Chapter 19: Paraphrasing Sources

Introduction to Chapter 19

Sometimes, the rules surrounding plagiarism may seem confusing, so many new writers err on the side of caution by using the simplest form of source integration: direct quotes. However, using direct quotes is not always the best way to use a source.

Paraphrasing a text is sometimes a more effective means of supporting a writer’s argument than directly quoting. Taking into consideration the purpose of their own writing and the purpose of utilizing the outside source, authors should seek to vary the ways in which they work sources into their own writing.

19.1     What is a Paraphrase?

When writers paraphrase, they rewrite someone else’s idea in their own words without changing the original meaning while changing the structure of the original. ​A paraphrase is about the same length as the original.

In a paraphrase, writers use their own words to explain the specific points another writer has made. If the original text refers to an idea or term discussed earlier in the text, the writer’s paraphrase may also need to explain or define that idea. Writers may also need to interpret specific terms made by another writer in the original text.

Writers should be careful not to add information or commentary that isn’t part of the original passage. This means writers should save their comments and analysis until after they have finished their paraphrase.

Paraphrases still require a citation. Even when a writer uses someone else’s ideas and puts those ideas into their own words, they still need to acknowledge the source of those ideas.

19.2     Reasons to Paraphrase

Writers paraphrase for several reasons including:

  • To avoid too many quotes in an essay
  • To present, compare, or contrast the contributions of others in a writer’s own writing style
  • To show that they understood the information they are using as they are not simply copying it, but rewording and restructuring it

19.3     Sample Paraphrases

Review the following example to see strong and weak examples of paraphrasing.

Weak and Strong Paraphrasing

Quotation: “In this qualitative study, it was found that resource nurses provided peer-to-peer support to novice nurses in the critical care environment. It was noted that as the most experienced nurses on the unit, resource nurses were essential to overseeing the hour-by-hour functioning of the unit and helping novice nurses manage unstable patients” (Midac).

Weak Paraphrase: A qualitative study by Midac indicated that resource nurses provided peer-to-peer support to new nurses in critical care. Midac found that these experienced nurses were essential to supervising the hour-by-hour functioning of the unit and helping novice nurses manage unstable patients.

Strong Paraphrase: Findings from a qualitative study reflect the provision of mentorship by resource nurses to entry-level nurses (Midac, 2018). In critical care environments, these expert nurses were found to be vital so that novice nurses felt supported and competent to care for unstable patients (Midac, 2018).

In the example above, notice how the weak paraphrase was insufficient because it was still almost a direct quotation. For example, the original words “resource nurses provided peer-to-peer support to new nurses” are the same in the original quote and in the paraphrase.

In contrast, the strong paraphrase uses synonyms and a different sentence structure. The writer has shown that they can state the idea in a new way.

19.4     How to Paraphrase

Writers can follow a five-step process to paraphrase:

Step 1: Understand the original text. Read the source material several times to ensure you understand the material.

Step 2: Separate the section of text into chunks and label each chunk with a number.

Step 3: Without looking at the original, explain what you read. Then write down what you explained.

Step 4: Complete a meaning check and a structure check. Ensure you have included the original meaning of the sentence(s). Then ensure that you have changed the sentence structure, the order of the words, used synonyms and used different types of connecting words.

Step 5: Add an in-text citation that includes the author’s name (or title of the source if there is no author) and the page number (if included in the source).

Watch the video on five steps to paraphrase at this link.

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Integrated Reading and Writing Level 2 by Pamela Herrington Moriarty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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