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In open-source software development communities, if someone has already implemented a module well enough, we re-use it over and over again, in different projects. If there is any room for improvement, people update the original module and all the project that use the module, get the updates.

On the other hand, in research communities, we rarely quote the exact definition of a theory or method that was written by the original author. Instead, we paraphrase them over and over again, which sometime involves noise in the paraphrasing process. The worse issue happens when the authors decide to change the terminology to define the same theory or method, which makes it very confusing for the reader.

I understand paraphrasing is preferred over quoting in most cases because it shows that you understand the outside material you are using and it gives you more agency over your paper by allowing you to explain the expert opinions, research studies, or other evidence to your reader as it relates to your topic and thesis. Paraphrasing also helps you process the material and understand it on a deeper level. It signals to your reader that you have processed the information and understood the material. Paraphrasing also reads more smoothly and keeps your own voice front and center.

But why do these benefits justify the drawbacks of paraphrasing? For example, if we paraphrase to signal to our readers that we have processed the information and understood the material, why can't we just show this in the way we use the theories or methods in our analysis?

The main reason I'm asking this question is that I believe after the wide usage of large language models like ChatGPT, all of these benefits of paraphrasing do not make any more sense and I see greater value in quoting.

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    "The worse issue happens when the authors decide to change the terminology to define the same theory or method, which makes it very confusing for the reader." The alternative to this is that everyone would be forced to use the same terminology and notation that was used by whoever first introduced a certain concept. In other words, we would all need to use the terminology and notation of Euler, Gauss, Dedekind, etc. The mathematical terminology that you've inherited is precisely the result of a long process of evolution, not a long process of blindly copying the first inventor's notation. Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 17:22

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The OP is making an analogy between software reuse and direct quotations in a written work.

The thing is, the way software is reused (in modern development) is really more like paraphrasing than direct quoting. The actual code implementation should be encapsulated and hidden from the application programmer, with a clean interface that the application programmer references without duplicating the code wholesale. A function call in this sense is like a citation. It's not like you copy the reused code in its entirety.

Providing paraphrasing, citations, and references is efficient for a writer, reader, publisher, and programmer. There is less content bloat to deliver. If an interested party wants the exact expression/implementation from the original source, they can go look it up. If for some reason there's an edit, revision, or correction in the source, there's no promise or need to propagate it to all the places it was quoted.

For more reflection on this point, see Hunt and Thomas, The Pragmatic Programmer, Tip #15: Don't Repeat Yourself.

Secondarily, the OP's attempt to connect this issue to LLMs like ChatGPT is hard to interpret. The OP posits a rather strange reason for writers to paraphrase anything:

... if we paraphrase to signal to our readers that we have processed the information and understood the material...

Perhaps in a school environment some instructor once said this as justification for an assignment? But it's not generally true (and it's also not true that the presence of ChatGPT means that no human has to understand anything anymore), so what follows after this conditional is inoperative.

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Writing style is a cultural thing. There are not reasons for it. In my experience, science and engineering fields do not use quotes, but I think some humanities fields do.

I am sure someone will think up some reason why some fields use quotes and others do not, but it's actually arbitrary.

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