We all know that when you write a research paper, you need evidence to support your arguments.
That means you throw in a few quotes to prove to your professor that you’ve actually used sources to help write your paper, right?
Sure, it’s important to add some quotes, but too many quotes can mean that your paper turns into one long quotation from other people, leaving no room for your own words.
If your paper turns into one big quote, you’re not even writing the paper. You’re just copying other people’s words. While that may seem like the easy way out, you won’t earn a good grade by doing this.
After all, your assignment is to write a paper, not copy and paste a paper.
Instead of copying a bunch of quotes to prove that you’ve done your research, try paraphrasing.
When you paraphrase, you’ll include information from sources in your own words, so your professors will still know you’re using sources, but you won’t have to quote everything.
To learn more, keep reading, as this blog post explains the do’s and don’ts of paraphrasing and includes 10 examples of paraphrasing for a smarter, better essay.
What is Paraphrasing?
Contrary to what you might think, paraphrasing is not simply changing a few words.
Yes, in order to paraphrase, you will need to change words, but you just can’t change the word “gathering” to “party” and call it a paraphrase.
A properly written paraphrase expresses the ideas of a source or passage in your own words and sentence structure.
Remember, you’re writing a paper for your class, so you should still use formal, academic language. Don’t use slang or jargon.
Isn’t a Paraphrase Just Like a Summary?
No. A summary is a shortened version of a piece of writing. It is written in your own words and includes only the key points of the writing. A summary is much shorter than the original source.
A paraphrase is similar to a summary because you are rewriting the source in your own words. They key difference is that paraphrases include both key points and subpoints. Because a paraphrase includes detailed information it can sometimes be as long (if not longer) than the original source.
In either case, it’s important to keep the meaning of the original source. You can’t leave out words or add words to make the source fit into your paper if it changes the meaning.
Do I Have to Cite a Paraphrase?
Yes. Always. There’s no question as to whether you should or shouldn’t cite. Always cite a paraphrase.
When you paraphrase, you’re rewriting someone else’s words into your own words. You’re essentially using someone else’s ideas in your paper.
If you claim the information as your own (which is what you do if you don’t cite a paraphrase) you’re plagiarizing.
And, of course, plagiarism means you’ll fail the paper and may even get kicked out of school!
How Do I Paraphrase?
First read the source carefully so you actually know what it means. You can’t use it as a source if you don’t understand it.
Next find the part of the source you want to paraphrase. You’re not rewriting the entire source in your paper, so don’t paraphrase much more than a paragraph.
Finally, and pay attention to this step because it’s important, set the source aside.
Write your paraphrase without looking at the original source. This will help you write in your own words and help you resist the temptation to use the wording and sentence structure of the original source.
Need some help putting this into practice? Read the examples below to learn what you should and shouldn’t do when paraphrasing.
10 Examples of Paraphrasing to Help Your Essay
Example Paraphrase 1. “Police: Man breaks into Austin meat business, naps”
Original source: “AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Police have arrested a 28-year-old man who they say broke into an Austin business, stole a couple of sausages and fell asleep.”
This paraphrase uses original wording and sentence structure, but it is plagiarized because it does not cite the original source.
Correct: A 28 year old man in Austin, Texas didn’t break into a business and run, like most criminals. Instead, he took several sausages then simply fell asleep inside the business (“Police: Man breaks into Austin meat business, sleeps”).
This paraphrase includes a proper MLA in-text citation to give credit to the source.
Example Paraphrase 2. “Police: Man fled crash to avoid yelling girlfriend”
Original source: “VINELAND, N.J. (AP) — Police in New Jersey say a man told officers he fled the scene of an auto accident because he ‘didn’t want to deal with his girlfriend yelling at him.’”
Incorrect: New Jersey police state a man said he left the scene of a car accident because he didn’t want to deal with his girlfriend yelling at him (“Police: Man fled crash to avoid yelling girlfriend”).
The paraphrase only changes a few words. Most of the words and sentence structure are too close to the original for this to be a good paraphrase.
Correct: A man in New Jersey seemed to think leaving the scene of a car crash and being arrested was a better option than listening to his girlfriend yell. He told the police he fled because he didn’t want to listen to her yell at him (“Police: Man fled crash to avoid yelling girlfriend”).
Example Paraphrase 3. “Plumber Caught Dancing On The Job Has All The Fly Moves”
Original source: “The video of Topen’s dancing has racked up more than 400,000 views since it was posted on YouTube last week, and the plumber says he’s already been approached in public for his autograph.”
This paraphrase has two key problems: it doesn’t cite the original source, and it copies too much of the original wording and sentence structure.
Correct: Even though the YouTube video of the dancing plumber was only posted last week, it has already had more than 400,000 views. Topen has become an almost instant celebrity as strangers have even asked him for autographs (“Plumber Caught Dancing On The Job Has All The Fly Moves”).
Example Paraphrase 4. “These Are Miley Cyrus’ Crazy Dating Rules”
Original source: “According to Heat magazine, Miley has a list of intense rules for her men-to-be while out on dates. Apparently her assistant arranges what the guy must wear, do, and talk about on the date. She’s also not into flowers, so he’s banned from bringing her those.”
Incorrect: According to Heat magazine, Miley Cyrus has a list of rules for her men on dates. Her assistant arranges what guys wear and what they talk about. She doesn’t like flowers, either (“These Are Miley Cyrus’ Crazy Dating Rules”).
This isn’t even a paraphrase. It just leaves out a few words. Remember, a paraphrase must provide the same information as the original and be written in your own word choice and sentence structure.
Correct: As stated in Heat magazine, Miley Cyrus has a number of bizarre rules for dating. She’s so specific about what her dates wear, say, and do, that she has her assistant enforce these rules on dates. Cyrus doesn’t even like flowers and won’t let her dates buy them for her (“These Are Miley Cyrus’ Crazy Dating Rules”).
Example Paraphrase 5. “Top 12 Bizarre Pet Accidents”
Original source: “Often, a dog will chase an animal with the focus of a heat-seeking missile. But a wheelbarrow planter was not part of Belgian sheepdog Rider’s focus. Rider collided with the wheelbarrow while the squirrel escaped up a cedar tree in Joyce Biethan’s backyard.
“He’s kind of an all-or-nothing dog and he went into ‘all,'” Biethan said. “He chased after that squirrel with total disregard of what might be in front of him.”
His collision left Rider with a broken scapula, a broken rib and a punctured lung.
“He was in so much pain that I think he just tried to lay low,” Biethan said. “He prescribed himself bedrest.”
Biethan said Rider did not need surgery and made a full recovery.”
Can you guess what’s missing from this paraphrase? Details!
The example does paraphrase some information, but it reads more like a summary, as it’s missing key details from the story.
Correct: Like many dogs, a Belgian sheepdog named Rider became so focused on chasing down a squirrel that he paid no attention to the wheelbarrow directly in front of him. The squirrel got away, but Rider collided head on with the wheelbarrow. Rider broke his scapula, broke a rib, and also punctured a lung. Though he was likely in a lot of pain, he only needed rest. He did not have to have surgery” (“Top 12 Bizarre Pet Accidents”).
Example Paraphrase 6. “10 Crazy Reasons People Got Rejected From College”
Original source: “College admissions officers all advise against writing a college admission essay about something that an applicant learned while stoned or drunk. “But we still get a few of those essays,” a college admissions officer tells me. “We even got the classic one about how the student, while stoned, realized that the solar system is an atom and the earth is an electron. You’ll remember, that conversation occurred in the movie Animal House.”
Incorrect: A college admissions officer told the story of a student who didn’t get into college because he wrote an admission essay about the movie Animal House (“10 Crazy Reasons People Got Rejected From College”).
Remember what I said earlier about writing an accurate paraphrase? This is a good example.
This attempted paraphrase is about college admissions essays, but that’s where the accuracy stops. Make sure to read the source carefully so you paraphrase correctly.
Correct: College admissions officers generally tell students not to write their admissions essays about a lesson they learned when being stoned or drunk; however, some students still ignore the advice. For instance, one student wrote about the conversation in Animal House, as if it were his own stoned experience, about the solar system as an atom and the earth as an election (“10 Crazy Reasons People Got Rejected From College”).
Example Paraphrase 7. “Over-the-top international fast-food items”
Original source: “For some reason, cheese-topped donuts are quite popular in Indonesia, and in September 2013 KFC decided to get in on the action, offering a glazed donut topped with shredded Swiss and cheddar cheese.”
Incorrect: Cheese-topped donuts are popular in Indonesia. In September 2013, KFC decided to offer a glazed donut topped with shredded Swiss and cheddar cheese (“Over the top international fast-food items”).
This example is outright plagiarism. This isn’t a paraphrase at all; it simply omits a few words.
Even though it includes a proper MLA in-text citation, it doesn’t rewrite the original using your own wording or sentence structure.
Correct: In 2013, a KFC in Indonesia began selling shredded Swiss and cheddar cheese topped glazed donuts, a treat that is popular in this Asian country. (“Over the top international fast-food items”).
Example Paraphrase 8. “Original Batmobile, built in 1963, fetches $137,000”
Original source: “DALLAS (Reuters) – Holy Bargain, Batman! The original Batmobile fetched $137,000 at auction on Saturday, a small fraction of the $4.2 million that a buyer paid last year for another version built for the television show that aired during the 1960s.”
Here’s a case of not reading carefully!
Reread the original again. You’ll see that the paraphrase is inaccurate. The Batmobile built for the 1960’s TV show actually sold for $4.2 million.
Correct: The original Batmobile only sold for $137,000 at auction, but the Batmobile built for the 1960’s TVs show sold for $4.2 million the year before (“Original Batmobile, built in 1963, fetches $137,000”).
Example Paraphrase 9. “Police: Man Swapped furniture while neighbors away”
Original source: “TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state man is accused of swapping furniture with his neighbors while they were away.
“The News Tribune reports the Lakewood man and a friend who is accused of helping him pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of residential burglary.
“Court papers say a couple who returned to their apartment Monday found their love seat, matching chair and other belongings gone. A recliner and TV stand were left in their place.
Information on a traffic ticket and pizza receipt pointed to the neighbor.
“The man told police he thought the couple had moved and abandoned their furniture. Police say he told them he was drunk when he decided to switch furniture, calling his buddy for help.”
Where do I start with the problems here?
First, there is no citation. Without the citation, the paraphrase is plagiarized.
Second, the paraphrase is too brief and does not summarize the information accurately.
While the man did switch furniture with his neighbors, it’s important to note that he did so without his neighbor’s knowledge and while he was drunk.
Correct: A man pleaded not guilty to residential burglary even though he switched furniture with his neighbors while they were away. He was drunk at the time and claimed he thought his neighbors had moved and abandoned their furniture (“Police: Man Swapped furniture while neighbors away”).
Example Paraphrase 10. “Man Scares off Thieves with Gun on Walker”
Original source: “A 68-year-old Gastonia man says he scared off two men in ski masks trying to break in his home with his gun he can keep on his walker. And then he taped a note to his door saying if they try to break in his house again, he will be waiting on them.”
Incorrect: A 68-year-old man scared off two men trying to break into his home. He had a gun on his walker. He taped a note to his door to warn them. It said he would be waiting for them if they came back” (“Man Scares off Thieves with Gun on Walker”).
This paraphrase uses too many of the same word choices, but it also contains another error. Simply breaking a paraphrase into multiple sentences does not mean you’re writing it in your own words.
Correct: Two men attempted to break into a 68-year-old man’s home; however, they were scared off by the gun the man kept on his walker. Afterwards, the man taped a note to the door warning that he’d be waiting for the burglars if they came back” (“Man Scares off Thieves with Gun on Walker”)
What’s the Takeaway?
Remember these three tips to paraphrase like a pro.
- Include key points and sub-points from the original source.
- Write a paraphrase in your own words and use your own sentence structure.
- Always cite a paraphrase.
Still worried you don’t quite know how to paraphrase? Read How to Avoid Plagiarism: Paraphrasing and Summarizing and Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting.
Don’t forget to have our Kibin editors review your paper. While they can’t paraphrase your document for you, they can make sure that your paraphrasing makes sense and is grammatically correct!