The Importance of Paraphrasing
What does paraphrasing mean? Paraphrasing is a vital academic skill that can help you inside and outside of school. It helps you restate an argument without plagiarizing. It helps you learn how to fully digest an argument to the extent that you can take it apart and rebuild it in your own words. You use it regularly without realizing it when you discuss a conversation you had without being able to remember the exact words! So how can you intentionally tap into paraphrasing skills and learn how to do it academically? We offer you our best tips.
The Experts on Paraphrasing
Many people start off their paraphrasing by looking at the passage and writing or typing as they do so. However, this can be counterproductive.
Instead, The University of Wisconsin at Madison suggests making a point of not looking at your source when you paraphrase. It can be far too much of a distract and can influence your writing. You might use the same phrases without even consciously realizing it!
Instead, read the passage through a couple of times. Familiarize yourself with the arguments. Consider what the main idea of the passage is; think about ways to restate the argument. You can even start thinking of synonyms while reading if that is helpful.
Once you’ve done this, close the book, minimize the tab, or put the paper aside. Write in your own words what the gist of the passage was. This technique should make it easier for you to start off with your own words. Try it instead of staring at your passage as you rack your brain for synonyms.
List of Paraphrasing Tips
So how can you paraphrase effectively? After all, the above information is good to know, but it doesn’t give you detailed instructions on how to properly use your own words. Consider these tips for professional paraphrasing.
- Read thoroughly: We discussed this to a certain degree in the above passage, but it bears repeating. You need to understand the source to have a hope of paraphrasing it.
- Start with the structure: Replacing word choice is important, but not enough. Restructuring the sentence is vital to avoid plagiarism. Simple substitution will look too similar, so rearrange the order of the sentence’s parts. To give you an example, that last sentence rephrased effectively might be: “Without rearranging the syntax of the sentence, word replacement doesn’t make much of a difference.”
- Use your thesaurus, but lightly: A thesaurus can be a very helpful and informative way of finding new words that can help you paraphrase more effectively. However, you should mostly use words that you’re already familiar with. More obscure ones can lead to jargon.
- Be careful about word choice: You might see the phrase “disabled people can still live happy lives just like abled people”. You might consult your thesaurus or your mental list of synonyms and decide that “ecstatic” is the best replacement and rewrite this sentence to “Like the able-bodied, the lives of disabled people can be ecstatic.” However, in this context, “contended” or “fulfilled” would be much more suitable and convey the author’s meaning more effectively.
- Streamline: When you rephrase, you are free to boil wordy sentences down to their essence. Don’t leave anything out, but feel free to make complex sentences simple. This can be a very effective way of changing structure too. For instance, “He fell into a bleak depression from which he never recovered, leaving his friends and family sick with worry” might be rephrased as “His friends and family worried because he became permanently depressed.” That’s nine words shorter with the exact same meaning!
Learning to Paraphrase Properly
Learning to paraphrase can make you more creative. You come up with new ways to say things without having to take on the extra stress of inventing the argument. Slowly, you’ll find that with paraphrasing, your creativity will come back and you’ll be ready to start making your own things again. Practice paraphrasing and be inspired.