Dec 18, 2021

A Guide to Paraphrasing in Research Papers

Wordvice KH

Why Should You Paraphrase?

“Paraphrasing” is expressing the meaning of someone else’s words in your own words instead of quoting directly. Paraphrasing is applied both by the author of the text and by paper editors during the revision process.

By paraphrasing effectively, you can:

  • save space and keep your study more focused
  • distill complex information into language that general readers can understand
  • avoid plagiarism (and self-plagiarism) and provide your own authorial voice in your paper

When to Paraphrase and When to Use Direct Quotes

How to Paraphrase and Quote: General Formatting Rules

Direct Quote: simply a “copy-and-paste” of the original words and/or word order. In all research papers with formatting guidelines (APA, AMA, MLA, etc.), quoted text must be accompanied by quotation marks and in-text citations.

Paraphrasing:  can include some key terms from the original work but must use new language to represent the original work—DO NOT COPY THE ORIGINAL WORK. When you paraphrase, that is, rewrite text you want to use, you do not need to include quotation marks, but you must still cite the original work.

Changing Source Text into a Paraphrase

Step 1: Read important parts of the source material until you fully understand its meaning.

Step 2: Take some notes and list key terms of the source material.

Step 3: Write your own paragraph without looking at the source material, only using the key terms.

Step 4: Check to make sure your version captures important parts and intent of the source material.

Step 5: Indicate where your paraphrasing starts and ends using in-text citations.

Useful Tips for Paraphrasing

Use the following methods to make your paraphrases even stronger. Note that you should not apply only one of these rules in isolation—combine these techniques to reduce your chances of accidental plagiarism.

*Text in red indicates key changes from the source material.

Change the voice of the source text

By changing the voice of the sentence (active voice to passive; passive voice to active—have a look at this article for details on the different roles of both voices in scientific writing), you can alter the general structure of your paraphrase and put it into words that are more your own.

Use a thesaurus to find synonyms and related terms

A thesaurus (e.g., the one integrated in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary) can be an excellent resource for finding terms that are synonymous with or similar to those in the original text, especially for non-native English speakers. However, be careful not to use terms that you don’t fully understand or that might not make sense in the context of your paper.

Include introductory phrases with signaling terms.

Signaling terms (e.g., “they write,” “Kim notes that…” “He believes that…”) help smoothly introduce the work of other studies and let the reader know where your own ideas end and where the cited information begins.

Use specific signaling verbs to show your position

Authors also show their positions regarding the original content by using verbs that are neutral, that show agreement, or that show disagreement. A relative pronoun (“that,” “how,” “if”) is also used in many instances.

Merge multiple sentences of the source text into a one- or two-sentence paraphrase.

One major reason for paraphrasing is to capture the main idea of the original text without using so many words. Use only one sentence or two in your paraphrase to capture the main idea—even if the original is an entire paragraph.

Original Source Text:

The journal primarily considers empirical and theoretical investigations that enhance understanding of cognitive, motivational, affective, and behavioral psychological phenomena in work and organizational settings, broadly defined. Those psychological phenomena can be at one or multiple levels — individuals, groups, organizations, or cultures; in work settings such as business, education, training, health, service, government, or military institutions; and in the public or private sector, for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

(Source: Journal of Applied Psychology Website http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/apl/)

Brief Paraphrasing of Source Text:

The Journal of Applied Psychology accepts studies that increase understanding of a broad range of psychological phenomena and that apply to a variety of settings and levels, not limited by subgroup, institution, or sector (JAP, 2015).

Combine quotes and paraphrasing within the same sentence

Too often, research writers separate information from the current work and information cited from earlier studies into completely different sentences. This limits the dialogue between the works, makes it boring for readers, and can even create issues of plagiarism if the paper is composed of too much quoted material. Include direct quotes within your paraphrased sentences to fix all of these issues and make your research writing much smoother and more natural.

Some details from the original source are quoted because they are taken directly from the text. They provide important information that readers might need to know and it thus makes more sense to use quotes here.

Cite your sources, create a References list, and copy your citations to MS Word using the Wordvice Citation Generator.

wordvice citation generator with APA, MLA, Chicago, and Vancouver styles

Avoiding Plagiarism Through Paraphrasing

Although paraphrasing can be very helpful in helping to reduce instances of plagiarism, writers still need to follow the rules of citation and referencing carefully. Here are a few things you must keep in mind when paraphrasing any original material. Although paraphrasing can be very helpful in helping to reduce instances of plagiarism, writers still need to follow the rules of citation and referencing carefully. Here are a few things you must keep in mind when paraphrasing any original material, even your own earlier publications.

  • When you paraphrase, use your own terms along with the key terms from the source material.
  • Even when you paraphrase using your own terms, you still must provide in-text citations (according to the specific formatting requirements—APA, AMA, MLA, etc.).
  • If you are quoting or paraphrasing your own previous work, treat it as another person’s work (i.e., you must still use quotation marks and/or citations).

An Example of Plagiarism in Paraphrasing

The following example is an attempt at a paraphrase of the above source text taken from the Journal of Applied Psychology website. Note that the author does not follow the above-mentioned rules to avoid plagiarizing the work. Psychology website. Note that the author does not follow the above-mentioned rules to avoid plagiarizing the work.

Plagiarized Version of Source Text

The Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP 2015) accepts empirical and theoretical investigations that increase knowledge of motivational, affective, cognitive, and behavioral psychological phenomena in many settings, broadly conceived.

These phenomena can be at several levels—individual, teams, or cultures; in professional settings like business, education, training, health, government, or military institutions; and in either public or private sector, in nonprofit or for-profit institutions.

Some of the source text words have been changed or removed, but the underlined terms are identical to the original; overall the meaning and even the grammar structures have been copied. Finally, quotation marks are missing. Do not copy passages like this unless you put quotation marks around the content.

Examples of Multiple Attribution Methods:

In this paraphrase example, the details in the source text and how they have been changed in the paraphrase are indicated in red. Note the usage of signaling terms in each version to introduce the author’s content.

Original Source Text:

Fully grown penguins generate pressures of around 74 mm Hg to excrete liquid material and 430 mm Hg to excrete material of higher viscosity similar to that of oil.

Direct Quote

In her study of Antarctic penguin defecation habits, Brooks (1995, p.4) wrote, “fully grown Chinstrap penguins generate pressures of around 74 mm Hg to excrete liquid material and 430 mm Hg to excrete material of higher viscosity similar to that of oil.

*Quotations around quotes; citations included; many details provided; a complete sentence is quoted.

Paraphrase

When studying Chinstrap penguin defecation habits, Brooks (1995, p.4) observed that fully grown penguins generate a much higher pressure when excreting more viscous fecal matter.

*No quotation marks; citations included; the most important data fact is highlighted: “Penguins use more pressure to excrete thicker poo.”

Quote/Paraphrase Combination

When studying penguin defecation habits, Brooks (1995, p.4) observed that fully grown penguins vary in how they excrete waste, generating “pressures of around 74 mm Hg to excrete liquid material and 430 mm Hg to excrete material of higher viscosity similar to that of oil.”

*Quotation marks only around directly quoted information; citations included; the most important data fact is paraphrased; additional details provided by direct quote.

Paraphrasing Checklist

  • Write the paraphrased statement in your own words.
  • Always include a citation with a paraphrase—you are still using someone else’s ideas
  • When you use a direct quote, be sure to clarify the quote to show why you have included it.
  • Avoid using blocks of quoted text, especially in papers in the natural sciences. You can almost always use a paraphrase/quote combination instead.
  • Overall, focus on your study first—any extra information should be used to enhance your arguments or clarify your research.

Wordvice Resources

If you need more inspiration for putting original text passages into your own words, then head over to the Wordvice academic resources website, where you find examples of useful phrases for academic writing and common transition words in academic papers, our list of 100+ verbs that will make your research writing amazing, and many more articles on how to strengthen your academic writing skills.