Paraphrasing Plagiarism - Is using ChatGPT to paraphrase considered plagiarism?

Learn about paraphrasing plagiarism, how using ChatGPT without credit can be considered academic dishonesty. Understand the risk and prevention methods.

By Stephan Spencer - Published on - 2024-07-04 , Last-Mod: 2024-07-19

Reviwed by Stephan Spencer

Table of Contents

ChatGPT is a very popular AI tool that can write text on almost any topic. With the rise of ChatGPT and similar AI tools, more people are using them, which increases the chances of plagiarism happening. These AI models are made to create new text based on the information they are given. But, it is possible for the text they generate to accidentally copy from existing sources, which would be considered plagiarism.

From personal experience, the amount of plagiarized content in ChatGPT's output is usually not more than 20%. Any type of plagiarism is unacceptable in academic and professional settings. Even though the AI did not intentionally copy, using plagiarized content without proper attribution is still considered misconduct.

What is paraphrasing plagiarism?

Paraphrasing plagiarism is when you take someone else's ideas or words and express them in your own words without giving proper credit to the original source.

Original text: "The blue whale is the largest animal known to have ever existed on Earth. These massive marine mammals can grow up to 30 meters in length and weigh over 180 metric tons."

Paraphrase text: "The blue whale is the biggest animal that has ever lived on our planet. These gigantic creatures living in the ocean can become as long as 30 meters and as heavy as 180 tons."

Even though you changed some words, you still used the original ideas and facts from the source material without giving credit to where you got that information from.

A properly paraphrased and cited version could be:

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is considered the largest known animal to have ever existed on Earth (Marine Mammal Center, 2022). These massive marine mammals can reach extraordinary sizes, with body lengths up to 30 meters and weights over 180 metric tons.

Source: Marine Mammal Center (2022). Blue Whale.

The paraphrasing plagiarism is further divided into 2 types:

1. Proper plagiarism

Proper paraphrased text should be significantly different in wording and structure from the original while accurately conveying the original meaning. To paraphrase correctly, writers should fully understand the original text, take notes, summarize the ideas in their own words, and compare the result to the original text. Proper attribution to the original source is necessary.

2. Improper plagiarism

Improper paraphrasing happens when you change just a few words or rearrange the original text without making significant changes to the wording and structure, and without giving credit to the source. This can be seen as plagiarism. It often involves using very similar sentences with only slight changes, or summarizing large parts of the original text without proper citation.

A real life example of paraphrasing plagiarism

Case of Fareed Zakaria

In 2012, Fareed Zakaria was suspended from his positions at Time magazine and CNN after it was discovered that a column he wrote for Time contained passages that were very similar to those in a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore. Zakaria's column on gun control had paraphrased Lepore's work without proper attribution.

Original Text by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker:

"The killing of twenty children at Sandy Hook Elementary School has left their parents, their families, and their neighbors paralyzed with grief. But that paralysis has also become the story of the United States in the twenty-first century."

Zakaria's Paraphrased Text in Time:

"The massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School has paralyzed the small town of Newtown, Conn. But this shock of horror has been repeated many times over in recent years."

Is using ChatGPT to paraphrase considered plagiarism?

Using ChatGPT to paraphrase existing content can potentially lead to plagiarism if not done carefully and correctly. ChatGPT can help with rewriting, but it's important to change the text enough to make it your own and to give credit to the original source if needed.

When you use ChatGPT to paraphrase content from a book, article, website, or any other source, there is a risk that the AI model may generate text that is too similar or even verbatim to the original work. This could happen because ChatGPT's training data includes a vast amount of existing content from the internet and other sources.

Risks of Using ChatGPT for Paraphrasing 

Here are some potential risks of using ChatGPT for paraphrasing:

1. Unintentional Plagiarism

One of the biggest risks of using ChatGPT is it can accidentally create text that is too similar to an existing source, which is considered plagiarism. This happens because ChatGPT's training data includes a lot of text from the internet and books. ChatGPT might unintentionally reproduce passages from its training data in its output. This could lead to plagiarized content in your paraphrased text without you realizing it.

2. Lack of Precise Source Attribution

ChatGPT can't give proper credit to sources it uses. So, when you use its text, you might accidentally copy from other sources without giving them credit. This can lead to plagiarism because there are no clear citations to show where the information came from.

3. Inconsistent Quality and Accuracy

ChatGPT is highly capable, but its output can sometimes include factual errors, inconsistencies, or nonsensical statements. When you're using a paraphrasing tool, you want the new version to accurately convey the original source material. But if ChatGPT messed up, your version might not be accurate.

4. Over-Reliance on AI Writing

Relying too much on ChatGPT for paraphrasing can be a problem. It might feel like an easy way to rewrite text, but if you use it wrong, you could end up copying instead of writing in your own words. It's important to check and edit the output yourself to avoid this.

7 best practices for using ChatGPT to avoid plagiarism

Here are the best 7 practices for using ChatGPT to avoid plagiarism:

1. Provide clear instructions

Give ChatGPT clear, specific prompts about what you need. Unclear instructions can lead to output that unintentionally copies from its training data. So, be specific about what you need to get the right results.

2. Use as a tool, not a substitute

ChatGPT can be helpful for getting ideas, explanations and drafts. But don't treat its output as a final product. Use it as a help to support and enhance your own writing skills, research and critical thinking abilities.

3. Use plagiarism detection tools

Using checker plagiarism tool help you make sure your work is original and not copied from somewhere else.This tool compares your text against a vast database of existing content to check for similarities.

4. Review and edit

Never just blindly copy and paste ChatGPT's output directly. Always review what it generates to check for any potential errors, or plagiarism issues. Use your own knowledge to edit and refine the text to ensure it is accurate, coherent and original.

5. Cross-check with multiple sources

Don't rely solely on ChatGPT's output. Cross-check the information against multiple reliable sources to ensure accuracy and originality.

6. Attribute sources properly

If you are using ChatGPT to paraphrase content from existing sources, make sure to keep track of those original sources. Then properly cite and attribute them whenever you incorporate that information into your own work.

7. Seek feedback

Get feedback from others, like teachers, editors, or peers, on your use of ChatGPT's output to ensure you're avoiding plagiarism and using it responsibly.


Paraphrasing with ChatGPT requires attention to detail and proper attribution to avoid unintentionally copying from existing sources. By following best practices such as providing clear instructions, reviewing and editing output, and using plagiarism detection tools, users can effectively use ChatGPT while maintaining academic integrity and ethical standards. Remember, ChatGPT should be used as a tool to support and enhance your own writing skills, not as a substitute for them

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