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Pitfall #1: Passing off distinctive language as your own

To illustrate pitfalls 1-3, we will use the same source paragraph from Whitford's article on Martin Luther:

Original Source:
In July of 1505, Martin was caught in a horrific thunderstorm.  Afraid that he was going to die, he screamed out a vow, “Save me, St. Anna, and I shall become a monk.” St. Anna was the mother of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of miners. Most argue that this commitment to become a monk could not have come out of thin air and instead represents an intensification experience in which an already formulated thought is expanded and deepened. On July 17th Luther entered the Augustinian Monastery at Erfurt.

Source: David M. Whitford, "Martin Luther," Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy,

Pitfall #1 - Passing off distincive language as your own
Most historians believe that Luther’s commitment to enter the monastery could not have come from nowhere but rather represents an intensifying experience in which a thought already formulated is broadened and made deeper.1

1 David M. Whitford, "Martin Luther," Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

This passage gives Whitford credit for his ideas, but not for his language; it cites him, but uses no quotation marks. You might think that none are needed, because Whitford’s language has been paraphrased. But this passage is still deeply influenced by Whitford’s language. It appropriates his distinctive phrases “intensification experience” and “expanded and deepened.” It modifies both phrases slightly, but the paraphrases (“intensifying experience” and “broadened and made deeper”) still retain the flavor of the originals. Although they are very short, these distinctive phrases do need to be acknowledged as Whitford’s. They are obviously copied from him; the student would not have thought of them independently. (A generic phrase like “entered the monastery” can be used without acknowledgement, for it is the most common way to describe the action in question; but the phrase “intensification experience”, though only two words long, has a different quality. Its original author gave it a unique meaning in this context. Changing “intensification” to “intensifying” does not alter that uniqueness.)

Distinctive phrases like this are often very helpful for conveying an author’s argument, so it’s often good to quote them. It’s usually not a good idea to try to paraphrase them. Paraphrasing them and omitting quotation marks is deceptive.

If you are not a native speaker, it may be very difficult to distinguish common everyday phrases from “distinctive language.” You may have to ask a native speaker for help. If you are still not sure, it is always best to err on the side of caution and quote the phrase in question verbatim.

Pitfall #1 averted - Accurate verbatim quotation
According to David Whitford, most scholars think that Luther had already considered monastic life before this, but that the storm provided "an intensification experience" which "expanded and deepened" his earlier commitment.1

1David M. Whitford, “Martin Luther,” Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy,