Paraphrasing is the act of expressing someone else’s ideas and words in your unique writing style and voice. Rather than just repeating what someone else said (i.e., quoting) or summarizing what someone said, paraphrasing is the act of using your own words to restate and cite someone else’s ideas and 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. 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).

How can the source’s ideas be preserved when paraphrasing?

  • Read the text closely and carefully to ensure clear understanding.
  • Without looking back at the original text, paraphrase the idea(s) of the passage in your own words.
  • Compare your paraphrase with the original passage.
    • Have you accurately communicated the message of the original text?
    • Have you used your own words instead of copying those in the original text?
    • Have you included information or opinions that are not part of the original text?

Let’s look at an example:

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). [1]

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).

Note: The paraphrase 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.

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.