• Jump to menu
  • Student Home
  • Accept your offer
  • How to enrol
  • Student ID card
  • Set up your IT
  • Orientation Week
  • Fees & payment
  • Academic calendar
  • Special consideration
  • Transcripts
  • The Nucleus: Student Hub
  • Referencing
  • Essay writing
  • Learning abroad & exchange
  • Professional development & UNSW Advantage
  • Employability
  • Financial assistance
  • International students
  • Equitable learning
  • Postgraduate research
  • Health Service
  • Events & activities
  • Emergencies
  • Volunteering
  • Clubs and societies
  • Accommodation
  • Health services
  • Sport and gym
  • Arc student organisation
  • Security on campus
  • Maps of campus
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Careers portal
  • Change your password

Paraphrasing, Summarising and Quoting

Much of the work you produce at university will involve the important ideas, writings and discoveries of experts in your field of study. Quoting, paraphrasing and summarising are all different ways of including the works of others in your assignments.

Paraphrasing and summarising allow you to develop and demonstrate your understanding and interpretation of the major ideas/concepts of your discipline, and to  avoid plagiarism.

Paraphrasing and summarising require analytical and writing skills which are crucial to success at university.

What are the differences?



What is a quotation?  

A quotation is an exact reproduction of spoken or written words. Quotes can provide strong evidence, act as an authoritative voice, or support a writer's statements. For example:

Bell and Bell (1993) point out in their study of Australian-American cultural relations: "culture is never simply imposed 'from above' but is negotiated through existing patterns and traditions." (Bell & Bell 1993, p. 9)

Use a quote:

How to quote

Quoting should be done sparingly and support your own work, not replace it. For example, make a point in your own words, then support it with an authoritative quote.


What is paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing is a way of using different words and phrasing to present the same ideas. Paraphrasing is used with short sections of text, such as phrases and sentences.

A paraphrase offers an alternative to using direct quotations and allows you to integrate evidence/source material into assignments. Paraphrasing can also be used for note-taking and explaining information in tables, charts and diagrams.

When to paraphrase

Paraphrase short sections of work only i.e. a sentence or two or a short paragraph:

How to paraphrase


What is a summary.

A summary is an overview of a text. The main aim of summarising is to reduce or condense a text to its most important ideas. Leave out details, examples and formalities. Summarising is a useful skill for making notes, writing an abstract/synopsis, and incorporating material in assignments.

When to summarise

Summarise long sections of work, like a long paragraph, page or chapter. 

How to summarise

The amount of detail you include in a summary will vary according to the length of the original text, how much information you need, and how selective you are.

Study Hacks Workshops | All the hacks you need! 13 Feb – 13 Apr 2023

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

How to Paraphrase | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

Published on April 8, 2022 by Courtney Gahan and Jack Caulfield. Revised on November 4, 2022.

Paraphrasing means putting someone else’s ideas into your own words. Paraphrasing a source involves changing the wording while preserving the original meaning.

Paraphrasing is an alternative to  quoting (copying someone’s exact words and putting them in quotation marks ). In academic writing, it’s usually better to integrate sources by paraphrasing instead of quoting. It shows that you have understood the source, reads more smoothly, and keeps your own voice front and center.

Every time you paraphrase, it’s important to cite the source . Also take care not to use wording that is too similar to the original. Otherwise, you could be at risk of committing plagiarism .

What is your plagiarism score?

Compare your paper with 99.3 billion webpages and 8 million publications.

Scribbr Plagiarism Checker

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Table of contents

How to paraphrase in five easy steps, how to paraphrase correctly, examples of paraphrasing, how to cite a paraphrase, paraphrasing vs. quoting, paraphrasing vs. summarizing, avoiding plagiarism when you paraphrase, frequently asked questions about paraphrasing.

If you’re struggling to get to grips with the process of paraphrasing, check out our easy step-by-step guide in the video below.

Putting an idea into your own words can be easier said than done. Let’s say you want to paraphrase the text below, about population decline in a particular species of sea snails.

Incorrect paraphrasing

You might make a first attempt to paraphrase it by swapping out a few words for  synonyms .

Like other sea creatures inhabiting the vicinity of highly populated coasts, horse conchs have lost substantial territory to advancement and contamination , including preferred breeding grounds along mud flats and seagrass beds. Their Gulf home is also heating up due to global warming , which scientists think further puts pressure on the creatures , predicated upon the harmful effects extra warmth has on other large mollusks (Barnett, 2022).

This attempt at paraphrasing doesn’t change the sentence structure or order of information, only some of the word choices. And the synonyms chosen are poor:

Because of this, the text reads awkwardly, is longer than it needs to be, and remains too close to the original phrasing. This means you risk being accused of plagiarism .

Correct paraphrasing

Let’s look at a more effective way of paraphrasing the same text.

Here, we’ve:

Because of this, we’re able to clearly convey the relevant information from the source without sticking too close to the original phrasing.

Explore the tabs below to see examples of paraphrasing in action.

Once you have your perfectly paraphrased text, you need to ensure you credit the original author. You’ll always paraphrase sources in the same way, but you’ll have to use a different type of in-text citation depending on what citation style you follow.

Generate accurate citations with Scribbr

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless APA citation

The Scribbr Citation Generator will automatically create a flawless MLA citation

It’s a good idea to paraphrase instead of quoting in most cases because:

But that doesn’t mean you should never quote. Quotes are appropriate when:

A paraphrase puts a specific passage into your own words. It’s typically a similar length to the original text, or slightly shorter.

When you boil a longer piece of writing down to the key points, so that the result is a lot shorter than the original, this is called summarizing .

Paraphrasing and quoting are important tools for presenting specific information from sources. But if the information you want to include is more general (e.g., the overarching argument of a whole article), summarizing is more appropriate.

When paraphrasing, you have to be careful to avoid accidental plagiarism .

This can happen if the paraphrase is too similar to the original quote, with phrases or whole sentences that are identical (and should therefore be in quotation marks). It can also happen if you fail to properly cite the source.

Paraphrasing tools are widely used by students, and can be especially useful for non-native speakers who may find academic writing particularly challenging. While these can be helpful for a bit of extra inspiration, use these tools sparingly, keeping academic integrity in mind.

To make sure you’ve properly paraphrased and cited all your sources, you could elect to run a plagiarism check before submitting your paper. And of course, always be sure to read your source material yourself and take the first stab at paraphrasing on your own.

To paraphrase effectively, don’t just take the original sentence and swap out some of the words for synonyms. Instead, try:

The main point is to ensure you don’t just copy the structure of the original text, but instead reformulate the idea in your own words.

Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is a form of plagiarism , because you’re presenting someone else’s ideas as if they were your own.

However, paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you correctly cite the source . This means including an in-text citation and a full reference, formatted according to your required citation style .

As well as citing, make sure that any paraphrased text is completely rewritten in your own words.

Plagiarism means using someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own. Paraphrasing means putting someone else’s ideas in your own words.

So when does paraphrasing count as plagiarism?

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Gahan, C. & Caulfield, J. (2022, November 04). How to Paraphrase | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-paraphrase/

Is this article helpful?

Courtney Gahan

Courtney Gahan

Other students also liked, how to write a summary | guide & examples, how to quote | citing quotes in apa, mla & chicago, how to avoid plagiarism | tips on citing sources.

Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Paraphrase: Write It in Your Own Words

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This handout is intended to help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills.

Paraphrasing is one way to use a text in your own writing without directly quoting source material. Anytime you are taking information from a source that is not your own, you need to specify where you got that information.

A paraphrase is...

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...

6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

Some examples to compare

Note that the examples in this section use MLA style for in-text citation.

The original passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers . 2nd ed., 1976, pp. 46-47.

A legitimate paraphrase:

In research papers, students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

An acceptable summary:

Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).

A plagiarized version:

Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

A note about plagiarism: This example has been classed as plagiarism, in part, because of its failure to deploy any citation. Plagiarism is a serious offense in the academic world. However, we acknowledge that plagiarism is a difficult term to define; that its definition may be contextually sensitive; and that not all instances of plagiarism are created equal—that is, there are varying “degrees of egregiousness” for different cases of plagiarism.

Quoting and Paraphrasing

Download this Handout PDF

College writing often involves integrating information from published sources into your own writing in order to add credibility and authority–this process is essential to research and the production of new knowledge.

However, when building on the work of others, you need to be careful not to plagiarize : “to steal and pass off (the ideas and words of another) as one’s own” or to “present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.”1 The University of Wisconsin–Madison takes this act of “intellectual burglary” very seriously and considers it to be a breach of academic integrity . Penalties are severe.

These materials will help you avoid plagiarism by teaching you how to properly integrate information from published sources into your own writing.

1. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1993), 888.

How to avoid plagiarism

When using sources in your papers, you can avoid plagiarism by knowing what must be documented.

Specific words and phrases

If you use an author’s specific word or words, you must place those words within quotation marks and you must credit the source.

Information and Ideas

Even if you use your own words, if you obtained the information or ideas you are presenting from a source, you must document the source.

Information : If a piece of information isn’t common knowledge (see below), you need to provide a source.

Ideas : An author’s ideas may include not only points made and conclusions drawn, but, for instance, a specific method or theory, the arrangement of material, or a list of steps in a process or characteristics of a medical condition. If a source provided any of these, you need to acknowledge the source.

Common Knowledge?

You do not need to cite a source for material considered common knowledge:

General common knowledge is factual information considered to be in the public domain, such as birth and death dates of well-known figures, and generally accepted dates of military, political, literary, and other historical events. In general, factual information contained in multiple standard reference works can usually be considered to be in the public domain.

Field-specific common knowledge is “common” only within a particular field or specialty. It may include facts, theories, or methods that are familiar to readers within that discipline. For instance, you may not need to cite a reference to Piaget’s developmental stages in a paper for an education class or give a source for your description of a commonly used method in a biology report—but you must be sure that this information is so widely known within that field that it will be shared by your readers.

If in doubt, be cautious and cite the source. And in the case of both general and field-specific common knowledge, if you use the exact words of the reference source, you must use quotation marks and credit the source.

Paraphrasing vs. Quoting — Explanation

Should i paraphrase or quote.

In general, use direct quotations only if you have a good reason. Most of your paper should be in your own words. Also, it’s often conventional to quote more extensively from sources when you’re writing a humanities paper, and to summarize from sources when you’re writing in the social or natural sciences–but there are always exceptions.

In a literary analysis paper , for example, you”ll want to quote from the literary text rather than summarize, because part of your task in this kind of paper is to analyze the specific words and phrases an author uses.

In research papers , you should quote from a source

You should summarize or paraphrase when

How to paraphrase a source

General advice.

Methods of Paraphrasing

If you find that you can’t do A or B, this may mean that you don’t understand the passage completely or that you need to use a more structured process until you have more experience in paraphrasing.

The method below is not only a way to create a paraphrase but also a way to understand a difficult text.

Paraphrasing difficult texts

Consider the following passage from Love and Toil (a book on motherhood in London from 1870 to 1918), in which the author, Ellen Ross, puts forth one of her major arguments:

Children of the poor at the turn of the century received little if any emotional or intellectual nurturing from their mothers, whose main charge was family survival. Working for and organizing household subsistence were what defined mothering. Next to this, even the children’s basic comfort was forced into the background (Ross, 1995).
According to Ross (1993), poor children at the turn of the century received little mothering in our sense of the term. Mothering was defined by economic status, and among the poor, a mother’s foremost responsibility was not to stimulate her children’s minds or foster their emotional growth but to provide food and shelter to meet the basic requirements for physical survival. Given the magnitude of this task, children were deprived of even the “actual comfort” (p. 9) we expect mothers to provide today.

You may need to go through this process several times to create a satisfactory paraphrase.

Successful vs. unsuccessful paraphrases

Paraphrasing is often defined as putting a passage from an author into “your own words.” But what are your own words? How different must your paraphrase be from the original?

The paragraphs below provide an example by showing a passage as it appears in the source, two paraphrases that follow the source too closely, and a legitimate paraphrase.

The student’s intention was to incorporate the material in the original passage into a section of a paper on the concept of “experts” that compared the functions of experts and nonexperts in several professions.

The Passage as It Appears in the Source

Critical care nurses function in a hierarchy of roles. In this open heart surgery unit, the nurse manager hires and fires the nursing personnel. The nurse manager does not directly care for patients but follows the progress of unusual or long-term patients. On each shift a nurse assumes the role of resource nurse. This person oversees the hour-by-hour functioning of the unit as a whole, such as considering expected admissions and discharges of patients, ascertaining that beds are available for patients in the operating room, and covering sick calls. Resource nurses also take a patient assignment. They are the most experienced of all the staff nurses. The nurse clinician has a separate job description and provides for quality of care by orienting new staff, developing unit policies, and providing direct support where needed, such as assisting in emergency situations. The clinical nurse specialist in this unit is mostly involved with formal teaching in orienting new staff. The nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist are the designated experts. They do not take patient assignments. The resource nurse is seen as both a caregiver and a resource to other caregivers. . . . Staff nurses have a hierarchy of seniority. . . . Staff nurses are assigned to patients to provide all their nursing care. (Chase, 1995, p. 156)

Word-for-Word Plagiarism

Critical care nurses have a hierarchy of roles. The nurse manager hires and fires nurses. S/he does not directly care for patients but does follow unusual or long-term cases. On each shift a resource nurse attends to the functioning of the unit as a whole, such as making sure beds are available in the operating room , and also has a patient assignment . The nurse clinician orients new staff, develops policies, and provides support where needed . The clinical nurse specialist also orients new staff, mostly by formal teaching. The nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist , as the designated experts, do not take patient assignments . The resource nurse is not only a caregiver but a resource to the other caregivers . Within the staff nurses there is also a hierarchy of seniority . Their job is to give assigned patients all their nursing care .

Why this is plagiarism

Notice that the writer has not only “borrowed” Chase’s material (the results of her research) with no acknowledgment, but has also largely maintained the author’s method of expression and sentence structure. The phrases in red are directly copied from the source or changed only slightly in form.

Even if the student-writer had acknowledged Chase as the source of the content, the language of the passage would be considered plagiarized because no quotation marks indicate the phrases that come directly from Chase. And if quotation marks did appear around all these phrases, this paragraph would be so cluttered that it would be unreadable.

A Patchwork Paraphrase

Chase (1995) describes how nurses in a critical care unit function in a hierarchy that places designated experts at the top and the least senior staff nurses at the bottom. The experts — the nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist — are not involved directly in patient care. The staff nurses, in contrast, are assigned to patients and provide all their nursing care . Within the staff nurses is a hierarchy of seniority in which the most senior can become resource nurses: they are assigned a patient but also serve as a resource to other caregivers. The experts have administrative and teaching tasks such as selecting and orienting new staff, developing unit policies , and giving hands-on support where needed.

This paraphrase is a patchwork composed of pieces in the original author’s language (in red) and pieces in the student-writer’s words, all rearranged into a new pattern, but with none of the borrowed pieces in quotation marks. Thus, even though the writer acknowledges the source of the material, the underlined phrases are falsely presented as the student’s own.

A Legitimate Paraphrase

In her study of the roles of nurses in a critical care unit, Chase (1995) also found a hierarchy that distinguished the roles of experts and others. Just as the educational experts described above do not directly teach students, the experts in this unit do not directly attend to patients. That is the role of the staff nurses, who, like teachers, have their own “hierarchy of seniority” (p. 156). The roles of the experts include employing unit nurses and overseeing the care of special patients (nurse manager), teaching and otherwise integrating new personnel into the unit (clinical nurse specialist and nurse clinician), and policy-making (nurse clinician). In an intermediate position in the hierarchy is the resource nurse, a staff nurse with more experience than the others, who assumes direct care of patients as the other staff nurses do, but also takes on tasks to ensure the smooth operation of the entire facility.

Why this is a good paraphrase

The writer has documented Chase’s material and specific language (by direct reference to the author and by quotation marks around language taken directly from the source). Notice too that the writer has modified Chase’s language and structure and has added material to fit the new context and purpose — to present the distinctive functions of experts and nonexperts in several professions.

Shared Language

Perhaps you’ve noticed that a number of phrases from the original passage appear in the legitimate paraphrase: critical care, staff nurses, nurse manager, clinical nurse specialist, nurse clinician, resource nurse.

If all these phrases were in red, the paraphrase would look much like the “patchwork” example. The difference is that the phrases in the legitimate paraphrase are all precise, economical, and conventional designations that are part of the shared language within the nursing discipline (in the too-close paraphrases, they’re red only when used within a longer borrowed phrase).

In every discipline and in certain genres (such as the empirical research report), some phrases are so specialized or conventional that you can’t paraphrase them except by wordy and awkward circumlocutions that would be less familiar (and thus less readable) to the audience.

When you repeat such phrases, you’re not stealing the unique phrasing of an individual writer but using a common vocabulary shared by a community of scholars.

Some Examples of Shared Language You Don’t Need to Put in Quotation Marks

Chase, S. K. (1995). The social context of critical care clinical judgment. Heart and Lung, 24, 154-162.

How to Quote a Source

Introducing a quotation.

One of your jobs as a writer is to guide your reader through your text. Don’t simply drop quotations into your paper and leave it to the reader to make connections.

Integrating a quotation into your text usually involves two elements:

Often both the signal and the assertion appear in a single introductory statement, as in the example below. Notice how a transitional phrase also serves to connect the quotation smoothly to the introductory statement.

Ross (1993), in her study of poor and working-class mothers in London from 1870-1918 [signal], makes it clear that economic status to a large extent determined the meaning of motherhood [assertion]. Among this population [connection], “To mother was to work for and organize household subsistence” (p. 9).

The signal can also come after the assertion, again with a connecting word or phrase:

Illness was rarely a routine matter in the nineteenth century [assertion]. As [connection] Ross observes [signal], “Maternal thinking about children’s health revolved around the possibility of a child’s maiming or death” (p. 166).

Formatting Quotations

Short direct prose.

Incorporate short direct prose quotations into the text of your paper and enclose them in double quotation marks:

According to Jonathan Clarke, “Professional diplomats often say that trying to think diplomatically about foreign policy is a waste of time.”

Longer prose quotations

Begin longer quotations (for instance, in the APA system, 40 words or more) on a new line and indent the entire quotation (i.e., put in block form), with no quotation marks at beginning or end, as in the quoted passage from our Successful vs. Unsucessful Paraphrases page.

Rules about the minimum length of block quotations, how many spaces to indent, and whether to single- or double-space extended quotations vary with different documentation systems; check the guidelines for the system you’re using.

Quotation of Up to 3 Lines of Poetry

Quotations of up to 3 lines of poetry should be integrated into your sentence. For example:

In Julius Caesar, Antony begins his famous speech with “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” (III.ii.75-76).

Notice that a slash (/) with a space on either side is used to separate lines.

Quotation of More than 3 Lines of Poetry

More than 3 lines of poetry should be indented. As with any extended (indented) quotation, do not use quotation marks unless you need to indicate a quotation within your quotation.

Punctuating with Quotation Marks

Parenthetical citations.

With short quotations, place citations outside of closing quotation marks, followed by sentence punctuation (period, question mark, comma, semi-colon, colon):

Menand (2002) characterizes language as “a social weapon” (p. 115).

With block quotations, check the guidelines for the documentation system you are using.

Commas and periods

Place inside closing quotation marks when no parenthetical citation follows:

Hertzberg (2002) notes that “treating the Constitution as imperfect is not new,” but because of Dahl’s credentials, his “apostasy merits attention” (p. 85).

Semicolons and colons

Place outside of closing quotation marks (or after a parenthetical citation).

Question marks and exclamation points

Place inside closing quotation marks if the quotation is a question/exclamation:

Menand (2001) acknowledges that H. W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage is “a classic of the language,” but he asks, “Is it a dead classic?” (p. 114).

[Note that a period still follows the closing parenthesis.]

Place outside of closing quotation marks if the entire sentence containing the quotation is a question or exclamation:

How many students actually read the guide to find out what is meant by “academic misconduct”?

Quotation within a quotation

Use single quotation marks for the embedded quotation:

According to Hertzberg (2002), Dahl gives the U. S. Constitution “bad marks in ‘democratic fairness’ and ‘encouraging consensus'” (p. 90).

[The phrases “democratic fairness” and “encouraging consensus” are already in quotation marks in Dahl’s sentence.]

Indicating Changes in Quotations

Quoting only a portion of the whole.

Use ellipsis points (. . .) to indicate an omission within a quotation–but not at the beginning or end unless it’s not obvious that you’re quoting only a portion of the whole.

Adding Clarification, Comment, or Correction

Within quotations, use square brackets [ ] (not parentheses) to add your own clarification, comment, or correction.

Use [sic] (meaning “so” or “thus”) to indicate that a mistake is in the source you’re quoting and is not your own.

Additional information

Information on summarizing and paraphrasing sources.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). (2000). Retrieved January 7, 2002, from http://www.bartleby.com/61/ Bazerman, C. (1995). The informed writer: Using sources in the disciplines (5th ed). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Leki, I. (1995). Academic writing: Exploring processes and strategies (2nd ed.) New York: St. Martin?s Press, pp. 185-211.

Leki describes the basic method presented in C, pp. 4-5.

Spatt, B. (1999). Writing from sources (5th ed.) New York: St. Martin?s Press, pp. 98-119; 364-371.

Information about specific documentation systems

The Writing Center has handouts explaining how to use many of the standard documentation systems. You may look at our general Web page on Documentation Systems, or you may check out any of the following specific Web pages.

If you’re not sure which documentation system to use, ask the course instructor who assigned your paper.

You may also consult the following guides:

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Academic and Professional Writing

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Analysis Papers

Reading Poetry

A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis

Using Literary Quotations

Play Reviews

Writing a Rhetorical Précis to Analyze Nonfiction Texts

Incorporating Interview Data

Grant Proposals

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Additional Resources for Grants and Proposal Writing

Job Materials and Application Essays

Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs

Resume Writing Tips

CV Writing Tips

Cover Letters

Business Letters

Proposals and Dissertations

Resources for Proposal Writers

Resources for Dissertators

Research Papers

Planning and Writing Research Papers

Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Creating Poster Presentations

Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Thank-You Notes

Advice for Students Writing Thank-You Notes to Donors

Reading for a Review

Critical Reviews

Writing a Review of Literature

Scientific Reports

Scientific Report Format

Sample Lab Assignment

Writing for the Web

Writing an Effective Blog Post

Writing for Social Media: A Guide for Academics


Academic Editing Services

Admissions Editing Services

Business Editing Services

Writer Editing Services

Our Editors

Client reviews.

How to Paraphrase to Avoid Plagiarism

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

What is Paraphrasing?

“Paraphrasing” means expressing the meaning of someone else’s words in your own words instead of quoting directly. Paraphrasing is applied both by the author of the text and by editors during the proofreading process .

By paraphrasing the work and arguments of others effectively, you can:

How to Paraphrase in Research

Direct Quote:  simply a “copy-and-paste” of the original words and/or word order. In all research papers with formatting guidelines (APA, AMA, MLA, etc.), quoted text must be accompanied by quotation marks and in-text citations.

Paraphrasing:   can include some key terms from the original work but must use new language to represent the original work—DO NOT COPY THE ORIGINAL WORK. When you paraphrase–that is, rewrite the text you want to use–you do not need to include quotation marks, but you must still cite the original work.

Paraphrasing Source Text

Step 1 : Read important parts of the source material until you fully understand its meaning.

Step 2 : Take some notes and list key terms of the source material.

Step 3:  Write your own paragraph without looking at the source material, only using the key terms.

Step 4:  Check to make sure your version captures important parts and intent of the source material.

Step 5:  Indicate where your paraphrasing starts and ends using in-text citations.

When to Paraphrase vs Use Direct Quotes

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Paraphrasing Examples in Research Writing

Use the following methods to make your paraphrases even stronger. Note that you should not apply only one of these rules in isolation—combine these techniques to reduce your chances of accidental plagiarism.

*Text in red indicates key changes from the source material.

Change the source text voice : active vs. passive voice

By changing the voice of the sentence (active voice to passive; passive voice to active—have a look at this article for details on the different roles of both voices in scientific writing), you can alter the general structure of your paraphrase and put it into words that are more your own.

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Use a thesaurus to find synonyms and related terms

A thesaurus can be an excellent resource for finding terms that are synonymous with or similar to those in the original text, especially for non-native English speakers. However, be careful not to use terms that you don’t fully understand or that might not make sense in the context of your paper.

Include introductory phrases with signaling terms

Signaling terms (e.g., “they write ,” “Kim notes that…” “He believes that…”) help smoothly introduce the work of other studies and let the reader know where your own ideas end and where the cited information begins.

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Use specific signaling verbs to show your position

Authors also show their positions regarding the original content by using verbs that are neutral , that show agreement , or that show disagreement . A relative pronoun (“that,” “how,” “if”) is also used in many instances. Include these terms to introduce your position in paraphrased content.

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Merge multiple sentences into a one- or two-sentence paraphrase

One major reason for paraphrasing is to capture the main idea of the original text without using so many words. Use only one sentence or two in your paraphrase to capture the main idea—even if the original is an entire paragraph.

Original Source Text :

The journal primarily considers empirical and theoretical investigations that enhance understanding of cognitive, motivational, affective, and behavioral psychological phenomena in work and organizational settings, broadly defined. Those psychological phenomena can be at one or multiple levels — individuals, groups, organizations, or cultures; in work settings such as business, education, training, health, service, government, or military institutions; and in the public or private sector, for-profit or nonprofit organizations. (Source: Journal of Applied Psychology Website  http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/apl/ )

Paraphrased Source Text :

The Journal of Applied Psychology accepts studies that increase understanding of a broad range of psychological phenomena and that apply to a variety of settings and levels, not limited by subgroup, institution, or sector (JAP, 2015).

Combine quotes and paraphrased text in the same sentence

Too often, research writers separate information from the current work and information cited from earlier studies into completely different sentences. This limits the dialogue between the works, makes it boring for readers, and can even create issues of plagiarism if the paper is composed of too much quoted material. Include direct quotes within your paraphrased sentences to fix all of these issues and make your research writing much smoother and more natural.

Some details from the original source are quoted because they are taken directly from the text. They provide important information that readers might need to know and it thus makes more sense to use quotes here.

Cite your sources, create a References list, and copy your citations to MS Word using the following Wordvice Citation Generators:

wordvice citation generator with APA, MLA, Chicago, and Vancouver styles

Although paraphrasing can be very helpful in helping to reduce instances of plagiarism, writers still need to follow the rules of citation and referencing carefully. Here are a few rules to keep in mind when paraphrasing any original material, whether from someone else’s published work or your own work.

Here are a few things you must keep in mind when paraphrasing any original material, even your own earlier publications.

Example of Plagiarism in Paraphrasing

The following example is an attempt to paraphrase the above source text taken from the Journal of Applied Psychology website . Note that the author does not follow the above-mentioned rules to avoid plagiarizing the work. Psychology  website. Note that the author does not follow the above-mentioned rules to avoid plagiarizing the work.

Plagiarized Source Text

The Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP 2015) accepts empirical and theoretical investigations that increase knowledge of motivational, affective, cognitive, and behavioral psychological phenomena in many settings, broadly conceived. These phenomena can be at several levels—individual, teams, or cultures; in professional settings like business, education, training, health, government, or military institutions; and in either public or private sector, in nonprofit or for-profit institutions.

Some of the source text words have been changed or removed, but the underlined terms are identical to the original; overall the meaning and even the grammar structures have been copied. Finally, quotation marks are missing. Do not copy passages like this unless you put quotation marks around the content.

Examples of Multiple Attribution Methods:

In this paraphrase example, the details in the source text and how they have been changed in the paraphrase are indicated in red. Note the usage of signaling terms in each version to introduce the author’s content.

Original Source Tex t:

Fully grown penguins generate pressures of around  74 mm Hg  to excrete liquid material and  430 mm Hg  to excrete material of higher  viscosity similar to that of oil. ”

Direct Quote

In her study of Antarctic penguin defecation habits, Brooks (1995, p.4) wrote, “fully grown Chinstrap penguins generate pressures of around  74 mm Hg  to excrete liquid material and  430 mm Hg  to excrete material of higher  viscosity similar to that of oil. ”

*Quotations around quotes; citations included; many details provided; a complete sentence is quoted.

Paraphrased Text

When studying Chinstrap penguin defecation habits, Brooks (1995, p.4) observed that fully grown penguins generate a  much higher  pressure when excreting  more viscous  fecal matter.

*No quotation marks; citations included; the most important data fact is highlighted: “Penguins use more pressure to excrete thicker poo.”

Quote/Paraphrase Combination

When studying penguin defecation habits, Brooks (1995, p.4) observed that fully grown penguins vary in how they excrete waste, generating “pressures of around 74 mm Hg to excrete liquid material and 430 mm Hg to excrete material of higher viscosity similar to that of oil .”

*Quotation marks only around directly quoted information; citations included; the most important data fact is paraphrased; additional details provided by direct quote.

More Paraphrasing Examples for Reference

The following paraphrasing examples do not include citations and are therefore better used for reference when learning how to paraphrase original text. Therefore, the tips mentioned earlier in this article should be applied when paraphrasing published academic work.

Paraphrasing Checklist

Wordvice Resources

After paraphrasing the source text in your research paper, be sure to get English proofreading and academic editing for your journal manuscript or essay editing for your admissions essay to ensure that your writing is ready for submission to journals or schools. And visiting our academic resources pages to get more tips beyond how to paraphrase, including common academic phrases , the best transition words in academic papers, verbs for research writing , and many more articles on how to strengthen your academic writing skills.

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

Citations - MLA: In-Text Citations - Quotations & Paraphrasing

On This Page


Unknown Author

Repeated use of sources, long quotations.

Citing a Source that you Found in Another Source (Secondary Source)

Order of authors, about in-text citations.

In MLA, in-text citations are inserted in the body of your research paper to briefly document the source of your information. Brief in-text citations point the reader to the full citation on the works cited list at the end of the paper.

Create in-text citations for the following:

If you're using information from a single source more than once in succession (i.e., no other sources referred to in between), you can use a simplified in-text citation.

Cell biology is an area of science that focuses on the structure and function of cells (Smith 15). It revolves around the idea that the cell is a "fundamental unit of life" (17). Many important scientists have contributed to the evolution of cell biology. Mattias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, for example, were scientists who formulated cell theory in 1838 (20). 

 Note: If using this simplified in-text citation creates ambiguity regarding the source being referred to, use the full in-text citation format.

What Is a Long Quotation?

If your quotation extends to more than four lines as you're typing your essay, it is a long quotation.

Rules for Long Quotations

There are 4 rules that apply to long quotations that are different from regular quotations:

Example of a Long Quotation

At the end of  Lord of the Flies  the boys are struck with the realization of their behaviour:

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too . (Golding 186)

Direct Quote  - Add an in-text citation at the end of the quote with the author name and page number:

Mother-infant attachment has been a leading topic of developmental research since John Bowlby found that "children raised in institutions were deficient in emotional and personality development" (Hunt 358).

Authors Name in the Sentence & with a Direct Quote -  If you refer to the author's name in a sentence you do not have to include the name in the in-text citation, instead include the page number (if there is one) at the end of the quotation or paraphrased section. For example:

Hunt explains that mother-infant attachment has been a leading topic of developmental research since John Bowlby found that "children raised in institutions were deficient in emotional and personality development" (358).

No Page Numbers & with a Direct Quote -  When you quote from electronic sources that do not provide page numbers (like Web pages), cite the author name only.

"Three phases of the separation response: protest, despair, and detachment" (Garelli).

  Note: The period goes outside the brackets, at the end of your in-text citation.

In-Text Citation For One, Two, or More Authors/Editors

Author Known: 

In-Text Citation For More Than One Source

If you would like to cite more than one source within the same in-text citation, simply record the in-text citations as normal and separate them with a semi-colon.

(Smith 42; Bennett 71). 

( It Takes Two ; Brock 43).

 Note: The sources within the in-text citation do not need to be in alphabetical order for MLA style.

When creating an in-text citation or full citation, the authors should be listed in the original order displayed on the item (book, article, ...). 

When you write information or ideas from a source in your own words, cite the source by adding an in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased portion.

Paraphrasing from One Page

Include a full in-text citation with the author name and page number (if there is one). For example:

Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 65).

Hunt discussed mother-infant attachment becoming a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (65).

Paraphrasing from Multiple Pages

If the paraphrased information/idea is from several pages, include them. For example:

Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 50, 55, 65-71).

Author Unknown:

( Cell Biology  12)

("Nursing" 12)

Sometimes an author of a book, article or website will mention another person’s work by using a quotation or paraphrased idea from that source. ( This may be called a secondary source.) 

For example, the Kirkey article you are reading includes a quotation by Smith that you would like to include in your essay.

Examples of in-text citations :

According to a study by Smith (qtd. in Kirkey) 42% of doctors would refuse to perform legal euthanasia.

Smith (qtd. in Kirkey) states that “even if euthanasia was legal, 42% of doctors would be against this method of assisted dying” (A.10).

Example of Works Cited list citation:

Kirkey, Susan. "Euthanasia."  The Montreal Gazette , 9 Feb. 2013, p. A.10.  Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies.

Infographics Icon

How to Paraphrase: Dos, Don'ts, and Strategies for Success


Written by  Scribendi

Is It Considered Plagiarism If You Paraphrase?

How do i paraphrase a source without running the risk of plagiarizing, paraphrasing vs. quoting: what's the difference, paraphrasing vs. summarizing, how to paraphrase a sentence, direct quotation, omissions and editorial changes,  paraphrasing, all you need to know about paraphrasing, when should you paraphrase information, what is the purpose of paraphrasing, understand the text you are paraphrasing, do paraphrases need to be cited, example of paraphrasing, how to cite a paraphrase,  don't start paraphrasing by picking up a thesaurus , don't copy without quotation marks, paraphrase with a direct quote example, don't paraphrase too closely, example of paraphrases being too similar to their sources.

How to Paraphrase and Tips for Paraphrasing Correctly

Write Down Paraphrases of a Source on Notecards

Paraphrase from your own point-form notes on a source, how to paraphrase using plotnick's method,  practice two-step paraphrasing: sentence structure and word choice, understand basic sentence structures, vary the use of active and passive voice, vary sentence length, vary word choice, citing a paraphrase in apa, mla, and chicago styles, how to paraphrase in apa, apa paraphrasing examples, how to paraphrase in mla, mla paraphrasing examples, how to cite a paraphrase in chicago style, chicago style paraphrasing examples, what is the meaning of paraphrase, how do you put things in your own words, what does it mean to paraphrase something.

As if the research process isn't hard enough already—finding relevant and reliable sources, reading and interpreting material, and selecting key quotations/information to support your findings/arguments are all essential when writing a research essay.

Academic writers and students face the additional stress of ensuring that they have properly documented their sources. Failure to do so, whether intentionally or unintentionally, could result in plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense.

That's why we've written this article: to provide tips for proper paraphrasing. We'll start with an overview of the difference between paraphrasing and quoting, and then we'll provide a list of paraphrasing dos and don'ts, followed by strategies for proper paraphrasing. 

We will include paraphrasing examples throughout to illustrate best practices for paraphrasing and citing paraphrased material .

As mentioned in our previous article on plagiarism , "simply taking another writer's ideas and rephrasing them as one's own can be considered plagiarism as well." 

Paraphrasing words is acceptable if you interpret and synthesize the information from your sources, rephrase the ideas in your own words, and add citations at the sentence level. It is NOT acceptable if you simply copy and paste large chunks of an original source and modify them slightly, hoping that your teacher, editor, or reviewer won't notice. 

Passing off another's work as one's own is a form of intellectual theft, so researchers and students must learn how to paraphrase quotes and be scrupulous when reporting others' work.

You might be familiar with all this. Still, you might be concerned and find yourself asking, "How do I paraphrase a source correctly without running the risk of unintentional plagiarism?" 

For many writers, especially those who are unfamiliar with the concepts of a particular field, learning how to paraphrase a source or sentence is daunting.

To avoid charges of plagiarism, you must not only document your sources correctly using an appropriate style guide (e.g., APA, Harvard, or Vancouver) for your reference list or bibliography but also handle direct quotations and paraphrasing correctly.

How Do I Paraphrase

Quoting uses the exact words and punctuation from your source, whereas paraphrasing involves synthesizing material from the source and putting things in your own words. Citing paraphrases is just as necessary as citing quotations.

Even if you understand quoting versus paraphrasing, you might still need some additional paraphrasing help or guidance on how to paraphrase a quote. 

Summarizing is when you're discussing the main point or overview of a piece, while paraphrasing is when you're translating a direct quote into language that will be easy for your readers to understand .

It's easy to see how the two are similar, given that the steps to paraphrasing and summarizing both include putting ideas into your own words. 

But summarizing and paraphrasing are distinctly different. Paraphrasing highlights a certain perspective from a source, and summarizing offers more of an overview of an entire subject, theme, or book.

You can usually tell the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing by the length of what you're writing abore writing about. If you’re writing about a quote, that would be a smaller theme inside a larger work, so you'd paraphrase. 

If you're writing about the themes or plot of an entire book, you'd summarize. Summaries are usually shorter than the original work.

Learn How to Format Quotation Marks here.

When learning how to paraphrase a quote, you first need to consider whether you should be paraphrasing a text or quoting it directly.

If you find the perfect quote from a reliable source that fits your main topic, supports your argument, and lends authority to your paper but is too long (40+ words) or complex, it should be paraphrased. Long/complex quotes can also be shortened with omissions and editorial changes (as discussed below).

Introduce the quote with a signal phrase (e.g., "According to Ahmad [2017] . . .") and insert the entire quotation, indicating the text with quotation marks or indentation (i.e., a block quote).

If you only need to use parts of a long quotation, you can insert an ellipsis (. . .) to indicate omissions. You can also make editorial changes in square brackets [like this]. 

Keep in mind that you need to reflect the author's intent accurately when using this strategy. Don't change important words in a quotation so that it better fits your argument, as this is a form of intellectual fraud.

Changes in square brackets should only be used to clarify the text without altering meaning in the context of the paper (e.g., clarifying antecedents and matching verb tense). They signal to the reader that these changes were made by the author of the essay and not by the author of the original text.


Demonstrate that you clearly understand the text by expressing the main ideas in your own unique style and language. Now, you might be asking yourself, "Do paraphrases need to be cited like quotes?" The answer is a resounding "yes."

Paraphrasing Examples

When deciding whether to paraphrase or use a direct quote, it is essential to ask what is more important: the exact words of the source or the ideas.

If the former is important, consider quoting directly. If the latter is important, consider paraphrasing or summarizing.

Direct quotation is best for well-worded material that you cannot express any more clearly or succinctly in your own style. It's actually the preferred way of reporting sources in the arts, particularly in literary studies.

Shortening a long quote is a great way to retain the original phrasing while ensuring that the quote reads well in your paper. However, direct quotations are often discouraged in the sciences and social sciences, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to paraphrase or quote.

Paraphrasing is best used for long portions of text that you can synthesize into your own words. Think of paraphrasing as a form of translation; you are translating an idea in another "language" into your own language. The idea should be the same, but the words and sentence structure should be totally different.

The purpose of paraphrasing is to draw together ideas from multiple sources to convey information to your reader clearly and succinctly. 

As a student or researcher, your job is to demonstrate that you understand the material you've read by expressing ideas from other sources in your own style, adding citations to the paraphrased material as appropriate. 

If you think the purpose of paraphrasing is to help you avoid thinking for yourself, you are mistaken.

When you paraphrase, be sure that you understand the text clearly . The purpose of paraphrasing is to interpret the information you researched for your reader, explaining it as though you were speaking to a colleague or teacher. In short, paraphrasing is a skill that demonstrates one's comprehension of a text.

Yes, paraphrases always need to be cited. Citing paraphrased material helps you avoid plagiarism by giving explicit credit to the authors of the material you are discussing. 

Citing your paraphrases ensures academic integrity. When you sit down to write your paper, however, you might find yourself asking these questions: "Do paraphrases need to be cited? How do I paraphrase?"

Here is a quick paraphrase example that demonstrates how to cite paraphrased ideas. The opening lines to one of Juliet's most famous speeches are "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? / Deny thy father and refuse thy name; / Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I'll no longer be a Capulet" (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.880–884). 

If you needed to paraphrase these lines in an essay, you could do so as follows:

Juliet muses about why Romeo's family name is Montague and concludes that if either gave up their name (and thereby their family affiliations) for the other, they could be together (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.880–884).

Generally speaking, you must include an in-text citation at the end of a paraphrased sentence. 

However, if your paraphrased material is several sentences long, then you should check with your preferred style guide. Some style guides (such as APA) call for a paraphrase citation after the first paraphrased sentence. Other style guides (such as MLA) call for a paraphrase citation after the last paraphrased sentence. 

Remember, no matter what style guide you use, it is not necessary to cite every single sentence of paraphrased material in a multi-sentence paraphrase.

Don't Start Paraphrasing by Picking Up a Thesaurus

This might shock you, but a thesaurus is NOT the answer to the problem of paraphrasing. Why? Using a thesaurus to swap out a few words here and there from an original source is a form of patchwriting, which is a type of plagiarism.

You shouldn't have to resort to a thesaurus unless you are completely unsure about what a word means—although, in that case, a dictionary might be a better tool. Ideally, you should be able to use clear, simple language that is familiar to you when reporting findings (or other information) from a study.

The problem with using a thesaurus is that you aren't really using your own words to paraphrase a text; you're using words from a book. Plus, if you're unfamiliar with a concept or if you have difficulty with English, you might choose the wrong synonym and end up with a paraphrase like this: "You may perhaps usage an erroneous word."

This is a common mistake among writers who are writing about a field with which they are unfamiliar or who do not have a thorough grasp of the English language or the purpose of paraphrasing.

If you choose to keep a few phrases from the original source but paraphrase the rest (i.e., combining quoting and paraphrasing), that's okay, but keep in mind that phrasing from the source text must be reproduced in an exact manner within quotation marks.

Direct quotations are more than three consecutive words copied from another source, and they should always be enclosed in quotation marks or offset as a block quotation.

A sentence that combines a direct quote with paraphrased material would look like this: 

In "The Laugh of the Medusa," Cixous highlights women's writing as a specific feat and speaks "about what it will do" when it has the same formal recognition as men's writing (Cixous 875).

The paraphrased paragraph of Cixous' essay includes a direct quote and a paraphrase citation.

Did you know that copying portions of a quote without quotation marks (i.e., patchwriting) is a form of plagiarism—even if you provide an in-text citation? If you've reworded sections of a quote in your own style, simply enclose any direct quotations (three or more words) in quotation marks to indicate that the writing is not your own.

When learning how to paraphrase, you need to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate forms of paraphrasing. The Office of Research and Integrity , a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, puts it this way:

Taking portions of text from one or more sources, crediting the author/s, but only making 'cosmetic' changes to the borrowed material, such as changing one or two words, simply rearranging the order, voice (i.e., active vs. passive) and/or tense of the sentences is NOT paraphrasing.

What does paraphrasing too closely look like? Here is an overly close paraphrase example of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' description of plagiarizing:

Using sections of a source, citing it, but only making surface-level changes to the language (such as changing a few words, the verb tense, the voice, or word order) fails as a paraphrase. True paraphrasing involves changing the words and syntactical structure of the original source. Keep reading for strategies for paraphrasing properly.

Get Help with Proper Paraphrasing

Learn More      OR      Get Started

In an article on how to paraphrase , the Purdue University Online Writing Lab suggests that you read the source text carefully and write paraphrases on notecards. You can then compare your version with the original, ensuring that you've covered all the key information and noting any words or phrases that are too closely paraphrased.

Your notecards should be labeled with the author(s) and citation information of the source text so that you don't lose track of which source you used. You should also note how you plan to use the paraphrase in your essay.

If you are a visual learner, the benefit of this strategy is that you can visualize the content you intend to paraphrase. 

Because a notecard is a tangible object, you can physically arrange it in an essay outline, moving the right information to the appropriate paragraph so that your essay flows well. (If you're not sure how to write an outline , check out our article.)

Plus, having a physical copy of paraphrased information makes it harder for you to accidentally plagiarize by copying and pasting text from an original source and forgetting to paraphrase or quote it properly. Writing out your paraphrase allows you to distance yourself from the source text and express the idea in your own unique style.

For more paraphrasing help, Jerry Plotnick from the University College Writing Centre at the University of Toronto provides a similar strategy for paraphrasing.

Plotnick advises that you take point-form notes of text that you want to use in your paper. Don't use full sentences, but instead "capture the original idea" in a few words and record the name of the source.

This strategy is similar to the notecard idea, but it adds another step. Instead of just reading the source carefully and writing your complete paraphrase on a notecard, Plotnick recommends using point-form notes while researching your sources. These notes can then be used to paraphrase the source text when you are writing your paper.

Like handwriting your paraphrases on notecards, taking notes and coming back to them later will help you distance yourself from the source, allowing you to forget the original wording and use your own style.

The Plotnick method above describes how to use point-form notes while researching a paper to keep your paraphrasing original. To paraphrase in your paper using Plotnick's method above, look at your sources and try the following:

Write down the basic point(s) you want to discuss on a notecard (in your own words).

Take your notecard points and turn them into sentences when you write your essay.

Add the reference for the source.

Compare your paraphrase to the original source to make sure your words are your own.

Practice Two-Step Paraphrasing: Sentence Structure and Word Choice

In an article on how to paraphrase by the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first two strategies are acknowledged—taking notes and looking away from the source before you write your paraphrase. 

The authors then suggest another two-step strategy for paraphrasing: change the structure first and then change the words. Let's break down this process a bit further.

Sentences in English have two main components: a subject and a predicate . The subject is who or what is performing an action (i.e., a noun or pronoun), and the predicate is what the subject is doing (i.e., a verb). Sentences can be simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex. 

Here are some paraphrase examples using different sentence structures:

Simple: It was difficult.

Compound: It was difficult, but she knew there was no going back.

Complex: Although it was difficult, she knew there was no going back.

Compound-complex: Although it was difficult, she knew there was no going back, so she kept calm and carried on.

Once you have identified the structure of the original sentence, you can reconstruct it using one of the different types of sentences illustrated above.

You can also change passive voice to active voice, or vice versa.

The active voice is structured like this: Subject + Verb + Object (e.g., She learned how to paraphrase.)

The passive voice is structured like this: Object + "To Be" Verb + Past Participle (e.g., How to paraphrase was learned by the girl.)

See how awkward the passive sentence example is? It's best not to force a sentence into an unnatural sentence structure. 

Otherwise, you'll end up with Yoda-speak: "Forced to learn how to paraphrase a sentence, the girl was." (Did you like the unintentional "force" pun?)

Another way to distinguish your paraphrase from the original source is to use different sentence lengths. Often, scholarly articles are written using long, compound, complex, or compound-complex sentences. Use short sentences instead. 

Break down complex ideas into easy-to-understand material. Alternatively, you can combine several ideas from the source text into one long sentence, synthesizing the material. Try to stick with your own style of writing so that the paraphrased text matches that of the rest of your document.

Once the paraphrased sentence structure is sufficiently different from the original sentence structure, you can replace the wording of the original text with words you understand and are comfortable with.

Paraphrasing isn't meant to hide the fact that you are copying someone else's idea using clever word-swapping techniques. Rather, it is meant to demonstrate that you are capable of explaining the text in your own language.

One handy article on word choice by the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill lists some strategies for successful word choice, such as eliminating jargon and simplifying unnecessary wordiness. While this applies to academic writing in general, the "questions to ask yourself" are also useful as great paraphrasing help.

Once you have completed a sentence-long paraphrase, you include an in-text citation at the end of that sentence. However, if your paraphrased material is several sentences long, then you should check with your preferred style guide. 

Some style guides (such as APA) call for a paraphrase citation after the first paraphrased sentence. Other style guides (such as MLA) call for a paraphrase citation after the last paraphrased sentence. 

How to Paraphrase

To paraphrase properly, you need to explain a text in your own words without using a direct quote . Keep in mind, however, that different styles require different formats when it comes to documenting paraphrased sources. Some styles require a citation after the first paraphrased sentence, while others require a citation after the last.

For this reason, we've outlined examples of how to paraphrase in the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles below. Be sure to check with your professor to see which style your essay requires.

APA guidelines for paraphrasing include citing your source on the first mention in either the narrative or parenthetical format. Here's a refresher of both formats:

Narrative format: Koehler (2016) noted the dangers of false news.

Parenthetical format: The news can distort our perception of an issue (Koehler, 2016).

Here's an example of how to paraphrase from a primary source in APA:

Dudley (1999) states that "direct quote" or paraphrase (Page #).

Note: It's not always necessary to include the page number, but it's recommended if it'll help readers quickly find a passage in a book.

Below are a couple of examples of how to paraphrase in APA. Keep in mind that for longer paraphrases, you don't have to add the citation again if it's clear that the same work is being paraphrased.

Short paraphrase:

Stephenson (1992) outlined a case study of a young man who showed increasing signs of insecurity without his father (pp. 23–27).

Long paraphrase:

Johnson et al. (2013) discovered that for small-breed dogs of a certain age, possession aggression was associated with unstable living environments in earlier years, including fenced-in yards with multiple dogs all together for long periods of time. However, these effects were mediated over time. Additionally, with careful training, the dogs showed less possession aggression over time. These findings illustrate the importance of positive reinforcement over the length of a dog's life.

When paraphrasing in MLA, include an in-text citation at the end of the last paraphrased sentence. 

Your in-text citation can be done either parenthetically or in prose, and it requires the last name of the cited author and the page number of the source you're paraphrasing from. Here are MLA citation examples :


Paraphrase (Author's Last Name Page #)

Author's Last Name states that paraphrase (Page #)

In addition to adding a short in-text citation to the end of your last paraphrased sentence, MLA requires that this source be included in your Works Cited page, so don't forget to add it there as well.

Here are two examples of how to paraphrase in MLA:

In an attempt to communicate his love for Elizabeth, all Mr. Darcy did was communicate the ways in which he fought to hide his true feelings (Austen 390).

Rowling explains how happy Harry was after being reunited with his friends when he thought all was lost (17).

Paraphrasing correctly in Chicago style depends on whether you're using the notes and bibliography system or the author-date system.

The notes and bibliography system includes footnotes or endnotes, whereas the author-date system includes in-text citations.

Below, you'll find the correct way to format citations when paraphrasing in both the notes and bibliography and author-date systems.

Notes and Bibliography

For the notes and bibliography system, add a superscript at the end of your paraphrase that corresponds to your footnote or endnote.

Johnson explains that there was no proof in the pudding. 1


For the author-date style, include the page number of the text you're referencing at the end of your paraphrase. If you mention the author, include the year the source was published.

Johnson (1995) explains that there was no proof in the pudding (21).

In summary, the purpose of paraphrasing is not to simply swap a few words; rather, it is to take ideas and explain them using an entirely different sentence structure and choice of words. It has a greater objective; it shows that you've understood the literature on your subject and are able to express it clearly to your reader.

In other words, proper paraphrasing shows that you are familiar with the ideas in your field, and it enables you to support your own research with in-text citations. 

Knowing when to paraphrase or quote strengthens your research presentation and arguments. Asking for paraphrasing help before you accidentally plagiarize shows that you understand the value of academic integrity.

If you need help, you might consider an editing and proofreading service, such as Scribendi. While our editors cannot paraphrase your sources for you, they can check whether you've cited your sources correctly according to your target style guide via our Academic Editing service.

Even if you need more than just paraphrase citation checks, our editors can help you decide whether a direct quote is stronger as a paraphrase, and vice versa. Editors cannot paraphrase quotes for you, but they can help you learn how to paraphrase a quote correctly.

Get a Free Sample , or Get an Instant Quote and Place Your Order Below

What is the meaning of "paraphrase".

Paraphrasing is when you write text from another source in your own words. It's a way of conveying to your reader or professor that you understand a specific source material well enough to describe it in your own style or language without quoting it directly. 

Paraphrasing (and citing your paraphrases) allows you to explain and share ideas you've learned from other sources without plagiarizing them.

You can write things in your own words by taking original notes on the sources you're reading and using those notes to write your paraphrase while keeping the source material out of sight. 

You can also practice putting things in your own words by changing sentences from passive to active, or vice versa, or by varying word choice and sentence length. You can also try Jeremy Plotnick's idea of paraphrasing from your own point-form notes.

When you're paraphrasing something, it means you are putting someone else's writing in your own words. You're not copying or quoting content directly. Instead, you are reading someone else's work and explaining their ideas in your own way. 

Paraphrasing demonstrates that you understand the material you're writing about and gives your reader the opportunity to understand the material in a simplified way that is different from how the original author explained it.

About the Author

Scribendi Editing and Proofreading

Scribendi's in-house editors work with writers from all over the globe to perfect their writing. They know that no piece of writing is complete without a professional edit, and they love to see a good piece of writing turn into a great one after the editing process. Scribendi's in-house editors are unrivaled in both experience and education, having collectively edited millions of words and obtained nearly 20 degrees collectively. They love consuming caffeinated beverages, reading books of various genres, and relaxing in quiet, dimly lit spaces.

Have you Read?

"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"

Related Posts

How Do I Know If I'm Plagiarizing?

How Do I Know If I'm Plagiarizing?

Scribendi's Ultimate Essay Writing Guide

Scribendi's Ultimate Essay Writing Guide

What is Plagiarism?

What is Plagiarism?

Essay Tips: How to Paraphrase Effectively

Essay Tips: How to Paraphrase Effectively

5-minute read

Writing an essay or research paper is no simple task. It’s hard enough to gather research and write your paper within a tight deadline, but you also have to ensure that you aren’t plagiarizing somebody else’s work. This means you’ll need to give credit to all sources that you used to support your claims with appropriate citations and references.

However, submitting a paper filled with citations isn’t the way to go. Many professors will reject papers with chunks of quoted sources – even if you cite them properly. Conversely, you can’t submit a paper without citations. A professor will either question your knowledge or accuse you of plagiarism.

Therefore, you need to have a healthy balance of your ideas and supporting claims (citations) in your paper. One way of doing this is by paraphrasing . However, many students don’t fully understand this concept or how to do it effectively. That’s where this post comes in!

What Is Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is taking the ideas or research of other authors and putting them into your own words. It demonstrates your understanding of what you’ve read and helps you to ensure that your entire text is written in a cohesive style. Paraphrasing is a legitimate academic writing skill that can easily boost your grades when it’s done effectively. It’s better than quoting sources.

Check out the following tips for paraphrasing the right way . Once you finish reading this post, you’ll hopefully feel more confident in your paraphrasing ability and ready to tackle your next essay with ease!

1. Understand What You’ve Read

Make sure you understand the quotation or sentence you want to paraphrase. If there’s one thing we want you to remember from this post, it’s this! If you don’t fully understand it, you won’t be able to rewrite it in your own words .

Imagine having to explain the original passage to a friend. How would you tell them in your own words? We recommend reading the original sentence several times and even a few times aloud. We also recommend highlighting keywords, which are needed to ensure that the meaning remains the same. Let’s look at an example of a sentence that we want to paraphrase:

Notice that the bold words are necessary for the meaning, so in your paraphrase, you should use those exact words or synonyms of them. Try finding a few synonyms first, and then decide which one resonates with your own words.

2. Restructure the Sentence

Rewriting a sentence by changing one or two words isn’t proper paraphrasing. Many students erroneously use a “copy and paste” method to change a few words in their paraphrased version. However, you need to change the sentence structure as well.

It would also help if you did this without looking at the original text, which is why we encourage reading the original multiple times. Here is an example of paraphrasing the sentence from our first tip with bolded words as synonyms:

As you can see, the sentence has been restructured, making it significantly different from the original text. However, the meaning remains the same.

3. Compare Your Paraphrase with the Original Text

This might seem simple, but there are a few things to consider when comparing your paraphrase with the original sentence:

●  Have you used synonyms for necessary words?

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

●  Is the sentence structure significantly different?

●  Is the basic meaning still the same?

The goal is to create a significantly different sentence structure while maintaining the original meaning. Of course, if you changed the meaning, you’ll need to correct the paraphrase!

4. Make Sure the Paraphrased Text Makes Sense

A common error associated with paraphrasing is an incoherent paraphrased text. This often happens because the writer hasn’t properly understood the original text or has used an online paraphrasing tool. Take this example of a paraphrase without a clear meaning:

The attempted paraphrase is entirely different from the original. The writer has likely used a thesaurus or paraphrasing tool to find a synonym for each word. Paraphrasing doesn’t mean substituting every word with a synonym!

Remember the following to ensure coherent paraphrasing:

●  Focus on the overall point of the original text.

●  Avoid using paraphrasing tools, as they often change the meaning of a text.

●  Use simple language instead of complex words.

5. Cite and Reference the Original Text

Yes, you must provide an in-text citation and reference list entry for each paraphrased sentence or passage! Just because you have paraphrased an idea doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide a citation . Otherwise, you’ll be subjected to the perils of plagiarism ! Here is an example of a properly cited paraphrase:

Omitting citations can happen accidentally. For example, you might rush to finish the paper or be worried about citing a source too frequently. However, it’s important to know that many institutions use plagiarism detection software , and therefore, a paraphrased text without an in-text citation won’t go unnoticed. So, cite for your sake (and the sake of your grade).

Are you currently working on an essay or research paper? Don’t forget to proofread it once it’s done. Our team of experts can ensure perfect spelling, punctuation, and grammar. We can also check for proper citation and referencing. Submit a 500-word document today, and we’ll proofread it for free!

Share this article:

Post A New Comment

Instant Quote

Need more help perfecting your writing proofed has the perfect editor.

You can also upload a document to get an instant quote

Drag & drop your file

or browse your computer

Browse from your device

Drop your file here!

Your file is being uploaded!

8-minute read

Punctuation Tips: Parenthesis

Whether you’re writing an essay, email, or cover letter, you’ll likely use parentheses. Maybe you...

2-minute read

Word Choice: May Versus Might

May and might are two modal verbs (a type of auxiliary verb) that often get...

3-minute read

5 Free French-to-English Translation Services

Below is a list of five free translation apps for French speakers seeking French-to-English translation...

4-minute read

How to Format Fiction Manuscripts

Like non-fiction and screenplays, fiction has unique formatting standards designed to ease the publishing process....

An Introduction to Orthography

If you’re looking up the definition of orthography, you’re probably either a language buff like...

How to Format an Argumentative Essay

When writing an argumentative essay, you would typically research a topic and adopt a certain...

Logo Harvard University

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.

American Psychological Association


A paraphrase restates another’s idea (or your own previously published idea) in your own words. Paraphrasing allows you to summarize and synthesize information from one or more sources, focus on significant information, and compare and contrast relevant details.

Published authors paraphrase their sources most of the time, rather than directly quoting the sources; student authors should emulate this practice by paraphrasing more than directly quoting.

When you paraphrase, cite the original work using either the narrative or parenthetical citation format .

Although it is not required to provide a page or paragraph number in the citation, you may include one (in addition to the author and year) when it would help interested readers locate the relevant passage within a long or complex work (e.g., a book).

Webster-Stratton (2016) described a case example of a 4-year-old girl who showed an insecure attachment to her mother; in working with the family dyad, the therapist focused on increasing the mother’s empathy for her child (pp. 152–153).

These guidelines pertain to when you read a primary source and paraphrase it yourself. If you read a paraphrase of a primary source in a published work and want to cite that source, it is best to read and cite the primary source directly if possible; if not, use a secondary source citation .

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

This guidance has been expanded from the 6th edition. 

Related handout

Long paraphrases

A paraphrase may continue for several sentences. In such cases, cite the work being paraphrased on first mention. Once the work has been cited, it is not necessary to repeat the citation as long as the context of the writing makes it clear that the same work continues to be paraphrased.

Velez et al. (2018) found that for women of color, sexism and racism in the workplace were associated with poor work and mental health outcomes, including job-related burnout, turnover intentions, and psychological distress. However, self-esteem, person–organization fit, and perceived organizational support mediated these effects. Additionally, stronger womanist attitudes—which acknowledge the unique challenges faced by women of color in a sexist and racist society—weakened the association of workplace discrimination with psychological distress. These findings underscore the importance of considering multiple forms of workplace discrimination in clinical practice and research with women of color, along with efforts to challenge and reduce such discrimination.

If the paraphrase continues into a new paragraph, reintroduce the citation. If the paraphrase incorporates multiple sources or switches among sources, repeat the citation so the source is clear. Read your sentences carefully to ensure you have cited sources appropriately.

Play therapists can experience many symptoms of impaired wellness, including emotional exhaustion or reduced ability to empathize with others (Elwood et al., 2011; Figley, 2002), disruption in personal relationships (Elwood et al., 2011; Robinson-Keilig, 2014), decreased satisfaction with work (Elwood et al., 2011), avoidance of particular situations (Figley, 2002; O’Halloran & Linton, 2000), and feelings or thoughts of helplessness (Elwood et al., 2011; Figley, 2002; O’Halloran & Linton, 2000).

From the APA Style blog

How to cite your own translations

How to cite your own translations

If you translate a passage from one language into another on your own in your paper, your translation is considered a paraphrase, not a direct quotation.

how to properly paraphrase in an essay

APA Style webinar on citing works in text

Attend the webinar, “Citing Works in Text Using Seventh Edition APA Style,” on July 14, 2020, to learn the keys to accurately and consistently citing sources in APA Style.


  1. 😂 How to properly paraphrase in an essay. How to Write an Essay Without Plagiarism. 2019-01-15

    how to properly paraphrase in an essay

  2. How AI Paraphrasing Fix Grammar Issues

    how to properly paraphrase in an essay

  3. Examples Of Paraphrasing In Apa Format

    how to properly paraphrase in an essay

  4. Effective Tips and Tricks to Paraphrase Sentence like a Pro by How To Paraphrase

    how to properly paraphrase in an essay

  5. Reword My Essay in UK: Guide

    how to properly paraphrase in an essay

  6. PPT

    how to properly paraphrase in an essay


  1. APA

  2. The Best Stealth Game Ever Was Released in 2015 (MGSV)

  3. Best Essay Generator

  4. Vibration Cinema's Top 10

  5. Why Paraphrasing is One of the Most Important Essay Writing Skills

  6. President top secret document retrieval and storage service debuts


  1. Paraphrasing, Summarising and Quoting

    How to paraphrase · Read the original source carefully. · Identify the main point(s) and key words. · Cover the original text and rewrite it in

  2. How to Paraphrase

    Paraphrasing vs. summarizing ... A paraphrase puts a specific passage into your own words. It's typically a similar length to the original text

  3. Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing (MLA format)

    Quotation marks directly before and after the material tell the reader these are the exact words of the source. Quotations add spice to an essay and offer proof

  4. Paraphrase: Write It in Your Own Words

    6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing · Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning. · Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a

  5. Quoting and Paraphrasing

    Paraphrasing is often defined as putting a passage from an author into “your own words.” But what are your own words? How different must your paraphrase be from

  6. How to Paraphrase to Avoid Plagiarism

    Paraphrasing: can include some key terms from the original work but must use new language to represent the original work—DO NOT COPY THE

  7. MLA: In-Text Citations

    If the author's name is not given, then use the first word or words of the title. Follow the same formatting that was used in the works cited

  8. How to Paraphrase: Dos, Don'ts, and Strategies for Success

    Another way to distinguish your paraphrase from the original source is to use different sentence lengths. Often, scholarly articles are written using long

  9. Essay Tips: How to Paraphrase Effectively

    1. Understand What You've Read · 2. Restructure the Sentence · 3. Compare Your Paraphrase with the Original Text · 4. Make Sure the Paraphrased

  10. Paraphrasing

    If you translate a passage from one language into another on your own in your paper, your translation is considered a paraphrase, not a direct quotation. APA