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How to paraphrase

Steps in paraphrasing

1.    Read and reread the original passage until you understand it.

2.    Put the original passage out of sight.

3.    Try to express the idea(s) of the passage in your own words, based on your understanding of the material.

4.    Compare your version to the original to make sure you have understood the author.

5.    If you use any of the author’s special words or phrases but cannot change them, place quotation marks around them and cite them as quotations.

6.    Note the source: author, title, page number, and other necessary information. You will need this information for your list of references.

Tips on paraphrasing

  • Keep the original passage out of sight when you are writing your own version.
  • If you have difficulty remembering the author's ideas or composing the paraphrase, start by quickly brainstorming the main ideas you want to include and then write your paraphrase.
  • When you include a paraphrase in your paper, introduce it with the author's name; for example, “According to Piaget…” or “Barkley suggests….”
  • When you find an idea that interests you, paraphrase it immediately while your reason for choosing it is fresh in your mind. Make sure you have a copy of the original so that you can check it later.
  • Whether you intend to quote or paraphrase ideas, always make careful notes of where you find them so you can correctly reference them in your paper.
  • If you forget to record the documentation data for an idea that you would like to use in your paper, use the idea ONLY if you can relocate the data.

Example of a text that combines both a quotation and a paraphrase

In his article on the power of student stories, Frederick (2004-2005) stated that they are valuable because “students’ prior experiences are connected to the larger learning goals and key concepts, ideas, theories, and content of the course” (1). Working with narratives may also help students and workshop participants get emotionally engaged (Mosenthal, 1999) in a course or workshop that sometimes can seem unrelated to personal experience.


Bashe, A., Anderson, S.K., Handelsman, M.M., & Kevansky, R. (2007). An acculturation model for ethics training: The ethics autobiography and beyond. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(1), 60-67.


If you would like to practice paraphrasing short passages and check your version with someone else’s version, go to this web site.

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