Here are some examples of good paraphrase. This chapter will explain how you can paraphrase this well, and why it's worth your time to do it:

Why paraphrase?


"If this sounds more like an affliction than a resume booster, that's because research has shown again and again that the human mind isn't meant to multitask. Even worse, research shows that multitasking can have long-term harmful effects on brain function" (Lapowsky).

Not only are our brains not designed for multitasking, but we can actually injure them by trying to do it (Lapowsky).

What does good paraphrase look like?

Good paraphrase has the following features:

  1. It accurately expresses the ideas and information from a short passage - typically 1-3 sentences.
  2. It expresses the source's ideas and information in fresh language. Quotation is used only to introduce keywords.
  3. It does not include patchwriting; the rephrasing of the source goes beyond just changing a few words or reordering the sentence.
  4. It may be shorter than, as long as, or longer than the sentences it is rephrasing.
  5. The source it is paraphrasing is cited.

How does good paraphrase happen?

Good paraphrase restates a passage from a source, in fresh language. Here's the trick: "fresh language" doesn't mean just changing a few words or verb tenses so that the passage isn't identical. It means actually saying the ideas from the source in a new voice.

Good paraphrase happens when you read a source passage until you understand it; that understanding is essential. If you don't understand it, you can't say it in your own voice; all you can do is fiddle with the wording.

It's very difficult (almost impossible!) to write good paraphrase while looking at the source. As long as you're looking at the passage you're paraphrasing, you won't be able to say it yourself; you'll just be trying to figure out how to change the words. Try this instead: read the passage; turn away from the source; and write what it says. Don't look at the source until you're finished. Then, once you have a draft of your paraphrase, go back to the source and make sure what you wrote was accurate. If it wasn't, make necessary revisions. This technique isn't easy; it takes practice. As you practice, though, you'll find yourself getting better and better at paraphrase - and at reading comprehension.

In most cases, good paraphrase does not include quotation. If you're stitching together quoted passages, you're avoiding plagiarism, but you're not paraphrasing.

Yet sometimes the source uses words for which there are no synonyms. These might be technical language; statistics; lists of mundane items; or keywords that vividly capture an idea. These should not be paraphrased; instead, quote (and cite) them the first time you use them in your text. Afterwards, just use them; you don't need to quote and cite them over and over within a single text that you're writing.

Technical information
in a paraphrase:

Technical information and technical terms usually cannot be paraphrased; you should just quote (and cite) it, instead.

An important question to ask yourself before you decide to quote technical language: is it "technical" because it has no synonyms, or is it "technical" just because you don't understand it? If your answer is the latter, you need to work more with the material, so that you can paraphrase it. Don't quote a sentence just because you don't understand it!

Statistics and Numbers
in a paraphrase:

Lists of Items in
a Paraphrase:

Sometimes the material you need from a source is a list. You may be able to paraphrase it - usually by generalizing about it rather than finding synonyms for each item in the list.Sometimes, however, the list contains mundane items - names of states or people, for example - that cannot be paraphrased. In this case you must copy the list exactly, quote it, and cite it.

Keywords in a

Keywords aren't the same as technical language; keywords are particular words or phrases that are central to the information in the source. Sometimes they are quite ordinary, such as "personal computers" in the example below. Deciding what is and isn't a keyword is usually a matter of interpretation and critical reading; not everyone will agree on the identification of keywords. You should be conservative about identifying keywords, keeping in mind that they are special, central terms. If you're finding several keywords in every sentence you're paraphrasing, you've gone too far.

When you have read your source carefully and have identified keywords, you should use them rather than finding paraphrases for them. If they are ordinary language, such as "personal computers," you don't need to quote them:

Select carefully

As with picking quotations (see Chapter Four), you need to choose passages to paraphrase that make specific contributions to your text. Choose passages that capture key claims your source is making; passages that support claims you are making; passages that provide alternative viewpoints to your claims; and passages that give vivid examples and anecdotes.

Can You Say It?
Language for Introducing Paraphrased Key Terms From the Source:
  • (last name of source author) focuses on/establishes/argues/examines the claim that (your paraphrase of source claim)
  • (author) makes an important/useful point/claim/assertion: (paraphrase)
  • An important/key/central claim in the (author) source is that (paraphrase)

Avoid patchwriting!

In the middle-school version of paraphrase, the writer makes surface changes to sentences from the source, by rearranging words, changing their grammatical structure, or using synonyms. This is patchwriting. It isn't really paraphrase, because it isn't restating ideas in the writer's own voice. It's just the writer tinkering with the source sentences, hiding the fact that they're being copied. Writers patchwrite when they're working too quickly with source material, not slowing down enough to think about what the source is actually saying. Writers also patchwrite when they don't understand what they are reading. It's impossible to restate what you don't understand!

Establish co-ownership

The thing you now "own," the source material you have paraphrased, still "belongs" to the sources, too. You are a sort of co-owner of that material. So even though you have paraphrased and are speaking it in your own words, you need to let your audience know who the co-owners are - where the ideas and information came from.

Chapter 5 Review: Can You Say It?
Paraphrase without patchwriting
  • Consider your reasons for paraphrasing
  • Recognize the key phrases
  • Avoid the patchwriting trap
  • Paraphrase with style

Chapter 5: Can You Say It?

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