Paraphrase – Definition & Examples – How to Paraphrase with Clarity & Concision


What Is a Paraphrase?

Paraphrasing is the practice of expressing someone else’s spoken or written ideas in your own words, ensuring the original intent and meaning remain intact — and ensuring the original source is attributed and cited. Beyond merely echoing another person’s ideas or words (i.e., quoting), paraphrasing functions as a tool that allows you to incorporate evidence into your work, enhancing your authority and credibility.

Paraphrasing does not mean simply changing a few of the original words, rearranging the sentence structure, or replacing some words with synonyms. In fact, in academic and professional writing using more than two or three consecutive words directly from another source without quoting may be considered plagiarism. Thus, when paraphrasing you need to be careful that you thoroughly rewrite the original source material in your own words.

Related Concepts: Authority & Credibility in Writing & Speech); Evidence; Scholarship as a Conversation

Why Does Paraphrasing Matter?

Paraphrasing matters because it allows you to integrate outside knowledge while ensuring your work remains original and genuine. Proper paraphrasing avoids plagiarism—a grave breach of academic and professional ethics—and upholds the principles of academic integrity by signaling respect for original sources through appropriate transformation and citation.

Effective paraphrasing ensures that while ideas and voices from the past and present are heard, they’re woven seamlessly into the writer’s narrative.

Example of a Paraphrased Passage

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: Research conducted by Gregory and Milner (2023) reveals that women, particularly those with dependent children, are more inclined to adopt part-time roles and work schedules that align with school terms, most commonly found in the public sector. In contrast, men demonstrate a reduced inclination towards such arrangements. This disparity is attributed to workplace perceptions where men’s roles as primary providers influence their work choices. Moreover, at home, ingrained perspectives on gender-specific parenting and socio-economic factors further mold expectations concerning the division of household tasks between mothers and fathers (4-5).

Effective Strategies for Accurate Paraphrasing: A Comprehensive Guide

  1. Deep Comprehension:
    • Start by reading the source material thoroughly, ensuring you grasp its core message and nuances.
  2. Initial Paraphrasing:
    • Without referring back to the original content, restate its main idea(s) using your unique expression and vocabulary.
  3. Comparison Check:
    • Position your paraphrased content side-by-side with the original. Analyze both for fidelity to the source’s intent and ensure no verbatim copying has occurred.
  4. Accuracy Assessment:
    • Reflect on whether your version effectively conveys the essence of the original. Avoid distorting the primary message or introducing personal biases.
  5. Originality Scan:
    • Confirm that you’ve genuinely transformed the content. The words and sentence structures should be distinctly yours, with no replication from the source.
  6. Integrity Verification:
    • Ensure you haven’t incorporated extraneous details or opinions alien to the original text.
  7. Seek Feedback:
    • It can be beneficial to ask a peer or mentor to review your paraphrased content. Fresh eyes can discern unintentional similarities or deviations from the source’s main idea.
  8. Reiterate as Needed:
    • Paraphrasing, like all writing tasks, may require multiple iterations. Don’t hesitate to refine and rewrite until you’re confident in the integrity and clarity of your rendition.

Remember, the aim of paraphrasing isn’t merely to modify the surface structure of a text. It’s about understanding, internalizing, and then authentically reproducing content in a new form while preserving the essence of the original message. Avoiding unethical practices like plagiarism not only upholds your credibility but also demonstrates respect towards original authors and their intellectual contributions.


When Do Writers Paraphrase?

  1. 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. When you paraphrase using your own words, you must still cite the original source since the idea has been borrowed.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

What Are the Five Cardinal Rules of Plagiarism?

  1. Always Attribute: Whenever you borrow someone’s words, ideas, or research, always give them credit by citing them properly according to the appropriate citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  2. Original Work is Gold: Ensure that the bulk of your work is original. While citations are important, they should not overwhelm your own contribution to the topic. Too many citations intrude on your voice and the clarity of your purpose.
  3. Quotation Marks Matter: If you’re using someone else’s words verbatim, make sure to put them in quotation marks, even if it’s just a short phrase, and then cite the source.
  4. Paraphrasing Isn’t a Free Pass: Simply changing a few words here and there from a source doesn’t mean it’s original. If you’re paraphrasing, make sure you truly understand the material and are putting it in your own words, and then cite the source.
  5. When in Doubt, Cite: If you’re unsure whether something requires a citation, it’s better to be safe and cite it. It’s always preferable to over-cite than to risk plagiarizing.

Works Cited

B. Obama. (2010, May 14). Remarks on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico [Address]. The White House, Washington, D.C.