Guide to Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is the process of changing an author's words into your own words. Paraphrasing may be used as a study technique or as a writing technique.

  1. As a study technique Paraphrasing tests a person's understanding of a writer's ideas. It is a way of testing your comprehension. Moreover, because it requires a much deeper level of mental processing than less active kinds of reading or study, you're able to learn better.
  2. As a writing technique Paraphrasing allows you to summarize another writer's ideas, to fit them smoothly in with your own ideas, or to use another person's ideas to prove your own thesis.
  3. Give credit. When you paraphrase a writer in your paper, you must give credit to the original author of the ideas (if you fail to mention the source of the ideas, you become guilty of plagiarism). For more information on plagiarism, see the English Center handout How to Avoid Plagiarism.

An example of paraphrasing

Paragraph from the original source:

"I had to explain to him that I was deaf. I said, 'Wait; I can't hear; please talk slowly.' He looked at me and said, 'What?' I told him again I was deaf, and he said, 'Oh.' He pointed to a door and told me to go through that door. I followed his instructions. I opened the door and walked through it, closing the door behind me. I found that I was in the hallway near the elevator where I had just come up. I was shocked! He had rejected me without any explanation. I got into the elevator, and as it descended, I felt very let down. I couldn't understand why he didn't give me a chance to explain that I could do the job well. It didn't require hearing!"

-- Bernard Bragg, My First Summer Job, A Handful of Stories, 19.

A possible paraphrase for the above paragraph:

In A Handful of Stories, Bernard Bragg tells a story of trying to get a job. One time he told a potential employer he was deaf, and the man just pointed to the door. Mr. Bragg, not realizing the man was telling him to leave, opened the door and stepped out. Not until he went out the door did he realize he had been rejected because he was deaf (19).

Source: Bragg, Bernard. "My First Summer Job." A Handful of Stories. Eds. L.G. Lenoard and I.B. Pittles. Washington DC: Gallaudet College, 1981.