Paraphrasing is expressing the contents of a passage in different words. It allows the student to use other people’s content without copying or plagiarizing.
I’m Tutor Phil, and in this tutorial, I’ll show you a simple 5-step paraphrasing strategy and give you 10 examples of effective paraphrasing.
Here are five steps to paraphrasing:
Step 1. Make sure you’re clear on your own argument or thesis
Before you use other people’s content in your essay or research paper, you need to make sure you’re crystal clear on what exactly you’re trying to express.
If you’re not perfectly clear on your own main and supporting arguments, then paraphrasing will be difficult. You’ll be struggling in every sentence because you’re not sure how another author’s passage will fit your argument.
In other words, before you lay a brick, make sure you know what the house will ultimately look like.
To learn this skill, check out my tutorial on essay writing for beginners.
Step 2. Pick a spot where you will use paraphrasing
Once you know exactly what you’re arguing, identify where in your essay, section, or paragraph you will use the paraphrased passage.
The best spot for a paraphrase is usually in the Explanation and Example parts of a body paragraph.
This is where you will provide the bulk of your evidence or support. You can paraphrase a passage that will serve to explain a concept or describe a process. You can also paraphrase specific examples.
Step 3. Read the passage you want to paraphrase
Take the time to read the original passage and make sure you understand it thoroughly.
- Look for the main subject – what or whom is this passage about?
- Look for the main point – what is the author really trying to say?
- Look for any evidence the author is using to support his argument.
Step 4. Rewrite the ideas of the passage in your own words
This is the trickiest part, and let me give you 4 techniques you can use now to complete this step. Keep in mind that I’ll give you 10 paraphrasing examples in a minute, and they will illustrate the use of these techniques.
Technique 1. Begin your sentence or passage at a different point from that the author uses.
For example, if the sentence starts with a cause and ends with an effect, start your sentence talking about the effect and then explain the cause.
Technique 2. Use synonyms
Arm yourself with a thesaurus; this online version work just fine. A thesaurus is like a dictionary, only it provides you with alternatives for word choice.
Technique 3. Rearrange the sentence or passage
This is similar to technique 1, but in this one you can arrange the original sentence or even the entire passage any way you like, as long as it retains the original meaning.
For example, the original passage may contain general and specific statements located haphazardly. You can arrange the contents of the passage to flow from general to specific.
An example of rearranging content within a sentence is to switch from active to passive voice or vice versa.
Technique 4. Chunk up or down
What do I mean by this funny phrase? I mean that if the original sentence is very long, you can chunk it down into two or more sentences.
If the passage contains two or more sentences that can be combined, chunk them up into one sentence.
Step 5. Edit your paraphrased passage for flow
When you’re done paraphrasing, go back and read your whole paragraph, making sure it flows. If necessary, use one or more transitions to make it fit in nicely.
10 Paraphrasing Examples
Paraphrasing Example 1
“Carbs are the best way to fuel your body—but choose the right ones. Cutting back on carbs like the added sugars in soft drinks, candy and pastries will cut calories and is great for your overall health. Replacing those carbs with nutrient-rich choices like whole grains, fruits and vegetables will give you the nutrients you need for good health, along with the fuel your body craves to perform at its best.” (Thalheimer, 2015, p. 3).
“The right carbohydrates are the best source of fuel for the human body. The best carbs for overall health come from whole foods, and added sugars are best avoided. In order to provide the body with high-quality fuel, it’s best to give preference to whole grains, fruits, and veggies over soda and sugary snacks.”
What have we done?
In the first sentence, we used technique 1 – flipping the beginning and the ending of a sentence. The original ends with choosing the right carbs. We begin with it.
The next two sentences in the paraphrase are an example of using technique 3 – rearranging content. We took more general concepts and put them in sentence 2. And sentence 3 is more specific because it provides examples of the ideas in the previous sentence.
To break this down, each of the original sentences 2 & 3 provides reasons to choose better foods and the foods to avoid and to choose instead.
In the paraphrase, we listed the reasons in sentence 2 and provided examples in sentence 3.
Paraphrasing Example 2
“For almost a full century, the mission of U.S. educational measurement has been to elicit test-takers’ scores so those scores can be compared with one another. This is a good and useful thing to do, particularly so in situations where the number of applicants exceeds the number of openings. To make a flock of important educational decisions, we need to identify our strongest and weakest performing students.” (Popham, 2014, p. 47).
“Gathering and comparing the scores of test-takers has been the purpose of U.S. scholastic measurement for almost a hundred years. A viable strategy, it is especially useful when applicants outnumber the available openings. Students demonstrating the strongest and weakest performance should be identified in order to enable effective decision-making in education.”
What have we done?
In sentence 1, we used techniques 1 & 2. First, we flipped the beginning and the ending of the sentence. The paraphrased version feels as if we are reading the original from end to beginning.
Next, we used a bunch of synonyms:
- “Century” became “hundred years”
- “Mission” became “purpose”
- “Eliciting” became “gathering”
We also used synonymous language in sentence 2: “A good and useful thing to do” became “A viable strategy.” “The number exceeds” became “outnumber.”
And in sentence 3, we used technique 3 and switched the sentence from the active voice to the passive voice. You should do this only sparingly.
But feel free to switch from the passive to the active voice as often as you want. The active voice is better and more desirable.
Paraphrasing Example 3
“Successfully confronting the topic of race is a constant struggle within the U.S. history curriculum. This shortcoming is not due to historians’ or practitioners’ inability to see the correlation between race and history, but instead is due to the innate nature in which history is told.” (Rochester & Heafner, 2020, pp. 319-320).
“Teachers of U.S. history continuously struggle to effectively discuss the topic of race. The cause of the problem is not that historians or practitioners cannot see the race-history correlation. The real challenge is inherent in the way they tell the history.”
What have we done?
We again used synonyms throughout the passage. Since the subject in the first sentence is “history curriculum,” we know that it is about “teachers of history.”
Why? Because the word “curriculum” implies education. And educators are teachers. You can look for such clues in the original passage to come up with your own words and phrases that are synonymous with those used in the original.
Next, we used technique 4 in the second sentence of the original passage. This sentence is long and can be easily broken down into two shorter ones. That’s exactly what we did here.
And we used technique 2 again – using synonyms. “Shortcoming” became “cause of the problem.” “Innate” became “inherent.”
Finally, we used technique 4 and turned “the nature history is told” to “telling the history.” In effect, we switched from passive to active voice, which is an improvement.
Paraphrasing Example 4
“Despite widespread disputes, no one has written an adequate history of legal statehood. The American public has ignored basic questions about how and when statehood developed, perhaps assuming that states arrived along with sailors’ luggage or developed through some kind of natural evolution.” (Green, 2020, p. 6).
“Although historians have widely debated state formation, they still have not written a satisfactory history of the subject. Americans have overlooked the fundamentals of the process of state development. Maybe they tend to think that states came to the new world packed in sailors’ luggage or somehow evolved naturally.”
What have we done?
In sentence 1, we primarily used technique 2 – synonyms. Note that the phrase “no one” really refers to historians. Why? Because the sentence and the passage are really about the history of state formation.
So, who else could be writing the history of the formation of American states if not historians? This is our opportunity to use a new word that is totally correct.
We also changed “despite” to “although” and “adequate” to “satisfactory.”
And, like in the previous example, sentence 2 in the original is really long and presents us with an opportunity to chunk it down, which is technique 4. We broke this sentence into two.
Note that a good place to break a sentence is at the appearance of the second verb. The first verb in the original sentence 2 is “ignored.” The public ignored questions.
The second verb that refers to the subject is “assuming.” Meaning, the public “ignored” AND “assumed.” So, we made one sentence in the paraphrased version about ignoring and the other about assuming.
Another pointer at a good spot to break up a sentence is a conjunction or a transition. I call these power words because they allow the writer to extend sentences.
In the example above, the original sentence 2 really should have the word “and” connecting its two parts with the two verbs – “ignore” and “assume.”
The writer simply chose to use a different verb form instead of using the word “and.” So, instead of writing “The public ignored X and assumed Y,” he wrote “The public ignored X, assuming Y.”
In short, chunk the sentence down at conjunctions and additional verbs.
Paraphrasing Example 5
“Compared to its European counterparts, Japan’s imperial family is at once more unassuming and more withdrawn from the people it represents. Nowhere are the affairs and scandals that feed the media machine around the Windsors. The top gossip in recent years has been a potential marriage between a royal granddaughter and a law school student with a (gasp) indebted mother.” (Surak, 2019, p. 31).
“Unlike European royalty, the imperial family of Japan is rather quiet and withdrawn from the public eye. It is not prone to scandals and controversies, in contrast to the Windsors. The biggest talk of the town lately has been a possible marriage of the princess to a student of law whose mother has a debt.”
What have we done?
In this example, we primarily used synonyms:
- “Compared to” became “unlike”
- “Unassuming” became “quiet”
- “Nowhere” became “not prone”
- “Top gossip” became “talk of the town”
Other than that, you can detect slight changes in wording and phrasing but no major changes in sentence or paragraph structure. This approach works just fine.
Paraphrasing Example 6
“A recent survey found that more than 80 percent of Polish high-school seniors aspire to go abroad immediately following graduation, whether for short-term work in a service industry, on a temporary European educational exchange like Erasmus, or on merit scholarships to universities in France, the United Kingdom or the United States. As for the teens, twentysomethings and thirtysomethings who remain in Poland, so the argument goes, ideas like “democratic revolution” and “national freedom” mean nothing.” (Kosicki, 2015, p. 27).
“According to a recent poll, over 80 percent of seniors in Polish high schools dream of going abroad as soon as they graduate. They may get short-term jobs in the service industry, seek placement in student exchange programs, or apply for university scholarships in Western Europe or the U.S. And when it comes to young people from teens to people in their thirties, they seem to hardly value high national political ideals.”
What have we done?
You may have noticed that we used technique 2 – synonyms – throughout the paraphrase. This is the most widely used technique that works every time.
We also chunked down the first sentence because it is a really long one. We made the split at the word “whether,” which is a transition.
Here are some of the synonyms we used:
- “Survey” became “poll”
- “Aspire” became “dream”
- “Work” became “jobs”
- “Merit” became “apply for”
- “So the argument goes” became “seem”
Note that it’s okay to sometimes use summarizing techniques while paraphrasing. If a phrase does not lend itself well to synonyms, it’s okay to slightly summarize occasionally.
Thus, “democratic revolution” and “national freedom” became “high national political ideals.”
Summarizing is not a paraphrasing technique per se, so use it with caution when paraphrasing because an important detail may become swallowed up in the process.
Paraphrasing Example 7
“During the last months of her campaign leading up to the election, Dilma Rousseff, then candidate and now the first female elected president in Brazil, affirmed her position on favoring the legalization of abortion as a public policy initiative. Even though she was heavily favored to win the election, according to many political observers, making this declaration severely cost Rousseff support from pivotal voting blocs and was one of the principal factors that led to a runoff election.” (Ogland & Verona, 2011, p. 812).
“Dilma Rousseff, former candidate and currently the first woman president elect in Brazil, asserted her stance on legalizing abortion as a part of her public policy during the concluding months of her election campaign. According to many pundits, although she was strongly positioned to win the race, affirming her position deprived her of crucial voting blocs and eventually resulted in a runoff election.”
What have we done?
In this paraphrase, we used techniques 1 and 2. We started both sentences at a point which occurs in the middle of the original sentence. This way, each sentence sounds different.
We used a lot of synonyms:
- “Last months” became “concluding months”
- “Female” became “woman”
- “Affirmed her position” became “asserted her stance”
- “Political observers” became “pundits”
If you look up these words and phrases, you’ll find that they are almost exact or perfectly exact equivalents of the original ones. Using synonyms is very powerful in paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing Example 8
“During the Cold War, the relatively stable relationship between South Korea and Japan, which was backed by active United States military and diplomatic engagement, was a linchpin of peace and stability in Northeast Asia. Tied to the United States through bilateral military alliance pacts, the two countries not only coordinated their policies toward the communist bloc, but also served as a bulwark against the expansion of the communist Soviets and China.” (You & Kim, 2020, p. 53).
“The relatively steady relations between South Korea and Japan backed by the United States by means of the military and diplomacy during the Cold War became a backbone of peace and security in Northeast Asia. Bound to the United States by two-sided military alliance agreements, the two nations managed their strategy of dealing with the communist countries and acted as a wall of protection from the Soviets and China.”
What have we done?
We mainly used technique 2 – the synonyms – in this example:
- “stable “ became “steady”
- “relationship” became “relations”
- “linchpin” became “backbone”
- “tied“ became “bound”
- “bilateral” became “two-sided”
- “bulwark” became “wall of protection”
You can achieve a great paraphrased passage just by using synonyms. This becomes especially useful when paraphrasing difficult passages.
Sometimes the original is so tightly written that it’s hard to paraphrase it without making it wordy. Using synonyms with the help of a thesaurus can help you get the task done.
Paraphrasing Example 9
“Bigger paychecks are just more good news for U.S. families. The average household debt-to-income ratio is the lowest since 2002. And falling food and gas prices are leaving more money in our pockets, cash that can boost consumer spending overall, which in turn accounts for 68% of the U.S. economy—setting up a virtuous circle of growth.” (Smith, 2015, p. 13).
“Americans definitely welcome higher pay, and since 2002 the debt-to-income ratio for an average family has not been lower. An upward cycle of growth occurs as groceries and petroleum become cheaper and people have more money to spend. Consumer spending, which constitutes 68% of the U.S. economy, has experienced a boost.”
What have we done?
For the first time, we actually chunked up the first two sentences, which means that we put them together into one.
And we chunked down the next, longer sentence of the original into two sentences.
We also used technique 3 to rearrange the order in which parts of the sentence appear. You’ll notice that we used a lot fewer synonyms in this passage. Instead, we focused on chunking up and down and rearranging.
Paraphrasing Example 10
“A new survey of Louisiana schools reveals a critical issue facing most states nationwide: schools are lacking the technology needed to conduct online testing required by the Common Core State Standards. Although the looming requirement that all testing be conducted online has been discussed, the degree to which states are unprepared has not been known. And only five school systems meet the requirements.” (Abrams, 2012, p. 73).
“According to a new study, schools in Louisiana lack the technology necessary to administer online tests mandated by the Common Core State Standards. This is a problem common to most states. Despite the discussions of the online testing requirement, just how well states are prepared is unclear, with only five school systems fulfilling the requirement.”
What have we done?
We again used chunking up and chunking down in this example. We broke the original sentence 1 into two sentences.
And then we chunked up by combining the next two sentences in the original into one. This is one way in which we made our paraphrase dissimilar, which is what we want.
We also used synonyms, which are, as you know, the main and most common technique used in paraphrasing:
- “A new survey reveals” became “According to a new study”
- “required” became “mandated”
- “Although” became “despite”
- “And” became “with”
Note that the last two items are transitions. Transitions can be used as splice points to either chunk up or chunk down, as we did in this example.
And that’s all! Hope this was helpful.
Now go ahead and write your own brilliant paraphrase!
Abrams, S. (2012). The emergence of district social media managers. District Administration, 48(7), 73-73.
Green, C. (2020). United/States: A revolutionary history of American statehood. Michigan Law Review, 119(1), 1-69.
Kosicki, P. H. (2015). Apathy or anniversary? Nation, 300(1), 27-37.
Ogland, C. P. & Verona, A. P. (2011). Religion and attitudes toward abortion and abortion policy in Brazil. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(4), 812-821.
Popham, W. J. (2014). The right test for the wrong reason. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(1), 46-52.
Rochester, A. & Heafner, T. L. (2020). An African American and Latinx history of the United States. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 22(1/2), 319-322.
Smith, A. K. (2015). U.S. Economy: Leader of the pack. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, 69(1), 13-14.
Surak, K. (2019). Imperial hallucinations. New Statesman, 148(5471), 30-33.
Thalheimer, J. (2015). Ketosis fad diet alert. Environmental Nutrition, 38(9), 3.
You, C. & Kim, W. (2020). Loss aversion and risk-seeking in Korea-Japan relations. Journal of East Asian Studies, 20(1), 53-74.