3.4 How to Paraphrase

Try using this four-step method for effective paraphrase writing:

Step 1: Read the original text in its context, until you understand it fully.

Trying to paraphrase information out of context can lead to misunderstanding and therefore misrepresenting the information. Before trying to paraphrase something, read the passage in context and ask questions like:

  • What is the focus?
  • How does this information relate to my research topic?
  • What was the authors’ main finding/conclusion?

Once you have answered these questions, you will be prepared to identify the specific pieces of information that are relevant to your paper, and that you may want to paraphrase. Identify any words from the original that are essential terminology and cannot or should not be changed. Check your understanding of any unfamiliar words and concepts in a dictionary.

Example original text: 
Why did the baby boom happen? A likely explanation is that during those 20 years, Canadians knew they could afford large families. The postwar economy was robust, the future seemed full of promise, and young couples wanted to share that bright future with a big family. A second reason was the high immigration levels that prevailed during the 1950s.​ (Foot & Stoffman, 1996)

Step 2: Without looking at the original text, write a first draft of the paraphrase. 

First draft: The authors theorize that the baby boom likely happened for two main reasons: the postwar economy was healthy and full of promise and young couples who wanted a big family knew they would be able to afford it, and high immigration levels prevailed during the 1950s.

Step 3: Compare your paraphrase to the original passage to ensure it accurately conveys the ideas in your own words

Ask yourself:

  • Am I presenting the meaning of the passage accurately?
  • Have I used exact wording from the original unnecessarily?
  • Are there words or turns of phrase that are unique to the original that I want to retain and therefore must put in quotation marks?
Original Paraphrase – first draft

This paraphrase accurately captures the meaning of the original but contains language that is the same as or too similar to the original (see yellow highlighted language), so it does not constitute a successful paraphrase.

Why did the baby boom happen? A likely explanation is that during those 20 years, Canadians knew they could afford large families. The postwar economy was robust, the future seemed full of promise, and young couples wanted to share that bright future with a big family. A second reason was the high immigration levels that prevailed during the 1950s.​ (Foot & Stoffman, 1996) The authors theorize that the baby boom likely happened for two main reasons: the postwar economy was healthy and full of promise and young couples who wanted a big family knew they would be able to afford it, and high immigration levels prevailed during the 1950s.

Step 4: Revise the paraphrase if necessary. Integrate it into your assignment, making sure it is properly cited.

Original Paraphrase – first draft

Accurately captures the meaning of the original, but contains language that is the same as or too similar to the original, so does not constitute a successful paraphrase

Paraphrase — final draft

Very strong! This paraphrase accurately captures the meaning of the original in different wording.

Why did the baby boom happen? A likely explanation is that during those 20 years, Canadians knew they could afford large families. The postwar economy was robust, the future seemed full of promise, and young couples wanted to share that bright future with a big family. A second reason was the high immigration levels that prevailed during the 1950s.​ (Foot & Stoffman, 1996) Foot and Stoffman (1996) theorize that the baby boom likely happened for two main reasons: the postwar economy was healthy and full of promise and young couples who wanted a big family knew they would be able to afford it, and high immigration levels prevailed during the 1950s. Foot and Stoffman (1996) theorize that there were two main reasons behind the baby boom: a healthy economy that made young Canadians feel optimistic and gave them the confidence that they would have the means to support the large family they desired, and immigration that remained consistently high.​

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Academic Integrity Handbook by Donnie Calabrese; Emma Russell; Jasmine Hoover; and Tammy Byrne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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