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Study Skills: Paraphrasing

Want to improve your grades? Use these study skills guides to level up!

How to Construct a Paraphrase

Image result for ladder transparentSTEP ONE: Read and reread the source material until you understand it completely.

STEP TWO: Put the source material aside and on a piece of paper or a note card, write your paraphrase in your own words and sentence structure.

STEP THREE: Compare your version to the original source, making sure your paraphrase is original, accurate, complete, and objective.

STEP FOUR: If you find you needed to use a unique term or phrase from the source, make sure you use quotes to identify that you borrowed it for the source. 

STEP FIVE: Record the source information (even the page number) with the paraphrase, so you have it ready when you are writing your paper and wish to integrate this source’s ideas.

Four Features of An Effective Paraphrase:

An effective paraphrase is…

1.Original—paraphrases should use your own fresh vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence structure, not the sentence structure, phrasing and words of your source. 
2.Accurate—paraphrases must precisely reflect  the ideas, tone,  and emphasis of your source.
3.Objective—paraphrases should not incorporate your opinion.
4.Complete—paraphrases need to include all the important ideas in your source.

Beware of these paraphrasing hazards…

  1. Changing only some of the words—if you change only a few words or include various phrases from the original source in your paraphrase, you are committing plagiarism!
  2. Changing words but keeping the same sentence structure and order of presentation—paraphrasing must be more than substituting synonyms for every word in the original. Rewrite the source.  If you do not change the sentence structure and order of presentation, you are committing plagiarism!
  3. Adding ideas or explanation—the paraphrase should reflect  the source accurately. Explanation of the paraphrase should come in your own subsequent discussion, not in the paraphrase itself.
  4. Adding interpretation or assessment—the paraphrase should not include your evaluation or judgment of the ideas. Evaluate afterwards. The paraphrase must be objective and not include any emotive or sarcastic words in the paraphrase.
  5. Creating a straw man fallacy—writers who exaggerate or misrepresent the source in a way that makes it an easier target for rebuttal commit the straw man fallacy. Take care that your paraphrase is fair, especially if you are hostile towards the source.  

Using Your Sources: to Quote, Summarize, or Paraphrase?

Essentially three ways in which a source can be incorporated into your writing exists:

1.SUMMARY (to state a text’s main ideas and key supporting points simply, briefly, and accurately in your own words),
2.PARAPHRASE (to retell information from a text in roughly the same number of words but should be accurate and in your own words), or
3.DIRECT QUOTE (to use the exact words from a text with quotation marks around the words). 
Important considerations:
  • Related imageAll writers need to carefully consider which method (summary, paraphrase, or direct quote) to use when synthesizing the sources’ ideas with his or her own. Certain methods work better with particular content, types of source material, and writing purposes. 
  • All summaries, paraphrases, and quotations must have source citations both in-text in parentheses and on a works cited page.  Often writers will not correctly cite their source if they summarize or paraphrase because they mistakenly think that since they are using their own words it d0esn’t need to be cited. Anytime a writer uses another author’s words or ideas, they must cite that author.  A summary or paraphrase without a source citation is plagiarism!

​What is the difference between Summary & Paraphrase:

  • The main idea of an entire source is briefly and clearly communicated in a summary; however, a paraphrase gives a detailed restatement of a source’s idea in its completeness. 
  • Since a paraphrase includes all of the writer’s main ideas, it is often as long as, and sometimes longer than, the original source. Whereas, summaries are always shorter. 
  • Paraphrases are most useful when you want to present or examine an author’s ideas but you do not think the original words merit direct quotation.  Paraphrasing is good because it can help you to control the temptation to quote too much from a source.

​Example of a Successful Paraphrase:

Original Material:

The emergency room medical intervention provided to the subject was deemed suboptimal to best practices by legal counsel, so the facility and the on-shift physician received a legal suit declaring a therapeutic misadventure.  From Jane Doe, p. 321


Jane Doe reports that after the accident, attorneys for the patient decided that the treatment given in the emergency room was substandard in comparison with that of other hospitals, so they filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctor on duty and the hospital (321).

Effectively Integrating your Paraphrase

Image result for Signal transparentYou always want to introduce your paraphrase with a SIGNAL PHRASE by mentioning the author’s name AND include a page reference (in parentheses) at the end of the borrowed passage.  This type of bookending of a paraphrase signals to your reader that these are not your own words or ideas and tells them where source material ends and your ideas begin.
Using signal phrases is the best way to ensure that you integrate borrowed source material smoothly.  A signal phrase couples the name of the writer from whom you are borrowing words or ideas with a verb that conveys your sense of the writer’s intent. In choosing a verb, consider the attitude or position of the writer you are citing. In most cases, you should also contextualize borrowed information.  The first time you cite a source, establish the writer’s authority, and explain the significance of the paraphrase.  You want to vary the verbs that you use to introduce a source’s words or ideas (instead of repeating says).
Try some of these signal verbs:
Acknowledges  Discloses Speculates Suggests
Concludes Reports Summarizes  States
Admits Believes Claims  Comments
Concurs Explains Implies   Notes
Affirms  Indicates Insists  Observes 
Finds Illustrates Predicts Proposes