Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is rewriting in your own words. It is a type of reporting what someone else has written. This skill is used most often when you have read something in a book or article that you want to use in your essay. Of course, you always have the option to quote directly from what you have read, but it is good practice to limit the number of direct quotations in your essay. Paraphrasing is what you do when you quote indirectly. Because a paraphrase is a type of quotation, you always need to acknowledge the original author.

This website uses a version of the Harvard referencing system in citations. It is imperative you use the accepted system for your department and that your use is consistent throughout your essay.

When you paraphrase, you show you have understood what you have read. Paraphrasing is finding another way to explain something. If you do not understand what you are reading, you will not be able to paraphrase. When you paraphrase, you should not change the meaning of the original writing.

It is not enough just to change one or two words in a sentence; nor is it enough just to change the word order of the sentence. This would be plagiarising. You have to understand the meaning and put this in your own words. Of course, the ‘best’ words have already been used by the author you are reading, but there is always more than one way of putting the ideas down in writing. Some technical or specialist vocabulary cannot be changed.

Following these stages will help you to paraphrase:

  1. Read and understand the text.
  2. Find the important ideas, highlight the important words/phrases and find synonyms for non-technical/non-specialist vocabulary. Make notes.
  3. Change the structure of the text where possible; for example, by changing to the passive voice, you can change the subject. Change adjectives to adverbs, nouns to verbs, and vice versa.
  4. Rewrite using your notes. Keep the same meaning.
  5. Acknowledge the original author.

Read the following text (used with the kind permission of the author) and then look at how it was paraphrased, including the process:

Bibliographical reference:

Broady, Elspeth. (2004). ’Sameness and difference: the challenge of culture in language teaching’. Language Learning Journal, Summer 2004, No 29, 68-72

Direct quotation:

Broady concludes:

We no longer have the luxury of seeing ‘culture’ as just the literary canon associated with a particular language or a body of facts about a country. Further, we cannot assume that openness to other cultures happens by osmosis in the language classroom. As the articles reviewed here make clear, encouraging positive contact between cultures means not just building our knowledge of other cultures, but constantly questioning our own assumptions.

(Broady, 2004, p.72)

Important words and phrases highlighted:

We no longer have the luxury of seeing ‘culture’ as just the literary canon associated with a particular language or a body of facts about a country. Further, we cannot assume that openness to other cultures happens by osmosis in the language classroom. As the articles reviewed here make clear, encouraging positive contact between cultures means not just building our knowledge of other cultures, but constantly questioning our own assumptions.

Original words

Paraphrase

No longer

Not now

Seeing culture

Being aware of culture

Literary canon

What has been written about something

Openness

Receptivity

By osmosis

Picking it up/ acquire gradually

Question

Challenge/examine

Assumptions

Beliefs

Paraphrase:

Broady (2004, p.72) concludes that these days, being aware of a culture cannot just be through facts about or the language of a nation; nor can being receptive to the culture of others necessarily be acquired in the language classroom. In addition to these aspects, we should continually examine our own beliefs to inspire beneficial connections between cultures.