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Paraphrasing Sources: Paraphrasing Strategies

Last updated 5/18/2016


Visual: The Walden University Writing Center logo is visible at the bottom of the screen along with notepad and pencil background. Text reading “Walden University Writing Center. Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears in center of screen. The slide changes to an orange text box that reads "Paraphrasing Sources" as a heading and "Paraphrasing Strategies" as a title.

Audio: Guitar music plays.


Visual: The slide rotates to a new light blue and brown slide which has a heading that reads "Paraphrasing: Strategies for Practice."

Below there are five green arrows with text inside of them and questions listed below which demonstrate the process of paraphrasing step by step.  These steps and their explanations read as follows, from left to right:

  • "Read: Read passage until you understand its meaning
  • Purpose: What will you do with this evidence?
  • Look away: Look away from the passage to write main points of what you read
  • Imagine & Write: Imagine explaining that main point to a classmate/coworker; Write explanation on page
  • Check & Cite: Double check your wording against the original; Cite the source"

Audio:  So here's the general strategy to use when paraphrasing. I will talk about this in-depth, but I want to walk through the different parts of the strategy: Reading, thinking about the purpose, looking away, imaging, writing, and then checking and citing.

First you have to read the information, right? You can't paraphrase until you read the material. You can't just read it, but you have to actually understand the meaning of it. Sometimes this means reading it and rereading it, and rereading it. I know there was something I was working on for a residency, and I had to read the passage multiple times in order to come up with my own paraphrase, because I didn't understand it the first time that I read it. It wasn't something in my field of study. It was something I hadn't read about, a topic I hadn't read about in a long time. So, you may have to read it multiple times in order to understand the meaning.

And then you want to think about "what will you do with this evidence?" Oftentimes, it helps to go into your reading with a purpose. So, if you have a thesis statement you want to support, think about that thesis statement before you even start reading. You could probably even alternate these steps. Think about how you want to use this information. And then think about, what will you do with this evidence?

Then look away. You know, if it's something you are reading, put the book down. Something on the computer, close your computer, take out a notepad and write it handwritten somewhere else. Look away so you have to think about how you would explain that information to someone who maybe isn't familiar with the content. So imagine that you are explaining it to your coworkers or maybe even your child. You know, sometimes it's helpful to really think about things in a simple way. We can always go back and edit our language choices and make things more formal. But if we can explain a complex topic in a very simple way, that means we really understand it. And then write down the explanation on the page, wherever it is that you are not looking at the original source.

If you're not sure about paraphrasing and you're a little uncomfortable, you can always double-check your wording against the original source. So take your paraphrase, take the original source, look at them side-by-side. Do they align? Are there similar words that are used? Are there the same words that are used? Do you use any of the same sentence structure? And revise your paraphrase. You want to be sure to really double-check that. And then you also want to cite that source. Always be sure to cite your source when paraphrasing.

Another way I look at it is this idea of breathing. For those of you who have attended a residency session with me, you have probably heard me use this analogy before. The analogy of breathing goes like this. If any of you are a Biology teacher, I apologize. I'm simplifying this immensely. When we breathe, we breathe in oxygen, and we exhale carbon dioxide. We inhale and exhale a gas. As we breathe in and exhale, it is always a gas. It stays a gas at the same time. But, it comes in as oxygen and goes out as carbon dioxide, and something happens in the middle that changes it a little bit. It is still a gas, it keeps that core component, but something changes in the middle. That is what happens in paraphrasing; you are taking the information and rearticulating that information. But something happens in the middle that changes it a little bit. And what happens is you begin to look at the information from your world view, from your experience, and you begin to compare it to other articles that you've read, other sources that you've been looking at. And so you have all of this information, all of these different parts, moving parts that kind of come together and shape the way that you're going to rearticulate that information. I don't know if it is helpful for you, it is helpful for me to think about it in a more concrete way. The idea of breathing often helps me make paraphrasing less of a mystery. 


Visual: “Walden University Writing Center. Questions? E-mail” appears in center of screen.

Audio: Guitar music plays.