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What is Paraphrasing? - Definition, Examples & Quiz

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Taught by

Patricia Vineski

In this lesson, you'll learn what a paraphrase is and how to accurately paraphrase information. Take a look at some examples, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

We also recommend watching Effective Prewriting: Instructions and Examples and

Paraphrasing Defined

We've all watched television shows or heard news stories we wanted to tell others about. We may have told our friends, our family, or our co-workers about what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. We recounted the storyline, the main characters, the events, and important points using our own words. This is paraphrasing - using your own words to express someone else's message or ideas. In a paraphrase, the ideas and meaning of the original source must be maintained; the main ideas need to come through, but the wording has to be your own.

Guidelines for Paraphrasing

How do you paraphrase a source?

  • Read the original two or three times or until you are sure you understand it.
  • Put the original aside and try to write the main ideas in your own words. Say what the source says, but no more, and try to reproduce the source's order of ideas and emphasis
  • Look closely at unfamiliar words, observing carefully the exact sense in which the writer uses the words.
  • Check your paraphrase, as often as needed, against the original for accurate tone and meaning, changing any words or phrases that match the original too closely. If the wording of the paraphrase is too close to the wording of the original, then it is plagiarism.
  • Include a citation for the source of the information (including the page numbers) so that you can cite the source accurately. Even when you paraphrase, you must still give credit to the original author.

Examples

Paraphrasing can be done with individual sentences or entire paragraphs.

Original sentence:

Her life spanned years of incredible change for women.

Paraphrased sentence:

Mary lived through an era of liberating reform for women.

Original sentence:

Giraffes like Acacia leaves and hay, and they can consume 75 pounds of food a day.

Paraphrased sentence:

A giraffe can eat up to 75 pounds of Acacia leaves and hay everyday.

Original sentence:

Any trip to Italy should include a visit to Tuscany to sample its exquisite wines.

Paraphrased sentence:

Be sure to include a Tuscan wine-tasting experience when visiting Italy.

Original Paragraph:

In The Sopranos, the mob is besieged as much by inner infidelity as it is by the federal government. Early in the series, the greatest threat to Tony's Family is his own biological family. One of his closest associates turns into a witness for the FBI, his mother colludes with his uncle to contract a hit on Tony and his kids click through Web sites that track the federal crackdown in Tony's gangland.

Paraphrased Paragraph:

In the first season of The Sopranos, Tony Soprano's mobster activities are more threatened by members of his biological family than by agents of the federal government. This familial betrayal is multi-pronged. Tony's closest friend and associate is an FBI informant, his mother and uncle are conspiring to have him killed, and his children are surfing the Web for information about his activities.

Here is a summary of some of the changes made during the paraphrasing process:

• 'Early in the series' = 'first season'

• 'More threatened' = 'greatest threat'

• 'His closest associates' = 'Tony's closest friend and associate'

• 'His mother colludes with his uncle' = 'his mother and uncle are conspiring'

• 'His kids click through Web sites' = 'his children are surfing the Web'

Lesson Summary

Remember, paraphrasing is using your own words to express someone else's ideas. If the wording of the paraphrase is too close to the wording of the original, then it is plagiarism. The main ideas need to come through, but the wording has to be your own. Always document the source of the information, so that you can cite the source accurately; paraphrased content must still cite the original source.

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