17 Paraphrasing

Learning to paraphrase is one of the most important skills you will learn in college. You need to provide accurate paraphrasing in your college classes and also in your workplace.

 

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Define a paraphrase
  • Explain why you need to use them
  • Apply a 5-step method for creating an accurate paraphrase (Page, n.d., section 31)

 

What is a Paraphrase?

When you information, you have reworded something written or spoken by someone else.

Many college teachers expect you to paraphrase information from a source when you write reports and essays. Paraphrasing ensures writing-style continuity in your assignment and demonstrates your understanding of the information that you are borrowing from the secondary source.

 

Three Paraphrasing Pitfalls

Paraphrasing is tricky business. Make sure your paraphrase has accurate meaning, appropriate style, and correct attribution.

 

1. Meaning

A paraphrase must accurately express the original author’s ideas in a new way. If your paraphrase changes the meaning, intention, or focus of the original, you have not created a paraphrase.

It is critical that your paraphrase does not misrepresent what the original author wanted to express.

In order to write an accurate paraphrase, you must have a strong understanding of the original text. If you don’t fully understand the original, you will be unable to paraphrase it.

 

2. Style

Your paraphrase must express the original author’s ideas in a significantly different way. To do this, you need to change the words (use or phrases that carry similar meaning to the original). Some words, like names and key technical terms cannot be changed. However, changing a few words is , not paraphrasing. For more information on patchwriting, see the next chapter. Patchwriting is not acceptable in college assignments.

In addition to using synonyms, you need to change the structure, you also need to change the grammatical structure and organization of information. 

Imagine you are reading an email and a friend asks what you are reading. Would you read the text to your friend word for word or with only minor changes? Of course not! You would look up from your email and tell your friend, in your own words, what the email was about. That restatement in your own words is a paraphrase.

 

3. Attribution

When you paraphrase information, you must give credit to the original author.

Even though the information is in your own words, you must tell your reader where the information came from. You want to do this because you want to give credit to the author who first published the ideas or research that you are using, and also because you want your reader to be impressed with the quality and quantity of research that you’ve done. Your readers will trust you more if they know that the information contained in your report or assignment has come from a reputable source. They can only know that if you give credit every time you take information from a source.

Failure to acknowledge your sources is an act of academic dishonesty known as .

At Confederation College, we use the APA citation method for giving credit. This means that you must include an APA in-text citation with every sentence that contains information from a source – even if that information is paraphrased. At the end of your assignment, you must also include a references page that lists the full retrieval information for every source cited within your paper.

For more information on APA citations, see the APA chapter in this book and review your APA manual.

Learning Check

 

5-Step Process for Writing Paraphrases [1]

Watch this video to learn the 5-step method for writing a paraphrase.

 

Step 1: Read the original text in its context.

Grabbing pieces of information and using them out of context can lead to misunderstanding the information. Read your source in its context and ask questions like:

  • What is the focus?
  • How does this information relate to my research topic?
  • What is the main thing that the authors found?

Once you have answered these questions, you will be prepared to identify the specific pieces of information that are relevant to your paper, and that you may want to paraphrase.

The original text in its context: 
This study quantitatively and qualitatively evaluates the extent to which incorporating an artistic class assignment into a traditional lecture course stimulates student enjoyment and enhances the students’ perceived retention of course material. The results indicate that the project provides great benefit to college students by incorporating a variety of teaching methods and learning strategies. Artistic and creative assignments, such as the one described in this article, allow for student engagement, repetition of material, and processing and application of ideas (Wellman, 2012).

After reading the source in its context, you decide to paraphrase the yellow part. Underline key words and check words and concepts in a monolingual dictionary: 

  • engagement = being involved with someone or something in order to understand it more fully
  • processing = dealing with something through a series of steps

 

Step 2: Break up what want to paraphrase into chunks of meaning and number these chunks.

(1) The results indicate that (2) the project provides great benefit to college students (3) by incorporating a variety of teaching methods and (4) learning strategies. (5) Artistic and creative assignments, (6) such as the one described in this article, (7) allow for student engagement, (8) repetition of material, and (9) processing and (10) application of ideas.

 

Step 3: Without looking at the original text, write a first draft of the paraphrase.

First draft: By allowing students to complete creative activities as a part of a post-secondary course, students were more deeply involved with the course material, thinking about it and remembering it more effectively.

 

Step 4: Check the paraphrase with the checklist below.  Did I…

  • Change the sentence structure?
  • Change the order of the words?
  • Use synonyms for words that are not key words?
  • Use different types of connecting words?
  • Change the order of the ideas (where possible)?

Revise the paraphrase

Original Paraphrase – first draft Paraphrase – final version
(1) The results indicate that (2) the project provides great benefit to college students (3) by incorporating a variety of teaching methods and (4) learning strategies. (5) Artistic and creative assignments, (6) such as the one described in this article, (7) allow for student engagement, (8) repetition of material, and (9) processing and (10) application of ideas. By allowing students to complete creative activities as a part of a post-secondary course, students were more deeply involved with the course material, thinking about it and remembering it more effectively. When students are encouraged to complete creative activities as a part of a post-secondary course, they are more deeply involved with course material, thinking about it and remembering it more effectively.

 

Step 5: Integrate your final paraphrase into your writing and include a . See the APA Formatting, Citations, and References chapter of this e-text for more information on citing your source using the APA method.

Practice Paraphrasing [2]

Carefully read the original source below. Follow the five step process to create a paraphrase. You can check your answer against student examples by taking this Utah State Paraphrasing Quiz.

Original Source:
“The amount of time females allocated to maintenance behaviors, including self-preening, preening nestlings, allopreening, and maintaining their nest, decreased by 30% in response to hikers” (Swarthout & Steidl 2003, p. 312).

Reference for original source:
Swarthout E. C. H., & Steidl R. J. (2003). Experimental effects of hiking on breeding Mexican Spotted Owls. Conserv Biol 17(1), 307-315.


  1. Page, C. (2020, September 1). Writing skills: How to paraphrase. In Academic Integrity. Kwantlen Polytechnic University. https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/academicintegrity/chapter/how-to-paraphrase/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
  2. USU Libraries & USU Center for Innovative Design & Instruction. (n.d.). Paraphrasing practice quiz. Utah State University. https://usu.instructure.com/courses/31801/quizzes/13501?module_item_id=63579CC BY-NC 4.0.

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