How to Paraphrase in an Essay
What is a Paraphrase?
A paraphrase is different from a quote and a summary. A quote uses the actual words that someone else wrote or said. You put quotation marks around what you take from that source. In a summary, you are saying the main idea of the source in your own words, but not giving the details. A paraphrase is in between these two. In a paraphrase you give all the information from a small part of a source, but you do it in your own words rather than quoting.
What is Paraphrasing?
When to Paraphrase
Unless your source is important to quote because of the way the information is said, or the fact that the person you quote has particular authority, you should probably paraphrase. You also want to paraphrase to make what you are quoting more understandable to your reader and in order to make that information smoothly flow into your own work.
These exercises are in two parts. First, I will give you my editing notes which were helping a student re-write an incorrect paraphrase. I think these notes will help show typical problems students have in paraphrasing as well as helping you understand how to do it correctly. After you read my notes, then try to write the sentence correctly yourself.
The second part of the exercises are some paraphrases you can do yourself which don't include my notes. You can look for more help on how to do this by seeing my other Hubs on paraphrasing. You can also, of course, chose any sort of book or article to try this experiment. Remember that a paraphrase is only 1-5 sentences long, and usually just 1-2 sentences.
Paraphrase Exercise #1: Editing a Student Example of Incorrect Paraphrase
Problem: Quotation rather than paraphrase
Student's sentence: “Fuzzy Friends Rescue believes that animals, as living creatures are entitled to a quality life, respect and compassion,”(fuzzyfriends.com).
My response: First, I want you to do this without using quotations if at all possible--especially in the overview of the organization and problem. Instead, I want you to paraphrase--but information in your own words.This will help you to be sure you know what you are saying and keeping your claims your own and not someone else’s.
Second, this sentence has a couple of problems. First, it is a quote which is by itself as a sentence--you absolutely can't do that. It is incorrect.You must include a quote inside your own sentence. There are several ways to do this, you can look at my Hubs on Quotation, Summary and Paraphrasing and How to Teach Paraphrasing for more explanation, but one easy way is to do this:
Rewrite: According to ______(name the source), "quote here.....compassion" (fuzzyfriends.com).
This example shows another punctuation problem also. You don't need a comma after compassion, and you don't need two periods at the end.
1. Can you write the above sentence and this next sentence correctly after reading my notes?
Student Quote: “It is estimated that between six and eight million cats and dogs enter animal shelters every year in the United States,”(IDUSA.org).
Student Quote: Another disturbing fact is that, “More than 20 percent of people who leave dogs in shelters adopted them from a shelter,” (ASPCA).
My response: The above sentence is better, because you include the quote in your own sentence, but I really don't think you need to quote this information.Just put it in your own words and put the source in parenthesis at the end. Notice I changed most of the words and the grammar form of the sentence.
My Sample Rewrite: Another disturbing fact is that twenty percent of dogs left at a shelter are adopted dogs which are being returned (ASPCA).
2. Can You write the next three sentences into a correct paraphrase?
Overpopulation concerns are supported by the stat that only “10 percent of animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered,” (ASPCA).
“It is estimated that between six and eight million cats and dogs enter animal shelters every year in the United States,”(IDUSA.org).
Many other reasons are grouped under the category of “social attitudes”. “One out of every five animal companions becomes lost at some point of their lives,” (IDUSA.org). Also, “over 30% of the animals who wind up in shelters are surrendered by their guardians who are unable to care for them,” (IDUSA.org).
How to Paraphrase
How to Quote
When is a Quote better than a paraphrase?
Generally, I tell students to avoid quoting. When you paraphrase and summarize, you need to read more closely to understand what you are reading. By putting things in your own words, your paper will be smoother and also have a stronger argument. However, sometimes really do need to quote the exact words. For example, you need to quote when:
- The authority of your source is important to your argument.
- You can't re-word and keep the same meaning.
- The words are written in a memorable way.
- The quote is famous.
Example of Quoting
Student Sentence: When I asked Connie Cocanougher why she is so dedicated to Happy Endings Dog Rescue she put it bluntly, “Dogs are better than people.” I couldn't agree with her more.
My Response: This is a good use of a quote because it expresses the person's attitude in a way that it would be hard to paraphrase in your own words. It is also well-written with the second sentence emphasising the quote.
Student Sentence: Animal Control focuses on three areas of animal control management, “administration, the use of management tools, and delivery of services,” (Aronson X).
My Response: This is also probably a time when quoting might work better than paraphrase because some specific words are used to characterize this criteria and you may want to use those exact words in your discussion of this issue so you may not want to paraphrase them. In addition, you are citing an authoritative source which you may want to quote to add authority. However, this is not written quite correctly. It is probably better to write the author's name (although the book title in italics would also be ok) and since this is a list you need to use a colon. Again, no comma before the parenthetical reference:
My Re-Write:Stephen Aronson explains that the three areas of animal control management are: "administration, the use of management tools, and delivery of services" (Aronson X)
When to use a Quote
Paraphrase Exercise #1
Re-write the following and use correct citation:
1. From Friends for Life website:
In 1990 Friends for Life was asked to serve as legal guardian for a man who was found unconscious. He was unable to make medical decisions and he had no family who could intervene on his behalf. Friends for Life now offers guardianship service in 39 Texas counties and serves as guardian when the judge determines a person lacks capacity and there is no family member qualified and willing to serve.
2. From Friends for Life website:
Friends for Life serves the elderly and people with disabilities through five different program areas:
Independent Living and Quality of Life Programs
Adult Day Care
3. Pick up a textbook, newspaper or magazine. Choose 1-2 sentences which contain important information. Using the format above, read and paraphrase them. Be sure to check them word for word with the source afterwards.
- Did you say everything in the source?
- Did you use any of the same words, sentence structure or phrasing (outside of technical terms you can't change).
- Read the sentence out loud. Does it read smoothly? Does it sound like you wrote it?
Paraphrasing Exercises #2
Here you have a chance to do some paraphrasing exercises on your won. Paraphrasing correctly means you change the words, the phrases, the sentence order and the grammar of the original. How to do this?
- Read the original a couple of times carefully and think about what it means.
- Without looking at the original, write re-wite the passage in your own words.
- Look back at the original and see if you have used any of the same words, phrases or sentence order. If you have, change them.
- Note: sometimes you do need to use a few of the same words if there is no other way to say it that wouldn’t change the meaning (although it can also help to ask someone else if they have an idea how to say that phrase differently).
- If you do find a phrase or longer idea you can’t re-write, then enclose it in quotation marks. It is ok to combine paraphrasing with quoting.
- Don’t forget to mention the source at the beginning of your paraphrase, and don’t forget parenthetical citation at the end.
In a comment below, give me the original and your paraphrase and I will let you know what I think!
What makes a great paraphrase?
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