Paraphrasing authors

Key words: paraphrase, acceptable/unacceptable paraphrase, sham paraphrase, patchworking, plagiarism

Paraphrasing (writing information in your own words) is a highly acceptable way to include the ideas of other people in your writing. It is very important, however, to paraphrase correctly because there is a fine balance between acceptable paraphrasing and unacceptable paraphrasing (plagiarism).

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

About paraphrasing authors 

To paraphrase is to rewrite something ‘in your own words’. Lecturers like to see you using paraphrasing in your writing because it demonstrates what you know and understand about their subject (because it is in your own words).

Most of your academic reading texts are made up of paraphrases. Any information in a paragraph that does not have quotation marks and is referenced is either a paraphrase or a summary.

Exercise 1: Paraphrasing in your writing

Click on ‘Start analysis’ to see how paraphrasing works in your academic paragraphs.

For ALL paraphrases:
  • Keep the meaning the same as the original writing
  • Change most of the words except for technical terms
  • Restructure the sentence patterns
  • Blend with the sentence (use reporting words)
  • Use strong/weak author to acknowledge the source
  • Reference the source/s of information

Steps for paraphrasing

The techniques for successful paraphrasing may be picked up quickly if you know a few strategies. You can use a step-by-step approach. The order of each step is fairly intuitive.

Exercise 2: Steps for paraphrasing

Put these six steps for paraphrasing into the correct order by dragging them across to the appropriate number.

Click on each link for a description

Subject-specific words

These are specialised words and phrases that have special meaning in your subject area. There is usually no everyday language equivalent. Lecturers would want you to use this vocabulary.

Example subject-specific words from a gender studies text

Traditionally, in oral and written discourse, the masculine pronoun ‘he’ was always used to refer to a person whose gender was unknown or irrelevant to the context. Recently, this usage has come under criticism for supporting gender-based stereotypes and is increasingly considered inappropriate (adapted from Wikipedia).
Synonyms

These are those words or phrases that can be changed in your paraphrase because they have every-day meaning. Provided that they match the meaning of the text, you can exchange every-day words in your text for synonyms. A quick reference for synonyms is to use your word processing tools ( tools > language > thesaurus ) while you are writing OR use a good dictionary and thesaurus.

Example synonyms (changeable words)

Some examples of suitable synonyms could be:

  • traditionally = customarily
  • unknown or irrelevant = not known or not important
  • recently = in recent times
  • usage = generally accepted practice
  • come under criticism = been considered unfavourably; found fault with
  • increasingly = gradually more / progressively
  • considered inappropriate = thought to be improper/unsuitable
Changing sentence structure

This process is probably the most important step you need to take in paraphrasing another person’s writing. It is not enough to change the words and nor is it enough to just turn a sentence around.

Example: Changing sentence structure from a gender studies text.

Traditionally, in oral and written discourses, the masculine pronoun ‘he’ was always to refer to a person whose gender was unknown or irrelevant to the context (adapted from Wikipedia).

Plagiarism (sentence structure not changed enough!)
In oral and written discourses, the masculine pronoun ‘he’ was customarily always used to allude to a person whose gender was not known or unimportant to the context (adapted from Wikipedia).

Not plagiarism (sentence structure more ‘in my own words’)
If the gender of a person was not known or unimportant to the meaning of oral and written discourses, it has always been customary to use the masculine form of ‘he’ when a pronoun was required (adapted from Wikipedia).

Assessing your paraphrase 

It is critical that you assess every paraphrase of an author’s work. Following are guidelines to help you to practise doing this activity accurately, so that you will avoid plagiarism problems.

Exercise 3: Assessing a paraphrase for plagiarism

Read the texts below and then answer the questions that follow.

Original text

Traditionally, in oral and written discourses, the masculine pronoun ‘he’ was used as a pronoun to refer to a person whose gender was unknown or irrelevant to the context. Recently, this usage has come under criticism for supporting gender-based stereotypes and is increasingly considered inappropriate (reference).
(adapted from Wikipedia)

Paraphrase 1 Paraphrase 2
If the gender of a person was not known or was unimportant to the meaning of oral or written discourses, it was customary to use the masculine form of ‘he’ when a pronoun was required. In modern usage, however, there has been growing concern about this practice because it appears to privilege stereotypes based on gender (reference). In oral and written discourses, it has been traditional to use the masculine ‘he’ as a pronoun to refer to an individual whose gender was not known or irrelevant to the context. Increasingly, in recent times, this usage has been criticised for supporting gender-based stereotypes that are considered inappropriate (reference).

Compare paraphrase 1 and 2 to the original text. For a paraphrase to be acceptable, you need to be able to answer yes to the following:

  1. The meaning is the same
  2. Most of the words have been changed.
  3. The sentences have been significantly restructured.
  4. The information is referenced.
  5. All the rules for paraphrasing have been followed.

Choose the appropriate response to these paraphrases:

Paraphrase 1 is acceptable

Correct! Only paraphrase 1 is acceptable. Paraphrase 2 has mostly the same words and the sentence structure has only been changed in small ways. Paraphrase 2 would be considered plagiarised writing.

Paraphrase 2 is acceptable

Incorrect.

Paraphrase 1 & 2 are both acceptable

Incorrect.

Don’t do this!

  • Don’t just change a couple of words from your information source and think that it is an acceptable paraphrase—adding a reference makes no difference! Either use a direct quote (the author’s exact words) or change the words of the author significantly so that it is a correct paraphrase. SHAM PARAPHRASING
  • Don’t just switch around sentence parts from your information source and add a reference, then think that it is an acceptable paraphrase—adding a reference makes no difference! Either use a direct quote (the author’s exact words) or change the sentences significantly so that it a correct paraphrase. SHAM PARAPHRASING
  • Avoid patchworking (cutting and pasting and copying bits of information from a variety of sources and connecting it all together in a paragraph, usually without references). It is a good strategy to use information from different sources in a paragraph but you must paraphrase and reference each and every piece of evidence correctly.
More information:
ASO factsheet: Paraphrasing and summarising

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail