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Paraphrase

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Paraphrase

When writing an essay, you often rely on information from outside sources. It can be helpful to quote or broadly summarize these sources. But sometimes you need to explain a specific point from a source to demonstrate its meaning and connection to your own ideas. For this, you need to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is important for providing evidence in your own words. You can use paraphrasing to support your ideas without relying on someone else's explanation.

What is the Meaning of Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing allows you to explain a source's ideas and information in your own words.

Paraphrasing is restating or rewording information from a source in order to explain, clarify, or expand on it.

Paraphrasing doesn't mean "matching" the source! Paraphrasing means using your own words to explain the ideas of the source. When you explain a source's information, you can expand on it to show how it connects to your ideas.

You might think of paraphrasing as translating. It's your job to translate the key ideas of a source for the reader. Show them what it means and why it matters for your essay.

The word paraphrase derives from the Greek words para, meaning "beside, near, or issuing from" and phrazein, meaning "to tell." To paraphrase is to "tell" the reader in words that are "beside," or "near" the words of the source.

Paraphrase vs. Summary

Paraphrasing translates a specific idea or passage from a source while summarizing provides an overview of the main ideas of the entire source.

Think of a summary as a high-level overview of a source. When summarizing, focus on broadly explaining the key points of that source.

Think of paraphrasing as a focused mini-summary. Instead of summarizing the entire source, you're summarizing one or two specific ideas or passages from that source.

When to Summarize or Paraphrase

When deciding whether you should summarize or paraphrase, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I need to explain the main argument of the entire source?
  2. Do I need to explain specific information or ideas from the source?

If you answered "yes" to the first question, you should summarize. Explain the gist of the source. What is the main point of it?

If you answered "yes" to the second question, you should paraphrase. Identify the passage, information, or idea you want to use in your essay. Then, explain that small piece in your own words.

Summary and paraphrasing aren't the only methods of incorporating sources! You can also use a direct quote.

A direct quote is an exact copy of a source's words.

Direct quotes are great for:

  • analyzing a source's words and language choices
  • presenting a precise definition of a concept or term
  • arguing against a specific claim made in a source
  • staying true to a source when a change of phrase would distort the meaning of that source

Direct quotes should be used sparingly. Use direct quotes only when it's necessary to show the source's exact words. When using a direct quote, be sure to also explain that quote to the reader so they can see how it fits into your ideas.

The Importance of Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is important for providing evidence, explaining your ideas, and pulling important information from your sources. Paraphrasing is a crucial aspect of good writing.

Without paraphrasing, you would have to rely primarily on summarizing. Summarizing is great for explaining a source's main ideas. However, it doesn't allow you to discuss specific information from that source. Sometimes that specific information is the most important thing you can get from a source.

The Benefits of Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing has so many benefits! Here are just a few:

  • Paraphrasing helps you translate jargon and difficult language in a text.
  • Paraphrasing allows you to connect the information from a source to your own ideas.
  • Paraphrasing helps you more fully understand the information in your source. Having to translate it helps you think more deeply about it.

Examples of Paraphrase

Examples of paraphrasing can show you what to do and what not to do. See below for an example of effective paraphrasing and an example of poor paraphrasing.

Here is the original text.

The Internet started in the 1960s as a way for government researchers to share information. Computers in the '60s were large and immobile and in order to make use of information stored in any one computer, one had to either travel to the site of the computer or have magnetic computer tapes sent through the conventional postal system.1

The following is an effective example of how to paraphrase this.

The first computers, created in the 1960s, were too big to move. Researchers had to either travel to them or have magnetic computer tapes that stored information mailed to them.

Note how the above example translates the passage for the reader and doesn't include information that does not fit into the writer's essay. When paraphrasing, try to make the passage easier to understand. Only include information that is necessary to your essay.

The following is an ineffective example of how to paraphrase that passage.

The Internet began in the 1960s for government researchers to share information with each other. Computers at that time were big and immovable, and in order to make use of information stored in a computer, researchers had to either travel to the computer site or have magnetic computer tapes sent through the postal system.

Note how the above example simply replaces and removes some words from the original text. This doesn't help the reader understand the passage better. It also includes information that is unnecessary for the essay (like the use of the computer to share information). Remember, paraphrasing isn't just replacing or removing some words. It's translating for the reader in a way that fits with the purpose of your essay.

In addition to being poor paraphrasing, this example is also plagiarism! It uses much of the original author's words verbatim. Without proper citation, this is stealing.

Paraphrase. An old computer. StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Paraphrase to make a passage clearer.

Paraphrasing in a Sentence

To paraphrase in a sentence, read and markup your selected passage, try explaining it without looking, then revisit the passage to find ways to revise sentences. Use your understanding of the information to translate it for your reader.

Steps for Paraphrasing in a Sentence

To paraphrase in a sentence, follow the 4-step process below.

1. Mark Up the Passage

Carefully read the passage you want to paraphrase. Make sure you fully understand what it means. It helps to mark the passage in ways that point out key terms, phrases, and ideas.

Beyond providing insurance coverage for a substantial, uninsured, and largely unhealthy segment of society—and thereby reducing disparities and unequal access to care among all segments of the population—there is great potential for universal healthcare models to embrace value-based care. Value-based care can be thought of as appropriate and affordable care (tackling wastes), and integration of services and systems of care (i.e., hospital, primary, public health), including preventive care that considers the long-term health and economy of a nation.2

2. Explain the Passage Without Looking

Once you have a solid understanding of the passage, try explaining it without looking at it. If someone were to ask you about this passage, how would you explain it to them? Don't worry about making this explanation perfect. This is a rough draft. You can clean it up later.

Zieff et al. suggest that providing insurance to citizens is just one of many ways to provide adequate healthcare. They put forward an integrated model of healthcare that includes preventative measures to ensure healthcare is not only covered by insurance but is affordable and manageable for all.

Focus on this question: "What did the passage mean to you?"

3. Revisit the Passage

Now that you have a rough draft of your initial interpretations, refer back to the passage. Mark any concepts or terms you felt you didn't quite capture. Make some notes to yourself on what you might change about your paraphrased version. Identify any words or phrases in the passage that you need to clarify for the reader.

Beyond providing insurance coverage for a substantial, uninsured, and largely unhealthy segment of society—and thereby reducing disparities and unequal access to care among all segments of the population—there is great potential for universal healthcare models to embrace value-based care. Value-based care can be thought of as appropriate and affordable care (tackling wastes), and integration of services and systems of care (i.e., hospital, primary, public health), including preventive care that considers the long-term health and economy of a nation.

Note how the above example focuses on areas that are missing from the writer's paraphrased version. Use markups and notes to clarify what you need to do with this information.

Paraphrase. A marked up page. StudySmarter.Fig. 2 - It's your turn to mark up a page!

4. Revise Your Sentences

Now, it's time to revisit your paraphrased version! Take the elements you were missing and revise your sentences to include them. Then, clean up any repetitive phrasing, unclear wording, or grammatical mistakes.

Zieff et al. suggest that providing insurance to citizens is just one of many ways to provide adequate and equal healthcare access. They put forward an integrated model of healthcare they call "value-based care" that includes preventative measures to ensure healthcare is not only covered by insurance but is affordable and manageable for all while still considering the long-term needs of the nation's health and economy.

Note how the writer worked key points into their explanation. This allowed them to cut out repetitive statements and focus their explanation. When revising your paraphrased sentences, focus on including what is necessary and leaving out that which is not.

Here is a finalized version:

Zieff et al. suggest that providing insurance to citizens is just one of many ways to provide adequate and equal healthcare access. They put forward an integrated model of healthcare they call "value-based care" that includes preventative measures to ensure healthcare is affordable and manageable for all while still considering the long-term needs of the nation's health and economy.

Did you notice how this example uses a small direct quote? While the goal of paraphrasing is using your own words to explain information, that doesn't mean you can't also use one or two words from that source. If a source includes a key term that is important to your essay, use it!

Paraphrase Citations: APA & MLA

Even though you are explaining information in your own words, it still comes from a source. Therefore, it's important to give credit to that source. You can do this with citations.

Citations are lines of text that indicate where you got your information from.

Citations generally take one of two forms: narrative citation format or parenthetical citation format.

Narrative citation format indicates where you got your information from in your own sentences. For example, you might state "According to Zieff et al. in their 2020 article on universal healthcare in America...."

Parenthetical citation format indicates where you got your information from in parentheses following your paraphrased version of the source. For example, you might say "Value-based care is an integrative model of healthcare (Zieff et al., 2020).

Paraphrase. A healthcare professional dawns gloves. StudySmarter.Fig. 3 - Even paraphrase needs citation

Citations for Paraphrasing in APA

When citing paraphrased information in APA, you should always include the name of the author and the year in which the source was published.

You do not need to include a page number when paraphrasing in APA unless you use a direct quote. For example, if you quote a term or short phrase from the source (such as "value-based care,") you should include a page number.

Narrative Citation Format in APA

When using a narrative citation format in APA, include the year of publication either in-text or in parentheses immediately after the author's name.

According to Zieff et al. in their 2020 article...

OR

According to Zieff et al. (2020)...

If you use one or two words from the source that you incorporate as a direct quote, be sure to follow your completed sentence with a parenthetical citation that includes the page number.

Zieff et al. (2020) suggest a "value-based care" model of integrated healthcare (p. 3).

Quick Tip! Always refer to an author by their last name.

Parenthetical Citation Format in APA

When using parenthetical citation format in APA, follow this format: (Author, year, p. #)

A "value-based care" approach to healthcare integrates multiple aspects of healthcare, including preventative care (Zieff et al., 2020, p. 3).

Citations for Paraphrasing in MLA

When citing paraphrased information in MLA, always include the author and page number. If there is no page number, include a paragraph number or other identifier. Unlike APA, MLA does not require you to include the year of publication in citations.

Narrative Citation Format in MLA

When using a narrative citation format in MLA, simply state the author's name in the sentence. However, you will still need to include the page number or paragraph number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Zieff et al. suggest a "value-based care" model of integrated healthcare (3).

Parenthetical Citation Format in MLA

When using parenthetical citation format in MLA, follow this format: (Author Page)

A "value-based care" approach to healthcare integrates multiple aspects of healthcare, including preventative care (Zieff et al. 3).

Paraphrase - Key Takeaways

  • Paraphrasing is restating or rewording information from a source in order to explain, clarify, or expand on it.
  • Paraphrasing translates a specific idea or passage from a source while summarizing overviews the main ideas of the entire source.
  • Paraphrasing is important for providing evidence, explaining your ideas, and pulling important information from your sources.
  • When paraphrasing, it's important to give credit to your source through narrative or parenthetical citations.
  • APA format requires you to include the name of the author, the year of publication, and a page number IF you use any short direct quotes. MLA format requires you to include the name of the author and the page number whether you include direct quotes or not.

1 The Online Library Learning Center. "A Brief History of the Internet." University System of Georgia. n.d.

2 Gabriel Zieff et al.. "Universal Healthcare in the United States of America: A Healthy Debate." Medicina. 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions about Paraphrase

To paraphrase means to restate or reword information from a source in order to explain, clarify, or expand on it. 

To paraphrase a quote, read and markup the quote to understand it, try explaining it without looking, then revisit the quote to find ways to revise your paraphrased sentence. 

An example of paraphrasing is as follows: 

Zieff et al. (2020) suggest that providing insurance to citizens is just one of many ways to provide adequate and equal healthcare access. They suggest an integrated model of healthcare they call "value-based care" that includes preventative measures to ensure healthcare is affordable and manageable for all while still considering the long-term needs of the nation's health and economy (p.3).  

Paraphrasing is important for providing evidence, explaining your ideas, and pulling important information from your sources.  

A good paraphrase pulls only the important information from a passage and explains it in your own words. 

Yes, when paraphrasing, you should always cite your sources. Since the information comes from a source, you should include narrative or parenthetical citation to show where it comes from. 

Final Paraphrase Quiz

Question

What is paraphrasing? 

Show answer

Answer

Paraphrasing is restating or rewording information from a source in order to explain, clarify, or expand on it.

Show question

Question

If one is providing a high-level overview of a source and its main ideas, what do they need to do? 

Show answer

Answer

Summarize

Show question

Question

Why can one think of paraphrasing as a mini-summary? 

Show answer

Answer

One can think of paraphrasing as a mini-summary because it's used to summarize one or two specific points from a source.

Show question

Question

If one needs to explain specific information or ideas from a source, what do they need to do?

Show answer

Answer

Paraphrase

Show question

Question

What are some of the benefits of paraphrasing? 

Show answer

Answer

It helps to translate jargon and difficult language in a text.

Show question

Question

What is the first step in paraphrasing?

Show answer

Answer

Read the passage and mark it up

Show question

Question

Once a writer has a solid understanding of the passage they are trying to paraphrase, what should they do? 

Show answer

Answer

Try to explain the passage in their own words without looking

Show question

Question

Once a writer has attempted a rough draft of a paraphrased passage, what should they mark when they revisit their source? 

Show answer

Answer

concepts or terms they didn't quite capture

Show question

Question

Finish this sentence: 

When revising paraphrased sentences, one should cut out any _____.

Show answer

Answer

repetitive phrases

Show question

Question

True or False:


Paraphrasing can include one or two words from the source in the form of a short direct quote. 

Show answer

Answer

True! As long as the writer uses quotation marks and explains the term or phrase in their own words, it's okay to use one or two words that are necessary for explaining the passage.

Show question

Question

What are citations?

Show answer

Answer

Citations are lines of text that indicate where you got your information from. 

Show question

Question

What are the two types of citation formats used in both MLA and APA? 

Show answer

Answer

narrative citation format

Show question

Question

If a writer includes an author's name and year of publication in their own sentence, what type of citation format is this? 

Show answer

Answer

Narrative APA

Show question

Question

Finish this sentence: 


One does not need to include a page number when paraphrasing in APA unless ____.

Show answer

Answer

One does not need to include a page number when paraphrasing in APA unless they also incorporate a short direct quote. 

Show question

Question

True or False: 

MLA requires the year of publication in parenthetical citations.

Show answer

Answer

False. MLA does not require the year of publication in either parenthetical or narrative citations. 

Show question

Question

If you need to explain the full arguments of source, you should:

Show answer

Answer

Summarize

Show question

Question

If you need to use parts of arguments, you should:

Show answer

Answer

Paraphrase

Show question

Question

Direct quotes are great for:

Show answer

Answer

Analyzing a source's words and language choices

Show question

Question

Use paraphrasing to:

Show answer

Answer

Help translate jargon

Show question

Question

Paraphrase is effective when simply switch out a few words.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

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