APA Rules on Paraphrasing

Print this articleThe APA is the American Psychological Association and they have developed a set of procedural and formatting rules that apply when submitting academic papers for publication in the APA journal. The aim is to maximize the efficiency and clarity of the communications and writings and minimize distractions and potential for misunderstanding. The rules are laid out in the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" and include guidelines for all aspects of writing and authorship.

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There can be a very fine line between plagiarism and paraphrasing when writing an academic piece. When using a piece of information from another publication, the author must be very careful to ensure the paraphrasing is sufficiently different form the original source so that no accusations of plagiarism can be leveled. The passage that is paraphrased must be altered in both content and form. Merely rearranging the words is not sufficient.


All paraphrasing must be acknowledged with a reference to the author of the original work. Even if the work has been altered to satisfy the non-plagiarizing requirements an acknowledgement must still be made. If a student is having trouble paraphrasing the work or is unsure, it can be better and safer to simply acknowledge the whole body as a direct quote, using speech marks, even if the work has been somewhat altered.


All paraphrased sections must be acknowledged, and the APA uses the author/date system of citations and references. There are many different formats and systems for citations and references; these are all found in the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association." However, all will use the author/date system in its various guises whereby the author or authors of the work are credited along with the date of publication.


With a direct quote, the page number(s) must be recorded along with the author(s) and date of publication, and a full reference must be made in the references section. However, if the author feels the passage qualifies as a paraphrase, then only the author and the date of publication need be acknowledged, although the full citation will need to be made in the references as well.

ReferencesOwl Purdue Online Writing Lab: In Text Citations – the BasicsAPA Style: A Complete Resource for Writing and Publishing in the Social and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of New Mexico: Julia’s Quick and Dirty Guide to APARead Next:

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