What is it?
Inadequate paraphrasing is when the words and phrases you are using are too similar to those of the original source. Good paraphrasing should demonstrate your understanding of the ideas from the original source, not simply re-state those ideas using a different arrangement of words.
Original referenced text
The shifting fortunes of war had a terrible impact, and not just on those who were killed or maimed in the fighting. When the republican General Custine's forces took the city of Mainz in the Rhineland in October 1792, local patriots created a Society of Friends of Liberty and Equality with five hundred members, adapted their own version of the 'Marseillaise', the 'Bürgerlied der Mainzer', and planted a liberty tree (McPhee, 2016, p. 182).
Text used with permission. McPhee, P. (2016). Liberty or death: The French revolution. London: Yale University Press.
✓ Good scholarship
A group of patriots from the captured city of Mainz formed their own society honouring the ideals of the Revolution, expressing these ideals by planting a liberty tree and creating a local variation of the 'Marseillaise' (McPhee, 2016).
✘ Plagiarism and poor scholarship
When the republican forces took Mainz in 1792, a group of patriots formed a society with five hundred people. They wrote their own version of the 'Marseillaise', and planted a liberty tree.
In this example, sections have been altered and words substituted in an effort to make the section sound different, but these minor changes simply amount to a slight alteration of the original source. This is an example of poor scholarship and plagiarism.
Paraphrasing should summarise or explain the ideas presented in the original source. Do not simply re-arrange and replace words to make a variation of the original idea. Try explaining the idea using entirely your own words, or explain the idea in plain language. Avoid using the structure of the original sentence(s) as this can result in inadequate paraphrasing. Where possible use multiple sources that discuss this idea or concept and synthesise a range of views and perspectives and cite those sources for their ideas.