As if the research process was not difficult enough finding relevant and trustworthy sources, reading and evaluating material, and picking crucial quotations/information to support your paraphrasing findings/arguments academic writers and students also have to worry about correctly documenting their sources. Failure to do so, whether on purpose or by accident, may result in plagiarism, a serious academic infraction.
To prevent plagiarism allegations, you must not only properly record your sources in your reference list or bibliography using an acceptable style guide (e.g., APA, Harvard, or Vancouver), but you must also appropriately manage direct quotes and paraphrase. That is, you must employ in-text citations and learn not to depend on source information too much when paraphrasing.
As mentioned in our previous article on plagiarism, “simply taking another writer’s ideas and rephrasing them as one’s own can be considered plagiarism as well.” Paraphrasing is acceptable if you interpret and synthesize information from your sources, rephrasing ideas in your own words, and add citations at the sentence level; however, it is NOT acceptable if you simply copy and paste large chunks of an original source and slightly modify them, hoping that your teacher, editor, or reviewer won’t notice. Passing off someone else’s work as one’s own constitutes intellectual theft, thus researchers and students must be careful while reporting other people’s work and learn how to paraphrase.
All of this may be recognizable to you. Still, you might be wondering, “How can I appropriately paraphrase a text without risking unintended plagiarism?” Learning how to paraphrase a source or how to paraphrase a sentence can be intimidating for many authors, especially those who are inexperienced with the notions of a certain area.
This is why we have written this article: to assist you with paraphrasing. We will begin by discussing the differences between paraphrasing and quoting, followed by a list of paraphrasing dos and don’ts and tactics for paraphrasing well. We’ll use paraphrasing examples throughout to show how to paraphrase and paraphrase citations correctly.
What is the difference between quoting and paraphrasing?
The difference between quoting and paraphrasing is that quoting employs the source’s exact words and punctuation, whereas paraphrasing involves synthesizing content from the source and expressing it in your own words.
When learning how to paraphrase a quote, you must first decide whether you should paraphrase or quote the text straight.
If you locate the perfect quotation from a credible source that matches your primary topic, supports your thesis, and provides credibility to your paper, but it’s too long (40+ words) or complex, you should paraphrase it.
Here’s how to rewrite a statement in your own words:
1) Use a direct quote. Introduce the quote with a signal phrase (e.g., “According to Ahmad (2017)…”) and then insert the complete statement, using quotation marks or indentation to indicate the text (i.e., a block quote).
- Editorial adjustments and omissions. You can use an ellipsis (..) to indicate omissions if you just need to utilize sections of a long quotation. Editorial modifications can also be made in square brackets [like this]. When employing this method, keep in mind that you must correctly portray the author’s purpose; changing significant terms in a quotation to better match your argument is considered intellectual fraud.
2) The word “paraphrase” comes to mind. Demonstrate your comprehension of the material by presenting the major points in your own manner and words. “Do paraphrases have to be cited like quotes?” you might be wondering. A resounding “yes” is the answer.
Even though you now know the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, you may still want further paraphrasing assistance or instruction on how to paraphrase a quotation. Let’s look at some paraphrasing dos and don’ts.
When should I quote, paraphrase, or summarize?
When considering whether or not to paraphrase or quote, consider if the precise words in the source are relevant or whether the concepts are. Consider explicitly citing the former if it is important. Consider paraphrasing or summarizing if the latter is relevant.
For well-written content that you can’t communicate more simply or concisely in your own manner, direct quotation is the best option. Shortening a long quotation is an excellent method to keep the original phrase while ensuring that it reads effectively in your work. In the sciences and social sciences, however, direct citations are typically discouraged, so bear that in mind while considering whether to paraphrase or quote.
Long passages of material that you can synthesize in your own words are the ideal candidates for paraphrasing. Consider paraphrase to be a type of translation; you’re converting a concept from another “language” into your own. The concept should be the same, but the language and structure of the sentences should be completely different.
What does it mean to paraphrase?
The goal of paraphrasing is to bring together concepts from several sources in order to present information to your reader in a clear and concise manner. Your role as a student or researcher is to show that you comprehend the content you’ve read by expressing concepts from other sources in your own distinctive manner, citing the paraphrased material where needed. You are misguided if you believe that the objective of paraphrasing is to save you from having to think for yourself.
Recognize the text you are rephrasing
When paraphrasing, make sure you grasp the material completely; otherwise, you risk leaning too heavily on the original source text. The goal of paraphrasing is to clarify the facts you found in your study to your reader as though you were speaking to a colleague or instructor. In a nutshell, paraphrasing is a technique for demonstrating one’s comprehension of the material.
Is it necessary to cite sources?
Yes, paraphrases must always be cited. By explicitly crediting the authors of the content you’re discussing, paraphrasing citations help you prevent plagiarism. Academic integrity is maintained by citing your paraphrases. When you sit down to compose your paper, you may wonder, “Do paraphrases have to be cited? How do I cite a paraphrase?”
In general, after you finish a sentence-long paraphrase, you should provide an in-text reference at the conclusion of that sentence. If your paraphrased text is more than a few phrases lengthy, however, you should consult your preferred style guide. After the first paraphrased statement, certain style standards (such as APA) require a paraphrased citation. After the last paraphrased statement, certain style standards (such as MLA) require a paraphrased citation. It is not required to cite every single sentence of paraphrased content in a multi-sentence paraphrase, regardless of the style guide you employ.
Using a thesaurus as a starting point for paraphrasing is not a good idea
Although it may come as a surprise, thesauruses are not the best way to learn how to paraphrase. Why? Because patchwriting, which is a sort of plagiarism, involves utilizing a thesaurus to replace a few words here and there from an original source.
Unless you’re entirely unclear about what a term means, you should not need a thesaurus in which case, a dictionary could be a better option. When reporting research findings (or other material), you should be able to utilize clear, uncomplicated language that you are acquainted with.
The difficulty with utilizing a thesaurus is that you are not actually paraphrasing a text with your own words; you’re paraphrasing a text with words from a book. Furthermore, if you’re inexperienced with a subject or have trouble with English, you could select the incorrect synonym, resulting in a paraphrase like this: “You might choose an incorrect term.”
This is a typical blunder made by authors who are writing about an area they are unfamiliar with, as well as those who lack a solid understanding of the English language and the purpose of paraphrasing.
Don’t copy without putting quotation marks around it
It’s fine if you maintain a few sentences from the original source but paraphrase the rest (i.e., combining quoting and paraphrasing), but bear in mind that the source text’s wording must be “reproduced in an accurate way between quote marks.” More than three consecutive words borrowed from another source are considered direct quotes, and they should always be contained in quotation marks or offset as a block quotation.
An example of a paraphrase using quotation marks would look like this:
Cixous emphasizes women’s writing as a distinct achievement in “The Laugh of the Medusa,” speaking “about what it will do” when it receives the same formal acknowledgment as men’s writing (Cixous 875).
The opening paragraph of Cixous’ article is exemplified in this para, which includes a direct quotation and a reference.
Even if you offer an in-text citation, patchwriting (copying chunks of a statement without quotation marks) is considered plagiarism. Simply include any direct quotations (three words or more) in quotation marks to show that the phrase is not your own if you’ve reworded bits of a quote in your own manner.
Avoid similar wording
When learning how to paraphrase, it’s important to know the difference between suitable and incorrect paraphrasing. According to the Office of Research and Integrity, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services,
Taking passages of text from one or more sources, citing the author(s), but just making ‘cosmetic’ modifications to the borrowed material, such as replacing one or two words, rearranging the order, voice (i.e., active vs. passive), and/or tense of the sentences, is NOT paraphrase.
What does it look like to paraphrase too closely? Here is an example of the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ definition of plagiarizing:
As a paraphrase, using bits of a source, referencing it, but only making minor linguistic modifications (such as altering a few words, the verb tense, the voice, or the word order) fails. True paraphrasing requires altering the original source’s language and syntactical structure. Continue reading to learn how to correctly paraphrase.
Write down paraphrases of a source on note cards
The Purdue University Online Writing Lab recommends reading the original material carefully and writing paraphrases on note cards in an essay on how to paraphrase. You may next compare your translation to the original, making sure you’ve covered all of the important details and highlighting any overly paraphrased terms or phrases.
Obviously, the author(s) and citation information of the source material should be noted on your note cards so that you don’t lose track of whose source you utilized, and you should mention on the card how you plan to use the para in your essay. Furthermore, having a physical copy of paraphrased material makes it more difficult to plagiarize by copying and pasting content from an original source without correct paraphrasing or quoting it. Writing your para lets you separate yourself from the source material and communicate the concept in your own voice.
Take notes on a source from your point of view
Take point-form notes on the text that you intend to utilize in your paper. Instead of using long sentences, “catch the original concept” in a few words and write down the name of source.
This approach appears to be similar to the notecard strategy, however, it includes an additional phase. Rather than reading the material thoroughly and putting your whole paraphrase on a notecard, Plotnick suggests taking point-form notes when studying your sources and then paraphrasing the text afterward while writing your paper.
Practice paraphrasing in two steps: Sentence structure and word selection
A subject and a predicate are the two basic components of an English sentence. The predicate is what the subject is doing, and the subject is who or what is doing an action (i.e., a noun or pronoun. Simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences are all possible. Here are some instances of paraphrases utilizing various sentence structures:
- simple: It was a challenge.
- Compound: It was difficult, but she knew she couldn’t back out now.
- Complex: Despite how difficult it was, she knew there was no turning back.
- Compound-complex: Despite how tough it was, she knew there was no turning back, so she kept her cool and continued.
You can rebuild the original statement using one of the four sorts of sentences shown above once you’ve determined its structure.
Use active and passive voice in different ways. You may also switch from passive to active voice and back.
Subject + Verb + Object is how the active voice is structured (e.g., She learned how to paraphrase.).
Object + “To Be” Verb + Past Participle is how the passive voice is built (e.g., How to paraphrase was learned by the girl.).
Sentence lengths can be varied
Using varied sentence lengths is another approach to differentiate your paraphrase from the original source. Long, compound, complex, or compound-complex sentences are often used in scientific writings. Instead, use brief sentences. Break down difficult concepts into simple language. Alternatively, you can synthesize the content by combining numerous concepts from the original text into a single big statement. Try to maintain your own writing style so that the paraphrased material blends in with the rest of your work.
Change up the words you use
You can change the original text’s phrasing with terms you understand and are comfortable with after the original source’s sentence structure is sufficiently different from the original sentence structure.
The purpose of paraphrasing isn’t to disguise the fact that you’re employing sophisticated word-swapping tactics to replicate someone else’s concept. Rather, it is intended to demonstrate that you can explain the content in your own language.