You are here

Techniques for Paraphrasing

When you write a paraphrase, you restate other’s ideas in your own words. That is, you write the meaning of the author’s ideas. You use some of the author’s key terms, but you use many of your own words and sentence structures. You include in-text citation, including the author’s last name and (for APA style) the year of publication.

An effective paraphrase includes more than one of the following techniques. If you use only one of these techniques when paraphrasing, you have not paraphrased effectively.

  1. Change a word from one part of speech to another

Original:  Medical professor John Swanson says that global changes are influencing the spread of disease.

Paraphrase:  According to John Swanson, a professor of medicine, changes across the globe are causing diseases to spread (James, 2004).

  1. Use synonyms

Original:  The U.S. government declared that the AIDS crisis poses a national security threat.  The announcement followed an intelligence report that found high rates of HIV infection could lead to widespread political destabilization.

Paraphrase: The government of the United States announced that AIDS could harm the nation's security.  The government warned the population after an important governmental study concluded that political problems could result from large numbers of people infected with HIV (Snell, 2005).

  1. Change numbers and percentages to different forms

Original: Minority groups in the United States have been hit hardest by the epidemic.  African Americans, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 46 percent of the AIDS cases diagnosed in 1998.

Paraphrase: The AIDS epidemic has mostly affected minorities in the United States.  For example, in 1998, less than 15 percent of the total population was African, but almost half of the people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States that year were African America (Jenson, 2000).

  1. Change word order: this might include changing from active to passive voice or moving modifiers to different positions.  

Original: Angier (2001) reported that malaria kills more than one million people annually, the overwhelming majority of them children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Paraphrase: Every year, more than a million people are killed by malaria, and most of the victims are children who live in sub-Saharan Africa (Angier, 2001).

    5. Use different definition structures

Original: Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease caused by a bacterium transmitted by ticks (small bloodsucking arachnids that attach themselves to larger animals). The disease is usually characterized by a rash followed by flu-like symptoms, including fever, joint pain, and headache.

Paraphrase: Lyme disease-a disease that causes swelling and redness-is caused by a bacterium carried by a small arachnid known as a tick. The ticks attach to and suck the blood of animals and humans, transferring some of the Lyme disease bacteria into their hosts and causing symptoms similar to the flu (Wald, 2005).

    6. Use different attribution signals

Original: “That’s because there are so many different ways the diseases could have arrived,” veterinarian Mark Walters declared in his recent book, Six Modern Plagues.

Paraphrase: According to Mark Walters, a veterinarian who wrote Six Modern Plagues, the disease could have arrived in numerous ways (Peterson, 2004).

   7. Change the sentence structure and use different connecting words

Original:  Although only about one-tenth of the world’s population lives there, sub-Saharan Africa remains the hardest hit region, accounting for 72 percent of the people infected with HIV during 2000.

Paraphrase: Approximately 10 percent of the world’s population resides in sub-Saharan Africa.  However, this area of the world has the highest percentage of AIDS-related illnesses.  In fact, in 2000, almost three-fourths of the population had the HIV virus (Bunting, 2004).

Caution: When paraphrasing, do not change key terms or proper nouns.

Original: In the northeastern United States, people are building homes on the edge of woods, where ticks that carry Lyme disease hitch rides on deer.  In addition, in Africa, hunters bring back the meat of animals that scientists think may transmit Ebola, a usually fatal disease that causes massive hemorrhaging in its victims.

Paraphrase: In the United States, residential areas are being built near wooded areas in the northeast. These areas are also the homes of ticks carrying Lyme disease.  Also, according to scientists, hunters in Africa kill animals that may carry the Ebola virus (an often fatal virus that causes massive hemorrhaging) (Yaya, 2004).

Schuemann, C., Bryd, P., & Reid, J. (2006). College Writing 4 (1st ed.). USA: Heinle/ELT. Reproduced by permission.