The word “paraphrase” has two definitions, depending on the part of speech it represents in the sentence.
As a verb, “to paraphrase” means “to express the meaning of the writer or speaker (or something written or spoken) using different words, especially to achieve greater clarity.” As a noun, “paraphrase” is defined as “a rewording of something written or spoken by someone else.”
Understanding the importance of paraphrasing comes down to one thing: easy communication. When a source is paraphrased, it usually becomes more straightforward because it is rephrased and broken down in a way that is more easily digestible.
So, why is paraphrasing important? To truly answer this question, we must first understand other ways to reference information..
Paraphrasing, like most things, is a process. When determining how to paraphrase, there are a few things you must do every time. The paraphrasing steps are easy but should be followed to a T in order to ensure you’re conveying the referenced information accurately.
You can paraphrase correctly every time by following the five steps below:
To improve a paraphrase, be sure to review both your writing and the reference material multiple times. Look for any ways to make the paraphrase more independent from the original text and more geared toward supporting your unique ideas with credible outside support.
To do this, follow the “Four R’s of Paraphrasing”:
When you’re paraphrasing, unintentional plagiarism is the biggest pitfall you can encounter.
This is because sometimes we remember the source material too well and don’t do our due diligence to recheck our paraphrases against the original. Accidental plagiarism of this kind can be avoided by double-checking our work and also ensuring we cite all outside sources, whether they are paraphrased or not.
According to the Harvard College Writing Program, there are six main types of plagiarism, four of which apply to paraphrasing. If your paraphrases don’t fit under any of these categories, you’ll be free and clear of this issue.
Paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing are all ways to incorporate the works of others into your writing to build credibility and support for your unique arguments and ideas.
These are all important skills to learn and employ when writing and researching, but on the surface, it can sometimes be difficult to understand which is most appropriate to use. When in doubt, consult our handy table below.