Paraphrasing, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is to “Express the meaning of (the writer or speaker or something written or spoken) using different words, especially to achieve greater clarity.”
What this means is that you, as an author, have to take what someone else said and relay the key information and ideas, but using your words.
For an example of this, just look above. The first paragraph in this article is a quote, where the second is a paraphrase of that quote.
But while the definition of paraphrasing is fairly straightforward, the execution of it often isn’t. However, in an era of text matching software and heightened vigilance about plagiarism, it’s important to know how to paraphrase correctly so that you don’t run afoul of attribution rules.
Fortunately, there’s a very simple system that can help you ensure you never get accused of plagiarism when paraphrasing, all one has to do is look away.
Asking the Correct Questions
When it comes to paraphrasing, many students ask questions such as “How many words do I need to change to make a sentence a paraphrase?”
The answer, ideally, is that you need to change all of them. If you’ve paraphrased correctly none of the original words will remain, just the information and ideas.
Furthermore, paraphrasing isn’t simply a matter of using synonyms to make your writing appear unique. If you’re focusing on swapping words or rearranging sentences, you’re thinking about paraphrasing the wrong way.
Instead, paraphrasing is about using someone else’s ideas and information with your voice, meaning the best place to start is with a blank screen.
3 Steps to a Great Paraphrase
If you’re struggling with paraphrasing, the easiest way to master it is with this simple, three-step procedures:
Read and Fully Understand the Source: Take the time to read and fully understand what you’re wanting to paraphrase. Take it in and focus on the key points that you want to get across.
Put it Away: Take the original source material and put it out of sight. Close the book, take it off your screen or otherwise get it where you can’t see it.
Write Out the Key Points: With the source material put away, you won’t be tempted to (or accidentally) use language from it. Take this opportunity to write out the key points without any of the original language.
Any attempt to copy and paste the source in will result, at best, in an awkward shift in voice that will be easily spotted by an instructor. At worst, it will result in unquoted source material being left behind, raising a possible plagiarism issue.
In short, if you want to paraphrase correctly, the best place to start is a blank screen. That way, you use only your voice and your words, thus making it completely your writing.