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Paraphrasing Strategies: Paraphrasing Strategies

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Paraphrasing Strategies: Paraphrasing Strategies

Last updated 5/6/2020


Visual: Screen opens to a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The title Walden University Writing Center and tagline “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears on the screen. The screen changes to show the series title "Paraphrasing Strategies" and the video title "Paraphrasing Strategies."

Audio: Guitar music.


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
  • Identify 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:  Here is one strategy you can use when paraphrasing in your academic writing. I will talk about each of these steps in greater detail, but as an overview, the steps we recommend are as follows: reading, thinking about the purpose, looking away, imaging, writing, and then checking and citing.

Let’s go through each step in detail, starting with reading. It’s important to read the material first and ensure you fully understand its meaning. Sometimes that may mean reading a passage in a source many times. This is most common when students are new to the field they are studying or are encountering new ideas, so don’t hesitate to re-read a source if you’re not sure what it’s saying, as this is an essential step to successfully paraphrasing. 

Second, 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. Or, you might think, “how does this passage relate to the other ideas I’m writing about in my paper or paragraph?” The main goal here is that you want to put the information you’re going to paraphrase into context since it’s going to sit within a larger paper and need to relate to the rest of the ideas you have in your writing.

Then look away. If you’re reading a book, put the book down; if you’re reading an article on your computer, close the article. Whatever you have to do so you’re not staring at the source you’ll be paraphrasing, do that.

Next, imagine explaining the passage you want to paraphrase to another person. Imagine that a co-worker asked what you just read—how would you explain it to them?

Then, once you’re ready, start writing down your explanation. As you do so, don’t worry about your word choice, tone, or length—this is just a first draft. Your goal is to get your explanation and idea on the page, and then you should look at your paraphrase and revise. You might compare it to the original and see if it’s very close, and if it is, you’ll revise. Or, you might revise for tone or length. You might realize you included extra details you don’t need, and you can edit those out.

The final step then is to cite that source and include it in your writing.

Paraphrasing can seem like a complex process, especially, as I said before, if you’re new to the field you’re studying or to the ideas you’re reading about. But remember, we paraphrase every day of our lives. When someone asks you about your day and you tell them about a conversation you had with your co-worker, you’re paraphrasing that conversation—you’re putting what someone else said in your own words. So, we all have the capacity to paraphrase. It just can become more difficult when we’re encountering new material, and so our suggestion is to use these steps to help you over that initial difficulty. The more you paraphrase and use this strategy, the easier paraphrasing will become.


Visual: The screen changes to an ending slide with slide a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The email address appears on the screen.