Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is the act of expressing a text using different words yet retaining the original meaning of the source text.


When paraphrasing, a writer

  • uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s ideas.
  • accurately represents the message of the original text.
  • does not introduce new ideas not in the original text.

Paraphrasing does not mean simply changing a few of the original words, rearranging the structure of the sentence, or replacing some words with synonyms. A paraphrase should explain a borrowed idea in the writer’s own voice but must also remain true to the message of the original text.

Why Paraphrase?

  • To avoid plagiarism: If you are presenting an idea other than your own and you haven’t cited the source, this act could be considered plagiarism. Remember, however, that even when you paraphrase using your own words, you must still cite the original source since the idea has been borrowed.
  • To simplify or clarify complex ideas found in the original passage: Sometimes an author has explained an idea or concept in a way that is difficult to follow, or an idea may be particularly perplexing. By using your own words, you not only illustrate to readers that you understand this concept, but also help readers understand the idea more clearly. This clarification is especially important if the idea you’re paraphrasing is vital to developing and supporting your own argument.
  • To report the essential information of the idea: A lengthy direct quote may provide details that are not clearly relevant to your purpose or argument. By using your own words to paraphrase the idea, you can eliminate information that might distract your reader from the main message.

Examples

The paraphrase below captures Gregory and Milner’s ideas about men’s and women’s likelihood to participate in part-time work situations, and the reason behind these choices, without copying the authors’ original language and voice

Original text: “Women with dependent children are most likely to take up measures such as part-time working and other reduced working-hour arrangements, and school term-time working (where it is available, mostly in the public sector) is almost exclusively female. A number of barriers appear to limit men’s take-up of such measures: the organization of the workplace (including perceptions of their entitlement, that is, perceptions that men’s claims to family responsibilities are valid), the business environment and the domestic organization of labour in employees’ homes (including the centrality of career for the father and mother and their degree of commitment to gendered parenting, both closely class-related)” (Gregory and Milner 4-5).Paraphrase: Gregory and Milner explain that men are less likely than women to pursue part-time and alternative work schedules that compliment home life responsibilities. The authors propose that this pattern is due to conceptions about gender at the workplace, where men are viewed as responsible for their families’ needs, and at home, where views of traditional parenting roles and socio-economic conditions affect expectations for division of household labor between parents (4-5).

Here’s a second example of paraphrasing:

Direct quote: “[The new laws] would also help ensure that companies like BP that are responsible for oil spills are the ones that pay for the harm caused by these oil spills, not the taxpayers. This is in addition to the low-interest loans that we’ve made available to small businesses that are suffering financial losses from the spill” (Obama)Paraphrase: According to the President, the proposed legislation would hold oil companies accountable for damages caused by oil spills and provide affordable loans to businesses whose profits have been affected by such incidents (Obama).

Related Resources

Writing with Sources

  • Learn how to introduce and correctly summarize, paraphrase, and cite sources.
  • Explore conventions for weaving others’ ideas and words into your prose without destroying your focus and voice.

Edit for Plagiarism

Consider using a plagiarism checklist as you draft and edit your work.

Plagiarism

Understand the ethical responsibilities of authors. Avoid plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Works Cited

Obama, Barack. “Remarks on the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” The White House. Washington, D.C. 14 May 2010. Address. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.