Students who are not familiar with paraphrasing can easily understand it: it is encapsulating a passage from a text in your words. Instead of quoting something directly, you express ideas and/or data in a personal way. It is done for various reasons: it is great for students to learn how to absorb knowledge and to be able to reiterate it with a fresh style; there should not be too many direct quotations in one paper, so paraphrasing helps to reduce that number; and it is recommended to use only direct quotations to show the authority of an author, the historical significance of a passage, or if paraphrasing would lose the meaning or feeling of the original writing.
So, how do you go about doing this correctly? Well here are some specific strategies to keep in mind:
- Try to absorb the information from the source in general and some of its important specifics.
- Write only the essential material in the passage in question.
- Explain the information/data in a simple manner and in an appropriate tone.
- You can insert short direct quotes in your paraphrased material.
- Don’t worry about shared terms and phrases.
The key to taking in information is reading it and jotting down quick notes about it. They do not need to be detailed at all. They can even be a string of words and phrases to remind you about what certain passages mean and what they illustrate. But when you are writing notes, do not copy any of the original words or phrases (shared terms do not apply). When the actual paraphrasing comes, glance at your notes, and recall the general and specific points you wanted to make.
- Essential material
Paraphrasing usually does not go on past three sentences. Four sentences at most. Any more than that and the paragraph will become long, and you are probably including stuff that is not essential. Try to be as concise and to the point as possible. There is no time for ranting or giving side anecdotes.
- Explain in a simple way and in an appropriate tone
One trick is to imagine you are explaining the passage you want to paraphrase to someone that is not familiar with the topic. This way you will make it as bare bones as possible. Search for ways to communicate rather than being fancy or convoluted. In addition to this, try to do your best to keep the tone of your paper intact, even while paraphrasing material. For example, if you have been writing an essay that is aimed at high school students, you don’t need to paraphrase research in an overly complicated manner, even if the source uses verbose language.
- Short direct quotes
There is an option to insert words and phrases within a paraphrased portion of text. This can help to clarify certain ideas and to express particular points. It should not be used too often, though.
- Shared terms and phrases
Each discipline and even topic has certain shared terms and phrases that are hard to escape from using. If the original passage you are paraphrasing employs these, don’t sweat about it. These are generic words that are not problematic to use in your papers.
Finally, the last piece of advice is more on the practical side. Please scan your papers with a plagiarism checker. This will make sure you don’t accidentally have some sort of similarity with existing content. Of course, you can use our checker, but there are several others on the internet that are useful as well.
We hope this explanation of different paraphrasing strategies has been helpful. Remember to stay safe in the academic world.