It is important to not only cite the source, but also to restate the author’s description in your own words.
Too closely imitating the author’s language structure in your summary or paraphrase is a form of plagiarism, even if you provide a citation, because it gives the false impression that the words are your own when they are not. This includes rearranging the author’s sentences but using mostly the same wording, or simply inserting synonyms into the author’s sentence arrangement. To avoid doing this, make sure you are processing the author’s ideas and then presenting them in a way that is uniquely yours. Too closely mirroring the author’s syntax and word choice not only shows disregard for properly crediting the author, but does not give your own voice a chance to shine. The Bedford Handbook (Hacker 503) suggests reading the part of the work you want to summarize or paraphrase, and then looking away as you write it in your own words to help prevent copying it too closely.
For more tips on summarizing and paraphrasing, see:
Some text is hightlighted to illustrate the plagiarism example below.
Blodgett, Jan, and Ralph B. Levering. One Town, Many Voices : A History of Davidson, North Carolina. Davidson, NC: Davidson Historical Society, 2012. Print.
Yet the condition of the town streets remained primitive well into the 1890s, largely due to the high cost of acquiring a rock crusher and macadamizing roads. Life in the village was still rustic. With red clay streets, alternately dirty or muddy, rock crossings, plank sidewalks, a line of wooden storefronts, horses and wagons tied up along Main Street and livestock pens next to homes, Davidson looked more like Dodge City with farmers and students instead of cowboys than a pristine college town of dignified homes and orderly appearance.
The yellow highlighting indicates how the wording and order have been directly copied from the original text above. Even though a citation has been provided in both cases, the example on the right side below is considered plagiarism.
The streets in the town of Davidson looked quite different in the 1890s than they do today. With the absence of any proper pavement, the clay roads often became mud-filled and plank sidewalks and rock crossings provided a minimal shield for pedestrians. In addition, it was common practice to keep horses and other animals in close vicinity to residential dwellings. This contributed to the grubby appearance of Davidson, a far cry from the order and cleanliness normally associated with small college towns. The expense of paving materials was the main deterrent for not improving the roads (Blodgett and Levering 62-63).
The condition of the town streets was undeveloped far into the 1890s, mainly because of the high cost of rock crushers and macadamizing roads. Life was rustic in Davidson with red clay streets, wooden storefronts, and livestock pens close to houses. Davidson looked more like a frontier town with cowboys than a college town with stately homes and a clean and organized presence (Blodgett ad Levering 62-63).