How to Paraphrase or Rewrite?

How to Paraphrase or Rewrite?

Step-by-Step Guide & Examples How to Paraphrase or Rewrite

Putting someone else’s ideas into your own words is known as paraphrasing. Paraphrasing a source involves modifying the text while preserving the original meaning.

Paraphrasing is an alternative to quoting (copying someone’s exact words and putting them in quotes). In academic writing, it is often better to paraphrase than to quote. It shows you understand the source material, read it more easily, and keep your own voice front and center.

Whenever you paraphrase, it is important to cite the source. Also be careful not to use words that sound too similar to the original. Otherwise, you run the risk of committing plagiarism.


How to paraphrase correctly?

Putting an idea into your own words can be easier said than done. Suppose you wanted to paraphrase the following text, about the population decline of a certain species of sea snail.

Example: Source Text

“Like other marine animals that live near densely populated shorelines, horseshells have lost considerable habitat to development and pollution, including preferred breeding sites along mudflats and seagrass beds. Their habitat in the gulf is also warming due to climate change, which scientists believe is putting increased pressure on the animals, due to the negative effects of additional heat on other large clams” (Barnett, 2022).

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Paraphrase Incorrectly

You can make a first attempt at paraphrasing by replacing certain words with synonyms.

Example: Incorrect Paraphrase

Like other sea creatures that dwell near densely populated shorelines, horse shells have lost a considerable amount of territory to encroachment and pollution, including preferred breeding sites along mudflats and mudflats. Their home in the Gulf is also getting warmer due to global warming, which scientists say is putting increased pressure on the creatures, due to the deleterious effects the extra heat has on other large clams (Barnett, 2022).

This attempted paraphrase does not change the sentence structure or the order of the information, only some of the word choices. And the chosen synonyms are poor:

  • “Advancement and contamination” does not have the same meaning as “development and contamination”.
  • Sometimes the changes make the tone less academic: “house” for “habitat” and “sea creatures” for “sea animals”.
  • Adding phrases such as “living near” and “in a hurry” makes the text unnecessarily long.
  • Global warming is related to climate change, but they don’t mean exactly the same thing.

As a result, the text reads awkwardly, is longer than necessary, and remains very close to the original wording. Due of this, you could face plagiarism charges.


Correct Paraphrasing

Let’s look at a more efficient way to paraphrase the same text.

Example: Paraphrasing Correctly

Scientists believe that temperature increases resulting from climate change are negatively affecting the shells of horses that live in the Gulf of Mexico. Development and pollution have also deprived them of important breeding grounds (Barnett, 2022).

Here, we have:

  • Only information relevant to our argument is included (note that the paraphrase is shorter than the original)
  • Retain key terms such as “development and pollution” because changing them could change the meaning
  • The sentences structured our way instead of copying the structure of the original.
  • Started from a different point, presenting the information in a different order

Because of this, we can clearly convey the relevant information from the source without getting too close to the original wording.


Paraphrasing vs Quoting

It’s a good idea to paraphrase rather than quote in most cases because:

  • Paraphrasing shows that you fully understand the meaning of a text
  • His/her own voice remains dominant throughout the role
  • Quotes reduce the readability of your text

But that doesn’t mean you should never quote. They are appropriate when:

  • Give a precise definition
  • Say something about the author’s language or style (for example, in a literary analysis article)
  • Provide evidence to support an argument
  • Critique or review a specific allegation


Paraphrasing vs Summarising

A paraphrase puts a specific passage in its own words. It is usually similar in length to the original text or slightly shorter.

When you shorten longer text at key points so that the result is much shorter than the original, it’s called a summary.

Paraphrasing and quoting are important tools for presenting specific information from the source material. But if the information you want to include is more general (for example, the general argument of an entire article), it is more appropriate to summarize.

Example: Summarising

Martin (2016) defends the importance of considering the impact of human architecture on the evolution of other species. Stating that the interior biome, the realm of species that largely live and reproduce in man-made structures, represents an understudied area for ecologists, Martin champions the study of this biome as an essential means of understanding the world of the Anthropocene.

Avoid Plagiarism when Paraphrasing

When paraphrasing, care should be taken to avoid accidental plagiarism.

This can happen if the paraphrased version is too similar to the original quote, with identical sentences or complete sentences (and therefore should be enclosed in quotation marks). It can also happen if you don’t properly cite the source.

To ensure that you have correctly paraphrased and cited all your sources, you may choose to perform a plagiarism check before submitting your article.

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