Sources: Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is restating something. It is very similar to a summary; the most obvious difference between them is length. You typically use summaries for text that is too long to paraphrase. A paraphrase will usually be approximately the same length as the original source text. The page number is not required in the in-text citation for a paraphrase, but it is encouraged.

An effective paraphrase—

  • is written in your own words.
  • keeps the original meaning (does not add or take away important ideas or relationships).
  • does not keep the structure of the original while only changing some words for synonyms.
  • is approximately the same length as the original.

Below is an excerpt from a website article that discusses literacy and communication in the digital age

Original Source

"You can reach anyone, anywhere, instantly, and you can communicate with them in ways we didn't imagine even a decade ago."


Example: Paraphrase

Communication today is very different from communication ten years ago and is not limited by person, place, or time (Van Camp, 2016).

General steps for writing a paraphrase:

  1. Read or listen to what you will paraphrase.
  2. Divide the sentence into parts and make sure you understand what each part means.
  3. Identify any logical connectors (e.g., because, and, while, in contrast, etc.).
  4. Rephrase each of the parts of the sentence (using synonyms, word forms, etc.).
  5. Put the sentence back together.
  6. Compare the paraphrase to the original.

Read/listen to the source

As with a summary, before you can write an effective paraphrase, you need to have a solid understanding of the source text. You should look up any new words in the original text if possible.

Divide the sentence

Many English sentences combine clauses and phrases together, and you will need to understand each of the clauses before you can paraphrase a sentence. Start by dividing the sentence into clauses (a clause has both a subject and a verb). If you can't look at the sentence and find the main verbs quickly, you can try crossing out or simplifying phrases that don't have verbs or that you can identify as adjective clauses. Remember that your goal is to find the verbs so you can find the clauses.

Identify any logical connectors

The way that two clauses are joined shows you the relationship that they have. Here are some common connectors and their general relationship:

cause/effect: because, since, due to, as a result, consequently, thus, therefore
contrast: however, but, in contrast, on the other hand, whereas, although
example:  for example, for instance
time/order:  when, before, after, while, during, since, until, then, next, last, first, second
possibility: if
alternative: or
addition: and

Rephrase each part

Here are some strategies for rephrasing clauses and phrases. Most paraphrases combine several strategies.

  1. Use synonyms
    • EX: the communication styles > methods of communicating
  2. Use equal transition words/conjunctions (if possible)
    • EX: therefore > so
  3. Change from active to passive voice
    • EX: Nearly everyone uses the internet. > The internet is used by almost everyone.
  4. Change word forms
    • EX: Communication is difficult. > One difficulty people experience is communication.
  5. Change the grammatical subject of the sentence or clause
    • EX: You can be misunderstood. > Misunderstandings happen.
  6. Change an adjective into an adjective clause
    • EX: new types of relationships > types of relationships  that are new

Return to the example given and look at how each part of the sentence was changed.

Put the sentence back together

After you have changed the sentence parts, you can put it back together. Many people change the order of the clauses at this point. Make sure that the structure of the paraphrase is different than the original structure.

Compare to the original

Make sure you changed the structure, but not the meaning.

You now know how to use sources in three ways. You can use quotes, paraphrases, and summaries. These ways to use sources are similar in some ways and different in others. 

A paraphrase the source in your own words and about the same length as the original
A quote the source in the author's exact words
A paraphrase the source in your own words and about the same length as the original
A summary the source in your own words and shorter than the original


1 Exercise: Identify a good paraphrase

Choose the best paraphrase for the original quote: 


“One of the most tangible examples of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy was the founding of 2,509 libraries...” (Carnegie Corporation, 2015). 

  1. One of the greatest evidences of his philanthropy was the establishment of 2,509 libraries (Carnegie Corporation, 2015). 
  2. Carnegie built many libraries (Carnegie Corporation, 2015). 
  3. While Carnegie was more famous for other things, his philanthropic life is evident in building libraries (Carnegie Corporation, 2015). 
  4. The many libraries that he established are a physical testament to his philanthropy (Carnegie Corporation, 2015). 
  5. Carnegie decided to be a philanthropist because he loved building libraries (Carnegie Corporation, 2015). 



2 Exercise: Write paraphrases

Write a paraphrase for the original sentence below. Read the sentence carefully and then divide it to understand each of its parts. Rephrase each of the parts. Finally, put the parts back together in a new way and compare it to the original.

1. Original:

"Texting, chatting, and instant messages are an entirely new form of communication, different from spoken or traditional written English" (Van Camp, 2016, para. 15).



2. Original:

"These days, an ordinary phone owner send 65 texts every two days, and more than half of all internet browsing takes place on a smartphone" (Van Camp, 2016, para 4).





3 Exercise: Write a quote, summary, and paraphrase

Using the paragraph below, write a quotation, a summary, and a paraphrase. For the quotation and the paraphrase, choose one sentence. For the summary, summarize the entire paragraph. Include the correct citation for each.

Author: Van Camp

Year: 2016

Paragraph: 29

"Emoji started as prettier versions of text emoticons like the smiley face or sad face, but have quickly grown into much more. There are now 1,922 emoji on the iPhone. Hundreds of faces, objects, flags, families of every skin color, activities, and more now have an emoji image. Apple is such a fan that in iOS 10, a feature will suggest emoji replacements for words."

4 Exercise: Write a quote, summary, or paraphrase

Using the paragraph below, write a quotation, a summary, or a paraphrase. For the quotation and the paraphrase, choose one sentence. For the summary, summarize the entire paragraph. Include the correct citation.

Author: Reed

Year: 2014

Paragraph: 2

"The words that surround us every day influence the words we use. Since so much of the written language we see is now on the screens of our computers, tablets, and smartphones, language now evolves partly through our interaction with technology. And because the language we use to communicate with each other tends to be more malleable than formal writing, the combination of informal, personal communication and the mass audience afforded by social media is a recipe for rapid change."


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