What is paraphrasing and how can I use it effectively in my essay?

Say it in your own words!


Answer

What is it?

Paraphrasing is when you summarize another source's ideas in your own words, most often for the purpose of writing an essay and supporting your ideas with evidence, providing context for an argument, or providing information. 

Here is an example of paraphrasing with the original excerpt and the paraphrase. 

 

Excerpt:

"Metacomedy, then, is a vision that transcends the immediately comic or tragic. It is not evasive and it has room for pain, for heartache, for alienation, even for death, because it affirms the values of mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice, which adversity calls forth. For a religious person, metacomedy is what Christopher Fry called a "narrow escape into faith" and a belief in "a universal cause for delight" (17). Fry's metaphor for life is a book of alternating pages of tragedy and comedy. As we read (that is, live) the book, we are anxious about what the last page will be. The comic vision holds that on the last page all will be resolved in laughter (17). The essence, therefore, of metacomedy is hope, and Fences is a lesson in hope" (Wessling 123-124). 

Wessling, Joseph H. "Wilson's Fences." The Explicator, vol. 57, no. 2, 1999///Winter, pp. 123-127. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/wilsons-fences/docview/216774231/se-2.

 

Paraphrase:

Wessling argues that Fences is a kind of comedy called a metacomedy that moves from tragedy to comedy. The primary mode of a meta comedy is that the hope of better things is the dominant mode and that hope and faith wins out in the end. Wessling asserts that Fences is all about hope (Wessling 123-124). 

Explanation: 

From the excerpt, I took the information that was most important and summarized it in as few words as possible so that the reader knows that Wessling is arguing. I also tried to provide enough context so that the reader will see a connection between Wessling's idea and my argument. 

 

When to use it in your essay:

When using sources in your essay, you have two options: you can paraphrase the article or you can quote. Paraphrasing should make up approximately 80% of your use of sources in your essay. This is because when you paraphrase, you are writing in your own words and demonstrating your understanding of what you have read. If you quote too often, then you run the risk of losing credibility--leaving the reader unsure how much of the article you actually understood. 

As a rule, you should paraphrase unless a quote would be more effective. Here is when a quote is most effective:

1. When the language of the quote evokes emotion and would be hindered by paraphrasing.

2. When it is important that your reader hears the actual words from an author's perspective to provide more credibility for your reasoning. 

3. When the quote fits a concept perfectly and you would lose the meaning of the words if you didn't use the quote. 

In short, only quote if it's absolutely necessary and  you can't say it another way. You want to save your quotes for important parts of your essay so they are most effective. Otherwise, paraphrasing is the best thing to do. 

Citing a paraphrase:

Wessling argues that Fences is a kind of comedy called a metacomedy that moves from tragedy to comedy. The primary mode of a meta comedy is that the hope of better things is the dominant mode and that hope and faith wins out in the end. Wessling asserts that Fences is all about hope (Wessling 123-124). 

Explanation:

As you can see from the example above, a paraphrase should not be in quotations. But a paraphrase should have a citation at the end of the paraphrase as written above. See different citation styles in the links for best citation practices. 

Plagiarism

It is very important to cite paraphrases any time that you are writing about ideas from sources, especially if the ideas are not common knowledge. Otherwise, you are at risk of being accused of plagiarism. That is, writing without acknowledging your sources. Plagiarism can carry with it consequences in the classroom (a failing grade on the essay), your placement in school (suspension or expulsion), and could thus impact your future career. When in doubt, cite! When paraphrasing, don't forget to cite your sources. 

How to Paraphrase

In order to avoid writing in the same words as the source, first, read over the article and the excerpts you want to use. Second, take notes on the article in your own words. Third, write your paraphrase without looking at the article. Use your own knowledge and understanding to write the paraphrase. Fourth, if you're still struggling, use synonyms, try to summarize the excerpt in less words, and write as if you are explaining the concept or idea to someone else. 

 

See the attached links for more helpful details regarding paraphrasing.

 

  • Last Updated May 22, 2024
  • Views 4
  • Answered By Timothy Connors

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