The Research Process: 4a. Paraphrasing

A getting started and step-by-step guide to the research process.

Steps to Paraphrasing

To paraphrase, follow the steps below:

  1. Read the original text until you grasp its meaning; then set it aside.
    . 
  2. Using your memory, write down the main points or concepts. Do not copy the text verbatim.
    . 
  3. Change the structure of the text by varying the opening, changing the order of sentences, lengthening or shortening sentences, etc.
    . 
  4. Replace keywords within the sentences with synonyms or phrases with similar meanings.
  5. Check your notes against the original to ensure you have not accidentally plagiarized. 

Tip!

To avoid plagiarizing, you must change both the sentence structure and the words of the original text.

Paraphrasing Examples

Example 1
Original Text
If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists (Davis 26).
 
Unacceptable Borrowing of Phrases
Davis observed that the existence of a signing ape unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists (26).
 
Unacceptable Borrowing of Structure
Davis observed that if the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior (26).
 
Acceptable Paraphrase
Davis observed both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise upon learning of an ape’s ability to use sign language (26).

.........................................................................................................................

Example 2
Original Text
The automotive industry has not shown good judgment in designing automotive features that distract drivers. A classic example is the use of a touch-sensitive screen to replace al the controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although an interesting technology, such devices require that the driver take his eyes off the road.  ~Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi, Letter to a Massachusetts state senator, p.3
 
Unacceptable Borrowing
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi argue that the automotive industry has not demonstrated good judgment in devising car features that distract drivers. One feature is a touch-sensitive screen that replaced controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although the technology is interesting, such devices require that a driver look away from the road (3).
 
Acceptable Paraphrase
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi claim that motor vehicle manufacturers do not always design features with safety in mind. For example, when designers replaced radio, CD player, and temperature control knobs with touch-sensitive panels, they were forgetting one thing: To use the panels, drivers would need to take their eyes off the road (3).
 


Examples taken from, Hacker, Diana. Rules for Writers. 5th ed. Boston: Beford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

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