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A paraphrase is...

• your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else,
presented in a new form.

• one legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a


• a more detailed restatement than a summary, which focuses concisely on a single main

When should I paraphrase, and when should I summarize?

To paraphrase means to express someone else's ideas in your own language. To summarize
means to distill only the most essential points of someone else's work.

Paraphrase and summary are indispensable tools in essay writing because they allow you to
include other people's ideas without cluttering up your essay with quotations. They help you take
greater control of your essay. Consider relying on either tool when an idea from one of your
sources is important to your essay but the wording is not. You should be guided in your choice of
which tool to use by considerations of space. But above all, think about how much of the detail
from your source is relevant to your argument. If all your reader needs to know is the bare bones,
then summarize.

Ultimately, be sure not to rely too heavily on either paraphrase or summary. Your ideas are
what matter most. Allow yourself the space to develop those ideas.
Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...

• it is better than quoting information from an undistinguished passage.

• it helps you control the temptation to quote too much.

• the mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full
meaning of the original.

6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

• Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.

• Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.

• Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you envision using
this material. At the top of the note card, write a key word or phrase to indicate the
subject of your paraphrase.
• Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately
expresses all the essential information in a new form.

• Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed
exactly from the source.

• Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can credit it easily if
you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.

How do I paraphrase?
Whenever you paraphrase, remember these two points:

1. You must provide a reference.

2. The paraphrase must be entirely in your own words. You must do more than merely substitute
phrases here and there. You must also completely alter the sentence structure.

It can be difficult to find new words for an idea that is already well expressed. The following strategy
will make the job of paraphrasing a lot easier:

1. When you are at the note-taking stage, and you come across a passage that may be useful for your
essay, do not copy the passage verbatim unless you think you will want to quote it.
2. If you think you will want to paraphrase the passage, make a note only of the author's basic point.
You don't even need to use full sentences.
3. In your note, you should already be translating the language of the original into your own words.
What matters is that you capture the original idea.
4. Make sure to include the page number of the original passage so that you can make a proper
reference later on.

When it comes time to write the paper, rely on your notes rather than on the author's work. You will
find it much easier to avoid borrowing from the original passage because you will not have recently seen
it. Follow this simple sequence:

1. Convert the ideas from your notes into full sentences.

2. Provide a reference.
3. Go back to the original to ensure that (a) your paraphrase is accurate and (b) you have truly said
things in your own words.

Task 1: Activity 1: What makes a good paraphrase?

Two undergraduate students, Jo and Sandra, are writing essays on 'The

Role of Stakeholders in Companies' for their business studies course.

They both want to refer to some of the key points made by the writer of
the text below, which focuses on the interest that governments have in
business enterprises.
Read the text and compare it with the two paragraphs written by Jo and Sandra,
paraphrasing the writer's main points. Which student has produced a better

Governments have interests in companies for a variety of reasons. Firms provide the economic
basis of the society and are both nourished and regulated by government with the intent of
keeping the economy healthy enough to sustain the society and, of course, the government.
Government may attempt to control the harms of business activity to other members of society.
In some societies, government runs the economy via central planning mechanisms and state
ownership of enterprise. The role of government is so important, in fact, that we have already
devoted chapter 3 to it. (Wartick and Wood, 1998)

Jo's paraphrase:

Wartick and Wood (1998:103) point out that governments can have a wide range of interests in
companies, from supporting them in order to help the economy, to regulating them in order to
stop them harming the rest of society.

Sandra's paraphrase:

According to Wartick and Wood (1998), governments have interests for a variety of reasons.
They are both nourished and regulated by government, in order to keep the economy healthy
enough to sustain the society. On the other hand, the government may also attempt to control
the harms of business activity to others in society. In some countries there is a centralised
economy, which the government runs.1

What Jo does:

Removes unusual (and possibly distracting) words

Keeps the paraphrase as simple as possible
Expresses the main ideas in her own words
Expresses the points concisely

Jo also provides a reference to the source and uses a suitable reporting verb [Wartick and Wood
(1998:103) point out that...].

What Jo doesn't do:

Use the same sentence structure as the original paragraph

Use the same words as the original
Copy complete phrases from the original text

Although Sandra's paraphrase contains a source reference [According to Wartick and Wood
(1998)...], her paraphrase is too similar to the original text. She does not try to express the
main points in her own words; instead she keeps the unusual or poetic words ('nourished',
'sustain') and simply replaces a few other words. This does not make the text any easier to
understand and she could write this without necessarily understanding the text fully.

(The second student did not produce a good paraphrase. Can you explain why?)
Sandra tries to keep as much of the original text as possible in her paraphrase, and she also
keeps the final sentence about centralisation (which Jo drops). However, she does not link it with
the earlier sentences, and so the final sentence does not seem to form part of her argument. The
result is that her argument is not clear to the reader.

Task 2: Read the following passage; decide which paraphrase is:

a) Acceptable

b) Legitimate

c) Plagiarizing

The original passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse
quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript
should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact
transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers.
2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.

a) Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too
many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the
final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the
amount of source material copied while taking notes.

b) In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material
down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it
is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

c) Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help
minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).

Activity 3: Practice paraphrasing

Ian is writing a report about the design and development of customer satisfaction
programs. He wants to support his own argument using the following ideas that
he found in his source material and he plans to incorporate the main points using

Look at the four short extracts from Ian's source material, and try to do the

• Identify the main point or points in each extract

• Paraphrase the main points of each in a sentence or two
• Include a reference to the source material in each paraphrase
1. In analysing the results of numerous surveys of companies' experiences of customer
satisfaction programmes between 1997 and 2002, it is apparent that in the majority of
cases, the negatives outweighed the positives. This is particularly marked among companies
who sent customers an "off-the-shelf" survey, or one from another company. In
approximately 85% of these cases, the results were considered to be unsatisfactory.
2. The importance to a company of developing its own programme to measure satisfaction
cannot be overemphasised. Indeed, this seems to have been the keystone of all successful
3. The process of development of any customer satisfaction programme is a tentative one and
even allowing for experienced development teams and careful planning, there is likely to be a
need for review and revision during the process. The input of front-line members of staff
should be seen as a vital part of the process and may inform necessary modifications as well
as enhancements to be made to the programme.
4. During the implementation stage of most successful programmes, the
process was familiar to the majority of employees. They were encouraged by
senior management to report customer satisfaction information via internal
communication channels, and suggestions on possible improvements were
acknowledged and rewarded through recognition and personnel rewards.


Notice how the unusual or redundant words or expressions have been removed from all of the
paraphrases (e.g. keystone, cannot be overemphasised), repetition is avoided and generally, the
paraphrase is kept short and simple. The main points are expressed in the words of the writer
paraphrasing the ideas and sentence structure is often changed. A clear reference to the source
material is also included. These are the key points to remember when you are paraphrasing from
source material in your academic writing.

1. The majority of surveys between 1997 and 2002 reveal negative

experiences of customer satisfaction programmes among companies. Of those
who did not develop their own survey, 85% reported unsatisfactory experiences.
(Shaw, 2002).
2. Shaw (2002) stresses that the development of tailor-made customer
satisfaction programmes is an important factor in success.
3. According to Shaw (2002), it will probably be necessary to modify and improve the
programme using information gathered from an evaluation process and input from front-line

4. Shaw (2002) reported that staff familiarity with the customer satisfaction
programme is important for its successful implementation, as is encouraging
employees to report customer satisfaction and make suggestions through
offering rewards.

Task 3:

In this activity, you will explore the essentials of a good paraphrase. You will be using extracts
from textbooks and encyclopedia definitions of management. However, before going any further,
write your own definition of "management", which should include the most important roles of
"managers" below:
Now imagine that a student has been given the following essay title:

Compare and contrast what managers are supposed to do, according to textbook models, with
what they actually do, according to empirical studies of management.

She decides that it would be a good idea to define the term "management" in her introduction and
copies out the following definition from a business encyclopedia she consults in the library.

"Management is a process that is used to accomplish organizational goals; that is, a process that
is used to achieve what an organization wants to achieve. An organization could be a business, a
school, a city, a group of volunteers, or any governmental entity. Managers are the people to
whom this management task is assigned, and it is generally thought that they achieve the desired
goals through the key functions of (1) planning, (2) organizing, (3) directing, and (4)
controlling." ( Luft, R.L., 2000. entry on "Management". In MALONIS, J.,
ed.,"Encyclopedia of Business", 2nd. ed., Detroit: Gale Group )
Now that you have read the original extract, read the three paraphrases that follow it. Choose
which of the sentences that follow the extracts accurately describe the different paraphrases.
Paraphrase 1

In Luft's entry on "Management", in the "Encyclopedia of Business" (Malonis J. (Ed.) 2000), he

states that the way a group of people working together achieves its aims is through its managers.
He then divides their responsibilities into four key roles: 'planning', 'organising', 'directing' and

Paraphrase 2

Luft in his entry on "Management" in the "Encyclopedia of Business" (Malonis J. (Ed.) 2000),
states that management is the method that is used to achieve organisational aims; that is, the
method that is used to achieve what an organisation wants to achieve. He makes clear that an
organisation could be a business, a school, a town, a group of people working voluntarily, or any
governing body. Managers are the people who this task is given to, and it is agreed that they
achieve what they want through the key activities of planning, organising, directing and

Paraphrase 3

Management can best be defined as the system that is used for any organisation to succeed in
meeting its objectives. This organisation can take many forms and be large or small. The key
people in the accomplishment of these objectives are the managers. Their most important roles in
the process are, planning, organising, directing and controlling.
Now decide which of the following five sentences about the above paraphrases are true and
which are false.

1. All the above paraphrases are acceptable because key vocabulary has been changed.
2. None of the above paraphrases is acceptable because the last four "key functions"
have not been changed.
3. The second paraphrase is unacceptable because it is too close to the original.
4. The first paraphrase is unacceptable because it is shorter than the original.
5. The third paraphrase is unacceptable because it does not include a citation.

Answer: Sentences 3 and 5 are true, but sentences 1, 2 and 4 are false.

Although key vocabulary has been changed in all of the paraphrases, the second paraphrase is
too similar to the original. This is the case in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure and the
order of information.
It is not necessary to change the four last "key functions" in the paraphrases, as to do so would
risk changing the original content of the source.
Although the first paraphrase is shorter, the essential information has been included, so this is not
Even though the third paraphrase is otherwise a good example of paraphrase, it is still very
important to reference your original source so as to avoid accusations of plagiarism.