How to Paraphrase – Description and Explanation

What is paraphrasing?

Definition: To paraphrase means to reword or restatement a text or a paragraph to expand clarify, borrow or expand information without copying and by plagiarism laws.

A paraphrase is different from summary since a paraphrase focusses on a single idea which is the main idea and is more detailed than the summary. To differentiate between summarizing and paraphrasing, consider the following example:

Example of the original statement is as follows:

  • At school, students are not only taught theory in class, but they are also taught different activities in the field. The events in the field include football, athletics and tennis and other physical activities that keep them fit.

Example of the summary will look like this:

  • At school, students are taught theory in class and also different events in the field

Example of a paraphrased statement will be as follows:

  • At school, pupils learn theory in class and different field events that keep them fit which range from football, athletics, tennis, and others

Types of paraphrasing and paraphrasing exercises

The following includes the different types of paraphrasing and paraphrasing exercises:

  1. Paraphrasing in which changes the part of speech

In this type, the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are replaced by other new nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs

An example, in a sentence, would be as follows:

The girl quickly read the novel, finishing the first

A paraphrase of this sentence would be as follows:

The quick girl finished the first when she read the novel

In the above example, many parts of speech have been changed. For instance, quickly which is an adverb becomes quick which is an adjective.

  1.  Paraphrasing in which the structure of the sentence changes

It may include creating an active voice from a passive voice in a sentence and vice versa. It shows the interpretation of the writer of the sentence

For example, if the sentence was as follows:

Children were taken to school by their parents

Then the paraphrased sentence will be as follows:

Parents took their children to school

In this sentence, (parents) which is the subject of the sentence becomes the subject of the sentence with an active voice (took) rather than passive voice (were taken)

  1. Paraphrasing in which there is the reduction of clauses.

It includes removing of other phrases in the sentence.An example in a sentence is as follows:

The original sentence is as follows: While I know well what you want in life, and truly appreciate that, I wish you would listen to others advice, like Abdul does. The paraphrased sentence will look like this: I know what in life and appreciate that, but I wish you would be more like Abdul and listen to others advice

  1. Paraphrasing involving replacement of synonyms

Here you just use words which are synonyms to the original words instead of writing the original words in the sentence

For example, if an original sentence was like this:

  • The senior persons in the family are the parents

The paraphrased sentence will be as follows:

  • The older persons in the family are the parents

How to paraphrase a quote

The following shows the steps involved in paraphrasing a quote:

  1. Read carefully the original quote that you are dealing with.

The quote should not exceed three sentences. Ensure you understand the meaning first before you continue. You should have well information about the quote to avoid giving the wrong information.

  1. Write notes as you continue reading the quote.

This includes writing the main ideas and highlighting the keywords in your work. These notes will be used in your next step to ensure you write down all the main ideas

  1. Use your own words to rewrite the original copy

Write the quote in your own words by using the information you acquired from the original copy that is what you learned and the notes you wrote down while reading the original quote. Note that you should mix up both the sentence structure and the language in that you substitute the words and also changing the structure of the sentences. Use the thesaurus for help if you lack words for substitution, and these words must have the same counterparts as the original words to avoid changing the original meaning of the sentences.

  1.  Compare your paraphrase with the original meaning of the sentence.

Read your work then read the original copy then read them together while you consider the following:

  • the sentences structure of your paraphrased work should be different from the sentence structures of the original quote to avoid plagiarism
  • the words used in the original quote should not be the same as those in your paraphrased work to prevent plagiarism also
  • the kind of words you use to paraphrase your work should have the original meaning of the sentences of the quote you are working on. Avoid a lot of changes of the words to avoid changing the original meaning of the passage.

Read also: Plagiarizing yourself: crime or not?

  1. Cite your work using either MLA style or APA style.

It depends on the required format. For example, if you are using MLA style to cite your work, write the last name of the author and then the page number within the text.

An example within the text will be as follows:

“Parents should ensure their children get the proper education” (Miles 45-50)

Note that at the “Work Cited” page which is at the end of the paper, you will have to write more information about the source of the work that you provided within the text

When using the MLA style, write the last name of the author and then the year of publication within the text.

An example within the text will be as follows:

“Parents should ensure their children get the proper education in their academic years” (Miles 1996)


According to Miles (1996), parents should ensure their children get the proper education in their academic years

Note that at the “References” page, you will have to write more information about the source of the work that you provided within the text.

Tips on paraphrasing

It is good to understand how to paraphrase because failure to adhere to the required standards would lead to plagiarism. The following shows some tips on paraphrasing which makes paraphrasing effective:

  • You should ensure that you use your own words. Paraphrasing is the writing of a similar idea in a different version, so you need to be cautious when it comes to the choice of words.
  • When you need to quote the words of another person, then use quotes. Using quotes will help the reader understand that it is not your words in use and hence you will have avoided cases of unoriginality.
  • You should cite your work. Since paraphrasing entails using the same idea in a different version, you need to cite your work to acknowledge the fact that it is not your idea.
  • List the ideas that you need to paraphrase in point form before you get to write them. Once you have listed your points it becomes easier to plan them, you will know which idea comes first and last and this makes your work more appealing.
  • Go through the work that you are to write first before you start it. Going through the work first helps you to understand roughly what the writer is talking about and from there you can easily understand how to paraphrase the piece.

Importance of proper paraphrasing

  • Proper paraphrasing of statements helps to avoid plagiarism. It is important to paraphrase your work so that it does not appear plagiarized.  If you do not paraphrase your work will by ensuring you change the usage of the original words by substituting them with other words without changing the original meaning of the sentence and also changing the structure of your sentences, then your work will be prone to plagiarism.
  • To show the reference of your work’s source. This will show the reference of the source of your work whereby there will be no quoting directly the type of quote you are paraphrasing and the quote will also be further explained.
  • Paraphrasing your work correctly prevents mistakes while citing the source of your work. This is because if you paraphrase wrongly and end up changing the original meaning of your statement, it would not match the source you will provide in your citation
  • It helps the writer of the original copy to make a correction on their work and gain more information about his or her work by reading the paraphrased work which is done on their work by other people. Writers can identify their mistakes that they did in writing their original work and correct them in the future to give out the most appropriate information for their readers and people or learners in their field
  • It also helps writers in rephrasing their work. Paraphrasing is essential for writers of essays and journals as it helps them to rephrase their work creatively without any plagiarism in their work

This guide will help you to understand how to paraphrase different pieces of writing be it articles, essays, journals, etc.