Guidelines for Paraphrasing Sources


We have all watched a good television show or an interesting news story that we wanted to tell others about. When you are explaining the show or story, you most likely tell your friends, your family, or your coworkers what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. In doing so, you describe things like the plot, the main characters, the events, and the important points using your own words. This skill is paraphrasing–using your own words to express someone else's message or ideas.

When you paraphrase in writing, the ideas and meaning of the original source must be maintained; the main ideas need to come through, but the wording has to be your own. And, of course, credit needs to be given to the author. You don’t want to over quote in your paper. A great alternative to quoting is to paraphrase information. However, paraphrasing takes a little more skill than directly quoting information, because, to paraphrase correctly, you need to understand what the original quote or passage is about in order to write about it in your words.

How Do You Paraphrase a Source?

When Is Paraphrasing Useful?

You should paraphrase when…

Examples of Good Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing can be done with individual sentences or entire paragraphs. Here are some examples:

Original sentence #1:

“Her life spanned years of incredible change for women” (Smith, 2015, p.1).

Paraphrased version:

Mary lived through an era of liberating reform for women (Smith, 2015, p.1).

Original sentence #2:

“Giraffes like Acacia leaves and hay, and they can consume 65 pounds of food a day” (“National Geographic,” 2013, p.16).

Paraphrased version:

A giraffe can eat up to 65 pounds of Acacia leaves and hay every day (“National Geographic,” 2013, p.16).

As you can see in the examples, the essence and meaning of the paraphrased versions are similar to the original sentences. The paraphrased sentences even used the main keywords from the original source, but the order and the structure of the sentence changed when the author put the information in his own words. You can apply these same tactics to paraphrasing longer texts as well. Here is an example of how to paraphrase a paragraph of information:

Original paragraph:

“The feminization of clerical work and teaching by the turn of the century reflected the growth of business and public education. It also reflected limited opportunities elsewhere. Throughout the nineteenth century, stereotyping of work by sex had restricted women's employment. Job options were limited; any field that admitted women attracted a surplus of applicants willing to work for less pay than men would have received. The entry of women into such fields—whether grammar school teaching or office work—drove down wages.”

Woloch, N. (2002). Women and the American experience: A concise history. New York, NY: McGraw–Hill Higher Education.

Paraphrased version:

According to Nancy Woloch (2002) in Women and the American Experience: A Concise History, the “feminization” of jobs in the nineteenth century had two major effects: a lack of employment opportunities for women and inadequate compensation for positions that were available. Thus, while clerical and teaching jobs indicated a boom in these sectors, women were forced to apply for jobs that would pay them less than male workers were paid (p. 170).

This version is properly paraphrased because…