Effective Paraphrasing

A successful paraphrase is your own explanation or interpretation of another person's ideas. Paraphrasing in academic writing is an effective way to restate, condense, or clarify another author's ideas while also providing credibility to your own argument or analysis. While successful paraphrasing is essential for strong academic writing, unsuccessful paraphrasing can result in unintentional plagiarism. Look through the paraphrasing strategies below to better understand what counts as an effective paraphrase.


Ineffective Paraphrasing Strategies

When paraphrasing, there are a few common mistakes you should learn to avoid:

1. Avoid switching out or changing around of a few words in an author's sentence(s) for use in your paper.

2. Avoid failing to acknowledge (through an in-text citation or direct quotes) the outside source from which you obtained your information or ideas.

Exception: When paraphrasing, you do not have to directly cite common knowledge. Common knowledge is information that is widely known and can be found in multiple places. For example, writing that Ronald Reagan was a U.S. Republican president would be considered common knowledge, so it would not need to be cited. However, when in doubt, it is always better to cite than run the risk of plagiarism.

3. Acknowledging the author in an in-text citation but failing to include quotation marks around any terms or phrasing that you have borrowed from the author.

Note that any of the unsuccessful elements of paraphrasing are considered plagiarism in your essay, even if these paraphrasing missteps are unintentional.

Effective Paraphrasing Strategies

If you’re having trouble paraphrasing a text effectively, try following these steps:

1. Reread the original passage you wish to paraphrase, looking up any words you do not recognize, until you think you understand the full meaning of and intention behind the author's words.

2. Next, cover or hide the passage. Once the passage is hidden from view, write out the author's idea, in your own words, as if you were explaining it to your instructor or classmates.

3. After you have finished writing, check your account of the author's idea against the original. While comparing the two, ask yourself the following questions:

Have I accurately addressed the author's ideas in a new way that is unique to my writing style and scholarly voice?
Have I tried to replicate the author's idea or have I simply changed words around in his/her original sentence(s)?

4. Next, look for any borrowed terms or particular phrases you have taken from the original passage. Enclose these terms and phrases in quotation marks to indicate to your readers that these words were taken directly from the original text.

5. Last, include a citation, which should contain the author's name, the year, and the page or paragraph number (if available), directly following your paraphrase.

Examples of Paraphrasing

Here is the original source an author might use in a paper:

Differentiation as an instructional approach promotes a balance between a student's style and a student's ability. Differentiated instruction provides the student with options for processing and internalizing the content, and for constructing new learning in order to progress academically.

Here is an example of bad paraphrasing of the source. Even though the student is citing correctly, underlined words are simply synonyms of words used in the original source. You can also see how the sentence structure is the same for both the original source and this paraphrase.

Differentiation is a way to encourage equality between the approach and talent of the student (Thompson, 2009). This type of instruction gives students different ways to deal with and grasp information, and for establishing new learning to move on in education (Thompson, 2009).

Here is an example of a better way to paraphrase the source. In this example, the author has taken the essential ideas and information from the original source, but has worded it in her own way, using unique word choice and sentence structure. The author has condensed Thompson's (2009) information, including what is relevant to her paper, but leaving out extra details that she does not needed.

Teachers use differentiated instruction to help students learn, allowing the teacher to cater lessons to the way each student learns and each student's skill (Thompson, 2009).

An Exercise in Paraphrasing

Please use the attached exercise as practice in paraphrasing.

An Exercise in Paraphrasing With the Three Little Pigs 

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