1.1 Tips on how to paraphrase
Paraphrasing well depends on a strong understanding of the source material, targeted notetaking and concise writing. When you paraphrase a piece of work, your version may be shorter than the original, focussing on the main ‘take home’ points. This is not always the case though – the aim of paraphrasing is not necessarily to condense the ideas from the original piece, rather it is to put them into your own words.
So, how do you paraphrase? Let’s take it step by step.
- Look at your original source and read – and reread – until you understand its meaning. If you don’t understand it, you’ll find it difficult to paraphrase.
- As you read the original, look up any terms you do not understand.
- Once you feel you understand the material, put it to one side (minimise the window if it is an online resource; physically close the book, or turn a page over) – this helps to remove the temptation to ‘just check’ as you make your notes.
- Start by listing the essential ideas, using key words or short phrases.
- Using these key words/phrases, write some notes in full sentences that express your understanding of the original source. Keep in mind that you are focussing on the core arguments from the original piece, but rather than simply parroting them, you are writing them in a different way.
- Avoid the temptation to look back at the original source at this point. Try to work based on your notes and understanding of the material.
- Once you have finished, look back to your original source to make sure your interpretation accurately reflects the original ideas; do your notes reflect the ‘essence’ of the piece? If yes, that’s great. Now remember to include a reference to the original source. If you feel that your writing has accidentally changed the meaning, you’ll need to go back to step 1.
Remember, paraphrased material still needs to be referenced. A common mistake when making your notes/writing an assignment is to ‘deal with references at the end’. However, references should not be something you ‘bolt on’ at the end – they are an integral part of your work. It is very easy to forget/accidentally miss a reference if you only think about acknowledging your sources once you’ve finished writing your work. It can be very difficult to remember and find all your original sources if you are adding them at a later date. Make life easier for yourself – include your references as you write.