What is patchwriting?


Howard (1993) defines “patchwriting” as “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym-substitutes” (p. 233). An excellent example of patchwriting comes from McClanahan, (2005):


Patchwritten items highlighted in yellow are copied exactly the same as the original, whereas items highlighted in aqua-green involve some adjustments by the student writer. Also of interest is that many of these patchwritten parts are located in a different part of the student’s text than in the original. It also appears that the student is making an effort to write in their own words, and is weaving in the patchwritten parts; that is, the student clearly is not just copying the original. Nevertheless, a patchwritten text like this might be a very good draft, but it would not be acceptable as a final paper. The student would need to work with the patchwritten parts, paraphrasing or quoting each of them (and, of course, citing where appropriate for the assignment in question).

Some writers use “informed patchwriting” as a means of efficiently writing a first draft, then return later to paraphrase, summarize and quote while revising. More information on informed patchwriting can be found in the section on Recommendations for Students.


Next: Complexities Connected to Plagiarism