How To Paraphrase Without Plagiarizing (5 Steps Plus Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 20, 2022

Published June 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Writing often relies on generating information from published sources to produce new knowledge, a vital process in research. One of the biggest mistakes one can make is plagiarizing an existing text while purporting to create additional information. That's why learning how to create your own content that's free of plagiarism is essential.

In this article, we answer the question "What is paraphrasing?" and explain why paraphrasing is important, demonstrate how to paraphrase and give you some paraphrasing tips.

What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is the process of taking a written or spoken passage and rephrasing it in your own words. It's essential to maintain the original meaning of a phrase to keep the facts intact. Whether you're writing a research paper or an essay, paraphrasing will enable you to express ideas in your own writing style and concentrate on the useful parts that ensure your text remains relevant. If you rely on someone else's idea to write an essay, you must give credit to the original author.

Read more: How To Improve Your English Writing Skills

Why is paraphrasing important?

Knowing how to paraphrase a text is an important skill for the following reasons:

Deepens your understanding of a topic

Paraphrasing helps you to understand the original source material on a deeper level. Successful paraphrasing can only happen if you understand the original material. Copying word for word is not only unethical, but it clearly shows you haven't understood the original wording.

Sends a positive message to your audience

Paraphrasing shows your audience that you have read and processed the original content to the extent that you can re-write it in your own words without dropping the intended meaning of the source. This is important because it will make whoever is reading your work feel confident in your grasp of the topic.

Related: 12 Tips for Starting a Career as an Author

Speaks of your integrity

Plagiarism is inherently unethical. Whether you are a student, a teacher or a researcher, expressing original content in your own words demonstrates your commitment to ethical scholarship.

Minimizes the need to use quotes

While quotations are important to convey specific information, over-reliance on quotes may lead to monotony and dull text. Quotes may also indicate that one has not sufficiently understood the original document. By paraphrasing a text, a writer reduces the recurrence of quotes in their documents, which enhances readability.

Places an argument in context

Paraphrasing allows you to set the stage for your own viewpoints. Paraphrasing another author's text allows you to take the reader through a particular journey and enables you to put your argument into its proper context. This way, a reader can understand the evolution of an idea or concept from one author or context to another.

Summarizes a lengthy text

Paraphrasing is an excellent way of summarizing a broad text into a few lines or pages. Constraints of time may not allow one to read everything. Through paraphrasing, information can be summarized to suit different audiences who may not have time to go through a longer report.

Read more: How To Become a Writer in 7 Steps

How to paraphrase

If you want to get better at expressing other people's ideas in your own words, here is how to do it:

1. Reread the original text to understand its meaning

The first step to effective paraphrasing is to read and understand the content from the original source. Skipping this step exposes the writer to the risk of depending on the original text too closely. Remember, the primary objective of paraphrasing is to interpret information researched to your readers as if you were speaking to someone. Understanding the original material also ensures the original meaning of the phrase remains intact.

2. Use a note card to write your own thoughts

After reading the text carefully, it's important that you write all the important phrases you want to include in your writing. Only note the most relevant texts followed by the author's citation information to keep track of the sources you use. Write a few words just below the paraphrase as a reminder of how you intend to use the phrases in your text. Ensures that you visualize the content you wish to paraphrase. Here is how to use note cards effectively in paraphrasing:

  • Use a different index card for every item.

  • Give all cards a topic to maintain your focus.

  • Write sources on the note cards to aid in citing your references.

  • Write numbers on each source you provide.

  • Quote all words copied directly from the source.

The good thing about note cards is that you can physically arrange content to form an essay outline. Producing a hard copy of paraphrased information eliminates the temptation to copy and paste text from original sources without proper quotes or paraphrasing.

3. Compare the original version and your rendition

Make sure you compare the two versions to ensure that the alternative version precisely expresses all the vital information required. An effective paraphrase has the following features:

  • Original: The paraphrasing must use your own words, phrasing and sentence structure.

  • Accurate: The paraphrasing must reflect the ideas and tone of the source.

  • Complete: The paraphrasing must incorporate all essential ideas in the original source.

Comparison ensures you don't misrepresent other people's positions on a particular subject. It also helps in ensuring you've captured all the important information you intend your audience to know.

4. Quote all the unique terms borrowed from the published source

If you decide to maintain some phrases from the original text, you must use quotation marks even if you paraphrase the rest of the content. When quoting material make sure you're mindful of the requirements of the style guide you're following (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). You'll need to provide page numbers and other details of the material you quote directly. Quotes are crucial when critiquing a certain claim, supporting your argument, commenting on the author's style or giving a clear definition.

5. Cite the sources to credit it in your paper

It is important to cite your sources correctly and completely. However, there are some situations where you don't have to cite phrases from original sources, such as instances where the information is common knowledge or common in your field. Recognizing the authors of the sources used in creating your own text is important for various reasons:

  • It gives readers additional sources for further reading about your topic.

  • It helps avoid plagiarism.

  • It increases your credibility, as it's evidence of a well-researched topic.

  • Proper citation ensures that readers can identify the who, what, when and where of the source.

Citation formats vary depending on your preferences, convention for your discipline or specifications from your instructor.

Read more: How To Become an Author

Tips for paraphrasing

Using the above paraphrasing steps may seem easy, but producing different content from the original sources without plagiarizing can be challenging. The following key points may come in handy and help you excel in the art of paraphrasing:

  • Synonyms: Synonyms are words that have the same meaning. Use as many synonyms as possible in your text to mark a clear departure from the original text wording.

  • Sentence structure: Paraphrase successfully by altering the sentence structure, such as from active to passive voice.

  • Break sentences: If the original author has included considerable information in a single sentence or paragraph, paraphrase by breaking the information into several shorter sentences.

  • Plagiarism software: Run your text through a plagiarism checker to establish the similarity index between your work and the original source. If the two texts are too similar, it means you haven't perfected your paraphrasing skills.

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