Paraphrasing
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KSU   -  English 1102/43 & 49   -   Mr. Hagin   -   Revised: 20 January 2005
CRC
 
 
 § DEFINITION
A paraphrase is a restatement of an author’s original ideas into your own words.  

It is essentially a translation of the author’s published ideas into the reader’s interpretation of them.  
 

 
When paraphrasing, your task is to translate someone else’s words into your own for the sake of summarizing, simplifying, or condensing it.  This is an essential skill to writing effective research papers.  When incorporating research into your essays, you often need to summarize or state it in a more casual form to shorten and simplify it.
 
 
 EXAMPLE
 
The original sentence:  

 “Until recently, criminologists could not afford to analyze DNA evidence for all homicide cases.”  
 

An effective paraphrase of this sentence:  

 “Crime labs now can use DNA for all murder cases.”  
   

NOTE: This paraphrase utilizes synonyms to replace key words.  Some are very close (DNA vs. DNA evidence and homicide vs. murder), while others take more liberties (criminologists vs. crime labs and could not vs. now can).  The essential meaning has been retained, however, despite these significant changes.  Avoid choosing synonyms that evoke different meanings or different degrees of meaning (such as woman vs. girl or good vs. great).  
 

 

The Importance of Proper Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is fundamental to studying, note taking, and essay writing.  The hardest task in paraphrasing is striking the balance between changing enough of the author’s wording into your own without losing the accuracy of the content or the author’s intentions and tone.
 

 HOW TO DO THIS
 
Another method to keep track of quotes and paraphrases is to highlight the author’s text with a highlighting marker; then, from these highlights, take notes only on what you highlighted.  This way, when you begin to compose your essay, you can work off your paraphrased notes knowing that they notes are already in your original words.  When you need an exact quote to add to your essay, you have the original article already highlighted.  I have used this method for many years with great success.  
 
 

Specify Between Paraphrased and Verbatim Information

You must be very careful when paraphrasing news articles for use in a research paper.  When taking notes, you should clearly indicate which words and phrases belong to the author and which are paraphrased.  An excellent way to keep track of this is to place quotation marks around quoted phrases.  Most of your notes should be rewritten into your own wording (paraphrase) anyway, so you won’t have to place too many quotes.  Only select quotes if the author’s wording cannot be modified adequately.
 

 CAUTION
 
Any time you incorporate a paraphrase of someone’s work into your own essay, you must give credit to your source.  Failure to do so could result in plagiarism.  Strive to change at least three aspects of every original sentence.  
 

Refer to sections 11.c and 11.d in your New Century Handbook (234-242).   
 

 

Four Paraphrasing Techniques

Replace a Phrase with a Word (or a Word with a Phrase)

When summarizing lengthy or complex quotes or passages, you can shorten the number of words you use in your paraphrase by condensing phrases into words.
 

 EXAMPLE
 
The original sentence:  

 “Until recently, criminologists could not afford to analyze DNA evidence for all homicide cases.”  
   

NOTE: If you can choose to begin your paraphrase with the word “criminologist,” then naturally shorten the phrase “until recently” by using it as a simple adverb (such as “recently” or “now”), eliminating the need for the extra words in the paraphrase.  
 

 

Start the Sentence Differently

Sometimes, many of the sentences that you summarize from abstracts end up being written in the same sentence construction.  Therefore, you may need to rearrange a few  phrases or clauses to enhance your variety and readability.
 

 EXAMPLE
 
Instead of beginning your paraphrase with the adverb phrase “Until recently,” begin with the simple subject (“criminologists” or “crime labs”).  
   

Refer to chapter 24 in your New Century Handbook  for a refresher on the parts of speech (pages 565-585).  
 

 

Replace a Word with a Synonym

Many words, especially nouns, verbs and adjectives, have counterparts that are interchangeable with the author’s original words.
 

 CAUTION
 
Not all synonyms suggest the exact same meanings, so be sure to double-check your changes with a dictionary when using a thesaurus.  Also, don’t simply substitute one word for another for the sake of doing so.  
 
 
 FOR YOUR INFORMATION
 
Do not replace an original word from the essay with a weaker word in the précis.  You are not trying to “dumb down” the essay, but you are attempting to clarify its basic, fundamental message. You are not trying to “dumb down” the essay, but you are attempting to clarify its basic, fundamental message.  
 
 
 EXAMPLES
 
Replacing the author’s original word “criminologists” with the word “cops” may change the intended meaning of the idea, since “cop” implies different connotations, images, and stereotypes than does “criminologists.”  Perhaps “crime lab” would work well.  

Likewise, strong synonyms exist for other words in that original sentence: “homicide” can become “murder” and “DNA evidence” can be shortened to “DNA.”  

I don’t think that “use” is the most effective replacement word for my sample paraphrase, but I felt that the verb “analyze” needed to be changed, since it dominates the author’s language in the original sentence.  Words like “scrutinize” and “interpret” would have been better choices in many circumstances, but, since criminologists are really “using” the new DNA scanning technology to place subjects at the scene of a crime, maybe this simple word works well enough.  

Remember, you are not trying to change an author’s original wording into baby talk, but you don’t want to puff it up artificially with bigger words either.  
   

NOTE: Specific nouns that are essential to the meaning of a sentence must remain intact (such as the U.S. Civil War, or President Harry S. Truman).  
 

 

Change Passive into Active Voice/Negative Slant to Positive

Replace any linking verbs with action verbs.  This will increase your options and improve the clarity of your summary.
 

 FOR YOUR INFORMATION
 
This original sentence contains a weak verb (“could not afford”), so replacing it with a more active one will improve the clarity of the paraphrase.  Notice further that changing the verb from a negative one (“could not afford”) to a positive one (“can use”) also enhances its mood without compromising that author’s tone (serious, academic, formal, etc.).  Beware of corrupting the author’s intended message with sloppy diction choices.  
 
 

Paraphrasing Example

The following 8-line poem by Robert Frost should serve as a good example for paraphrasing.  His poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is a metaphorical statement on how the beauty of Spring cannot last forever (and, ultimately, that the beauty of anything cannot last forever).  Please read the poem, then scan the paraphrase and read the analysis that follows.
 

 EXAMPLE POEM
 
“Nothing Gold Can Stay,” by Robert Frost  

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.   
 

 
 
Analysis 

(1)   Nature’s first green is gold, 
(2)   Her hardest hue to hold. 
(3)   Her early leaf’s a flower; 
(4)   But only so an hour. 
(5)   Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
(6)   So Eden sank to grief, 
(7)   So dawn goes down to day. 
(8)   Nothing gold can stay. 

 

A paraphrase of Frost’s poem, line by line:

(1) The first growths in Spring are more golden in color than green, (2) but this golden shade doesn’t last very long.  (3) The first sprouts on the branches are actually flower blossoms, (4) but they remain only for a very short time.  (5) Soon, the buds and blossoms give way to green leaves.  (6) The beauty of Eden (the Sumerian place of “delight”) eventually fades away, (7) and the golden rays of dawn are replaced by harsher tones of daylight (reality?).  (8) Nothing in Nature, even things that are most beautiful, lasts forever.
 

 FOR YOUR INFORMATION
 
Notice that a paraphrase can be (and should be, in this case) longer than the original, especially when you are paraphrasing highly edited or highly crafted language.  Paraphrases will nearly always be longer when interpreting poems, proverbs, legal documents, translated language, or other symbolic writing.  Well-written essays usually can convey the same information by using fewer words than do first drafts.  However, this economy of language is highly interpretive and suggestive, meaning that you often need to clarify its message by using more words in your paraphrase.