Paraphrasing means taking specific words from a source and rewriting them to appear in your own words. Paraphrasing should always be carefully cited, using the citation format required in the class or academic program.
Paraphrasing is an area many students have trouble with, often because they are paraphrasing for the wrong reasons.
Many students think that their essays should be in their words, and that including direct quotes from another author weakens their writing (and doesn’t contribute to the word count minimum). These are not good reasons to paraphrase.
So why would you paraphrase?
- If a writer’s words aren’t particularly powerful or memorable, or they include points that aren’t directly related to your writing, you might paraphrase.
- If you want to comment on a specific example the writer uses.
“George Smith discusses the peculiar story of the Titanic, the sheepherder, and the millionaire and concludes that…”
If you want to quickly present information that is unlikely to be questioned.
“Variety magazine reported that Steven Spielberg received a lifetime achievement Oscar for his films, stretching from the 1970s to today.”
Of course there are other reasons you might paraphrase, but these are the most common. In general, consider using more short direct quotations to capture the spirit of another writer’s work – even combining short quotes with paraphrase.
“Variety magazine reported that Steven Spielberg, “wearing a black Armani tuxedo,” received a lifetime achievement Oscar for his films, stretching from the 1970s to today.”
Using short quotes will help establish your credibility and lend specificity to your writing.