Paraphrasing

Putting someone else’s idea into your own words is a key academic skill. It demonstrates you have understood the idea and can communicate it clearly in a way that links to your own points. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

What is paraphrasing?

People often explain paraphrasing as, "Just write it in your own words", as if this is an easy thing to do. In fact, paraphrasing can take more time, thought, and practice than people give it credit for. Don't be discouraged if you find paraphrasing challenging, because it is a complex process but it will get easier with practice and understanding. For a good clear overview of how to paraphrase see this short guide:

Sentence structure

Don’t just change a few words. This can lead to paraphrases that are far too close to the original text, and which will be considered as plagiarism. Cover over the original and write using a different sentence structure that is more like your natural style. Look at these examples explaining acceptable and unacceptable paraphrases:

Reference it!

You must always reference a paraphrase as the idea is still someone else’s even though you have written it in your own words. See our guides to referencing and academic integrity for more on good practice.

Understanding

It’s almost impossible to paraphrase something if you don’t understand it fully, or don’t know how it really links to what you are communicating. This video and examples show how to summarise and synthesise the ideas to support your own points:

Purpose

People often worry that they can’t express the idea any better than the original author. But remember your own purpose. You will be using the information in a different way and this will shape the parts you choose to paraphrase and the unique emphasis you put on it. See this video for more on paraphrasing with purpose:

Process of paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is a complex process that involves reading, understanding, summarising and finding words to express ideas. The comprehensive resource below has activities and quizzes to guide you through the process - click on paraphrasing in the drop-down menu in the resource:

Practice

We say ‘put it in your own words’ as if this was easy, but it is a skill that takes practice. Avoid copying or cutting and pasting text into your notes. Instead, take the opportunity to practice your paraphrasing. See our page on how to make effective notes: