Too Close to the Original

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Quotes)

The comment “Too Close to the Original” refers to your paraphrase as border-line plagiarism.  Below is an example of a quote. The example paraphrase that follows represents border-line plagiarism. See the comment “Introduce the Quote” for an extended explanation of how to incorporate a quote.

Original Quote

The following represents a blockquote according to MLA standards.

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of  seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.  It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.  On ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (Du Bois)


In “The Souls of Black Folk,” Du Bois states that the nineteenth-century Negro always looks at himself through the eyes of others (). Although the paraphrase merely incorporates just one line from Du Bois’s quote, changes “one’s self” to “himself,” and adds the citation information at the end, the paraphrase is still too close to the original. Let’s examine a possible revision.


In “The Souls of Black Folk,” Du Bois states that the nineteenth-century Negro people don’t define themselves according to their own dictates, according to their own personal views about themselves in relation to society. Instead, they measure themselves according to what others say about them, “by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” ().

The revision is much different from the first paraphrase. The writer is forced to read between the lines, to examine beyond the surface and look beneath the meanings of the words on the page. In adopting such a method, the writer determines what is most important for the reader to know and then puts this vital information into his or her own words. During the process, the writer adds another line to reiterate his or her point and incorporates a quote directly from Du Bois’s words, with a citation.

Revision Consideration

The best solution to revising a paraphrase is to bring in the actual quote, which is the simplest way of directly fixing the problem. Another solution is to think about what the author wants you to take from reading the work, construct what you think he or she is attempting to convey, and use your construction as a paraphrase. If you adopt the second option, check your paraphrase against the original to determine if there is a match in meaning, but not word-for-word. Add the citation reference information at the end.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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