Source X offers a succinct synopsis of this process:" and then go on to block quote.

If you choose NOT to block quote, you can address Arno's point by starting out the same way, and then adding "In brief, ....", and that way everyone knows the whole summary comes from your source (though, in this particular case, that looks a bit silly to me, as well). Just make sure that you're not working under a silly set of "not four or more consecutive words"

Copyright and plagiarism are two distinct issues having little to do with each other. You can violate copyright without plagiarizing, and vice versa. I don't see any real copyright issues in any approach in this particular thread.

  • I suppose there could be a copyright issue if the copyright owner of the paraphrased source argued that the paraphrased paragraph is a derivative work of the original. But for such a small piece of content, being distributed on such a small scale, I wouldn't expect that to happen.
    – David Z
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 23:04
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    @DavidZ Even a verbatim quote would probably be judged to be fair use, since it's just one paragraph of a large work, there's little commercial value in the original work, and it's for nonprofit educational purposes.
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 15:50
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    @Barmar: Elsevier is a for-profit company. You may not be making a profit, but they are.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 20:45
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    @Barmar: Both the author and the publisher are infringing, if infringement exists (I agree that this is probably fair use). See 17 USC 106.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:02
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    @Barmar: That confuses factor (1) with factor (4). They are two separate factors which are evaluated independently.
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:07

No, citation is proof against charges of plagiarism. Plagiarism is misattributing the ideas of others to yourself. It has nothing to do with whether you quote or paraphrase. It is about the underlying ideas.

So, if you say, more or less, that idea x comes from author(s) y, then you haven't plagiarized.

You still need to consider copyright, however, and some forms of paraphrasing can violate copyright. Usually this happens when too much of an original work is included. Perhaps your friend is confusing copyright and plagiarism, which is too often done.

WRT the final paragraph above. Note that lots of "fan fiction", especially videos and games get DMCA takedown notices for copyright violations.

Also note that this is an answer to the general question. Biology/medicine isn't my field, so I don't attempt to analyze the specifics of your paraphrase.

  • I assure you, the downvote didn't come from me, and I don't really understand it. Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 15:24
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    I also didn't downvote, but I think this answer is incomplete because it misses the point made by Arno: a citation mark at the end of a long paragraph is not typically understood to mean that the whole paragraph is attributed to that source. Another issue is that when submitting coursework, there is an implicit (if not explicit) claim that the work is substantially your own; so suppose you submit work which is entirely paraphrased from somebody else's work, then however you attempt to properly cite it, you are still also claiming it as substantially your own work by submitting it.
    – kaya3
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 10:32
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    Both of those issues run up against the question of mens rea, i.e. does it have to be intentional to be called plagiarism? Suppose you believe you have properly cited something, but you did not realise that other people would either (1) not understand that your citation mark was meant to apply to a whole paragraph rather than a smaller part of it, or (2) presume that submitted coursework is claimed to be substantially the submitter's own work. Does that count as plagiarism, or does your belief that you had cited it properly make it not plagiarism? I think reasonable people could differ.
    – kaya3
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 10:37
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    @kaya3 That is probably a valid excuse for young children. By the time you're writing anything that could be described as a thesis, people are generally unamused by claims of ignorance. Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 15:01
  • @kaya3, what a thing "is" and what it "is called" don't always align: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haddocks'_Eyes
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 15:03

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