What is Paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is rewording another’s written or spoken words into your own words. This is done by presenting the meaning of the original statement with new words and an altered structure. For example, the above point could be paraphrased to: “Paraphrasing means to share another’s ideas in your own words, keeping the original meaning intact by simply changing the words used or structure involved”. The original point remains, but the wording and sentence structure has changed.
The focus is to convey the meaning of the original idea using your own words. This writing technique is usually used for a short individual passage or idea, and is not to be confused with summarising. A paraphrase will often be similar in length to the original statement, and will focus on the core points of that idea. In contrast, summaries usually involve synthesising a wide range of information to share the core theme, or results of a piece of work.
How to Paraphrase
There’s a five step approach to paraphrasing effectively. First, read the material carefully to extract meaning. It’s important to develop an understanding of the points being made in order to effectively convey this meaning to another. Second, note down the key concepts. What have you understood from the passage? What key points would you like someone else to understand? Third, attempt to paraphrase this information without looking at the original. You can do this using a range of methods:
- Use synonyms to keep some of the original content, without directly using the same words. “Teachers” could be replaced by “Educators”, or “Students” could become “Undergraduates”. This depends on the content, and it’s important to make sure you still convey the core points well.
- Rearrange the content by switching the order of certain phrases or sentences. This might involve switching from an active to a passive voice. Although it's best to use the active voice, this is an ideal way to begin paraphrasing content, giving you a starting point to work on. You can continue editing the first paraphrase to ensure it’s written in a clear and concise way.
- Utilise digital tools to get you started. In genei’s notepad, you can paraphrase your notes with the click of a button, giving you new words to work with. This is ideal because you can easily work with the notes made from your readings, and minimise your workflow to one space.
Fourth, compare your paraphrased version to the original. Check if words, sentences or phrases are too similar and make edits. You can also ensure your paraphrase is effective by noting down the core ideas in your paraphrase. Do these match those originally noted from the source? Finally, be sure to cite the source! You must still acknowledge that you have paraphrased someone else’s ideas.
The Importance of Paraphrasing
Paraphrasing is an important academic skill for avoiding plagiarism. However, this isn’t the only reason paraphrasing can be important. The process of paraphrasing involves actively engaging with the material you want to rework. This can improve your own knowledge of the idea you’re working with, which can be more effective for long term understanding in comparison to simply memorising facts. Likewise, the ability to paraphrase well, is evidence that you understand the content and core ideas involved.
Beyond academia, paraphrasing still proves to be essential. This technique can act as a bridge and communication tool for sharing valuable information with a non-specialist audience. Original sources of information can be hard to digest if you’re not familiar with the subject area, however, sometimes this information still needs to be communicated. Paraphrasing allows you to tailor ideas to a particular audience, making it accessible, while still retaining the core message. For example, being able to convey important business information to a client, would require certain professional documents and plans to be paraphrased for clearer communication.