It is not easy to come up with a generalized rule for when something is still a paraphrase but no longer a quotation. 1 The following are Umberto Eco’s examples of (a) a meaningful paraphrase, (b) a false, plagiarizing paraphrase, and (c) a failed but non-plagiarizing paraphrase.
The appearance of the Antichrist was looked forward to with even greater tension. Generation after generation lived in constant fear of this all-destructive demon, under whose rule lawless chaos, robbery and pillage, torture and mass murder would reign, while he would reign was at the same time the Herald of the long-awaited fulfillment, the return of Christ and the kingdom of the saints. People were constantly on the lookout for the “signs” which, according to the prophetic tradition, should herald and accompany the final “time of tribulation”; and since these “signs” included bad rulers, civil war, drought, famine, epidemics, comets, the sudden death of prominent men, and, more generally, an excess of sin, it was never difficult to find them.
(a) A useful paraphrase:
Cohn is very detailed in this regard. It depicts the tension characteristic of that time, when the anticipation of the Antichrist, fueled by pain and disorder, simultaneously represents the expectation of the kingdom of the demon and the prelude to the return of the Lord, the parousia, the return of the triumphant Christ. And in a time marked by sad events, looting, robbery, privation and epidemics, people were not lacking in “signs” that corresponded to what the various prophetic texts had described as typical of the arrival of the Antichrist.
(b) A false, plagiarizing paraphrase:
After Cohn [.. there follows a series of views which the author has advanced in other chapters]. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the arrival of the Antichrist gave rise to even greater tensions. Generations lived in constant expectation of the destructive demon, whose rule would in truth be lawless chaos, a period of robbery and pillage, of torture and mass murder, but at the same time the prelude to the Second Coming or the Kingdom of the Saints. People were always on the lookout for signs that, according to the prophets, were to accompany and herald the last “time of disorder”: and because these signs included bad governments, civil war, war, drought, privation, epidemics and comets, and also sudden death of important men (in addition to a generally greater sinfulness),
(c) A failed but not plagiarizing paraphrase:
On the other hand, the already mentioned Cohn himself reminds us that one was looking forward to “with even greater tension … the appearance of the Antichrist”. Generations lived in anticipation of the destructive demon “under whose rule legal chaos, robbery and pillage, torture and mass murder would reign, while at the same time he was the herald of the long-awaited fulfillment, the return of Christ and the kingdom of the saints.” People were always on the lookout carefully for the signs that, according to the prophets, would herald and accompany the final “time of tribulation”. But since, says Cohn, “these signs included bad rulers, civil war, drought, famine, epidemics, comets, the sudden death of prominent men, and, more generally, an rampant sin, it was never difficult to find them.”
Exercise: Why is the second paraphrase plagiarism?
Print out this page.
Reread the second text, the plagiarizing paraphrase.
Show the places in the text with colors that violate the rules below on paraprasing.
• Rule 1: The paraphrase may only contain assertions that are also contained in the paraphrased text. (It must not be misleading.)
• Rule 2: A paraphrase is not in quotation marks.
• Rule 3: In the case of a paraphrase, the wording of the person being paraphrased must be changed.
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