Paraphrasing is writing someone else’s ideas into your own words. This can be difficult when you can’t think of another way of saying it, or you feel you can’t write it better than the original; however, paraphrasing is vital as it allows you to demonstrate your understanding of a topic.

When trying to paraphrase, imagine you are re-telling a part of what you’ve read to someone else. As you do this, you’ll change not only the words the original author used, but also the structure as you incorporate the information into your own narrative. The meaning of the original shouldn’t alter and the length of the information shouldn’t change significantly.

The main purpose of paraphrasing in academic writing is to use evidence published by reliable sources to support your argument in your assignment. To do this effectively, this evidence needs to be written in your own voice, with an in-text referencing citation, so your reader can connect with the original source.

Tips to help you paraphrase

  • Ensure you understand the content. Paraphrasing is really tricky if you feel you don’t fully understand the reading. If you’re unsure, read more and revisit your lecture material!
  • Don’t start the sentence with the same words the original source used. This forces you to rethink the information in your own way.
  • Don’t just use synonyms to replace words here and there within a sentence, but do use them after taking the two steps above.
  • Use the note-making phase of your assignment process to help you paraphrase. Don’t copy the source word-for-word in your notes – transform the content into your own words in your notes.
  • A paraphrase can go at the beginning, middle or end of a paragraph, as well as having several paraphrases in a paragraph. Just keep in mind that you are including them to support your idea, comment or analysis of the paragraph topic.

Recap - Rewind

Paraphrasing in the note-making stage is a key way to ensure your own understanding of a topic and avoid plagiarism. If you need a refresher, check out the Taking Note and Making Notes section of our Reading Module.

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