The wide availability of AI summarization and paraphrasing tools allows writers to automate previously tedious processes with the click of a button. Many have free options with more available features for those who pay for subscriptions. Now, writers can rewrite or summarize their text with minimal effort and allow readers to break long texts into easily read summaries.
Popular paraphrasing tools boast slightly different capabilities. Quillbot comes with two different modes. One mode extracts key sentences and puts them into bullet points, the other mode rewrites sentences as complete paragraphs. Users also have the option to choose how long the summary is when length or brevity are issues, an attractive feature for writers working with strict word counts.
Wordtune Read advertises its software as a key tool for avoiding overload by simplifying text into its core components, saving readers time. Wordtune’s site offers services including summarization of online articles, PDFs, and even online videos. Wordtune Read advertises that their AI software can create summaries from multiple points of view depending on which you subscribe to.
Mass access to different, tailored versions of the same text has fascinating implications for how people digest political and social commentary in a polarized society. It also lets writers recreate their content with multiple different versions highlighting various social perspectives, allowing them to pitch their work to a broad range of platforms. With summarization and paraphrasing tools widely available, many readers can access dense texts or create a more tailored reading experience, allowing for much broader accessibility of written works to the average reader.
Paraphrser.io can paraphrase in over twenty different languages including Spanish and German. It touts its ability to improve readability and fluency, key advantages for second-language speakers wanting to ensure their work is professional and grammatically correct. It may also encourage broader access to complex or obscure works in languages readers have only basic proficiency in, or for younger readers who do not have the necessary proficiency in their native language to understand more advanced works.
But as impressive as the claims for AI summarizing features sound, how well do they actually perform? Summarizing tools still struggle to comprehend the meaning of a text. Sometimes the length of the summary needs to be tweaked to eliminate nonsensical summaries. “It is a well-known fact that existing abstractive text summarization models tend to generate false information”. While simply rephrasing text is less challenging for summarization tools, more expansive rewrites risk errors. Summarizing tools still struggle to comprehend the full meaning of text even if they are useful for supplying quick synonyms or alterations. While paraphrasing tools can greatly speed the rewriting process human inspection of summarized or paraphrased works is still essential to maintain accuracy.
Implications for Academia
Wide access to easy summarization has interesting implications for academia. Paraphraser.io states that their software prevents plagiarism when used appropriately: “our tool provides plagiarism-free content while keeping the original meaning of the context. Our paraphrasing tool helps users to rephrase text and avoid plagiarism”.
However, others differ in their views on paraphrasing software. Writing about plagiarism detection for summarized work, Enago Academy takes the stance that “there is no comparable mechanism that can detect the usage of a paraphrasing tool if the reader suspects the writing is not original and the source material is not cited.” This makes it difficult to determine whether a student wrote a unique essay or put an existing one through paraphrasing software, creating works that are immune to normal plagiarism checkers.
It is also debatable whether students who choose to paraphrase their own writing are plagiarizing by letting a paraphrasing tool rewrite their papers. Enago argues that “the use of a paraphrasing tool means that the writing is not truly original or attributable to the author. This becomes a gray area and a new frontier of plagiarism for which the handbooks must be revised.” Considering how difficult it is to spot the effects of summarization software, schools may have difficulty relying on papers as proof of academic proficiency or may need to create new methods for detecting paraphrased work. Are summarization and paraphrasing tools necessary assets that students entering the modern workplace need to master, or do they allow students to make passing papers without demonstrating proper writing ability?
While they are not without bugs, summarization tools give writers and readers the ability to cater to shrinking attention spans, form unique word choices, and adapt content to widely differing audiences. Summarization tools may also require academia to adapt as well and create new criteria by which academic rewriting is assessed and judged.