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3.3: Paraphrasing

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  • Skills to Develop

    • Identify how summarizing and paraphrasing work together
    • Apply paraphrasing techniques of changing words and sentence structures

    When you quote a source, you are taking the words directly from the passage: these are the original author’s words. Quotes can be useful (see Chapter 9), but in order to show you understand what you have read, you should paraphrase. Paraphrasing is putting information into your words; it is an important skill to develop because when you do it, you are not only showing you understand what you have read, but you are also processing and adapting that information to your writing purpose.

    When you paraphrase, you are using the technique of putting a condensed version of someone else’s ideas (summary) into your own words.

    It is very important to remember when you are paraphrasing is you still need to include citations because although the words are yours, the ideas belong to the original authors, and you must give that person credit for the ideas (again, we will look at this more in Chapter 9).


    If you prefer rewriting, try not to copy but use your own paraphrasing of the material. If a concept is difficult, put it in your own terms with a concrete example so you understand it. Try to put it in the vocabulary of the course.

    Paraphrasing Sources

    When you paraphrase material from a source, restate the information from an entire sentence or passage in your own words, using your own original sentence structure. A paraphrased source differs from a summarized source in that you focus on restating the ideas, not condensing them. Again, it is important to check your paraphrase against the source material to make sure it is both accurate and original. Inexperienced writers sometimes use the thesaurus method of paraphrasing; that is, they simply rewrite the source material, replacing most of the words with synonyms. This constitutes a misuse of sources. A true paraphrase restates ideas using the writer’s (your) own language and style.

    In his draft, Jorge frequently paraphrased details from sources. At times, he needed to rewrite a sentence more than once to ensure he was paraphrasing ideas correctly. Below is a passage with examples of how he paraphrased and adapted the information to create his own paragraph. Read the passage from a website. Then read Jorge’s initial attempt at paraphrasing it, followed by the final version of his paraphrase.


    According to Heinz (2009), dieters nearly always get great results soon after they begin following a low-carbohydrate diet, but these results tend to taper off after the first few months, particularly because many dieters find it difficult to follow a low-carbohydrate diet plan consistently.

    Jorge’s Original Summary

    People usually see encouraging outcomes shortly after they go on a low-carbohydrate diet, but their progress slows down after a short while, especially because most discover that it is a challenge to adhere to the diet strictly (Heinz, 2009).

    After reviewing the paraphrased sentence, Jorge realized he was following the original source too closely. He did not want to quote the full passage verbatim, so he again attempted to restate the idea in his own style.

    Jorge’s Revised Summary

    Because it is hard for dieters to stick to a low-carbohydrate eating plan, the initial success of these diets is short lived (Heinz, 2009).

    Exercise 3.7

    On a sheet of paper, paraphrase each of the following passages.

    “The twenties were the years when drinking was against the law, and the law was a bad joke because everyone knew of a local bar where liquor could be had. They were the years when organized crime ruled the cities, and the police seemed powerless to do anything against it. Classical music was forgotten while jazz spread throughout the land, and men like Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie became the heroes of the young. The flapper was born in the twenties, and with her bobbed hair and short skirts, she symbolized, perhaps more than anyone or anything else, America’s break with the past.” From Kathleen Yancey, English 102 Supplemental Guide (1989): 25.

    “While the Sears Tower is arguably the greatest achievement in skyscraper engineering so far, it’s unlikely that architects and engineers have abandoned the quest for the world’s tallest building. The question is: Just how high can a building go? Structural engineer William LeMessurier has designed a skyscraper nearly one half mile high, twice as tall as the Sears Tower. And architect Robert Sobel claims that existing technology could produce a 500-story building.” From Ron Bachman, “Reaching for the Sky.” Dial (May 1990): 15.

    Collaboration: Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.


    During the twenties, lawlessness and social nonconformity prevailed. In cities, organized crime flourished without police interference, and, in spite of nationwide prohibition of liquor sales, anyone who wished to buy a drink knew where to get one. Musicians like Louis Armstrong become favourites, particularly among young people, as many turned away from highly respectable classical music to jazz. One of the best examples of the anti-traditional trend was the proliferation of young “flappers,” women who rebelled against custom by cutting off their hair and shortening their skirts (Yancey, 1989, p. 25).

    The Sears Tower is a world marvel, and it is unknown how much higher skyscrapers of the future will rise. However, the design of one twice as tall as the Sears Tower is already on the boards, and an architect, Robert Sobel, thinks we currently have sufficient know how to build a skyscraper with over 500 storeys (Bachman, 1990, p. 15).

    Exercise taken from:

    Exercise 3.8

    On a sheet of paper, follow these steps to practise paraphrasing.

    • Choose an important idea or detail from your notes.
    • Without looking at the original source, restate the idea in your own words.
    • Check your paraphrase against the original text in the source. Make sure both your language and your sentence structure are original.
    • Revise your paraphrase if necessary.

    Assignment 2: summary practice (5%)

    Read the following article and compose a summary of 100 to 150 words. Determine what the key points are and paraphrase accordingly. Make sure all the points you choose are important to the understanding and overall meaning of the essay.


    You want to use objective language that accurately represents the original author’s angle of vision: do not provide analysis or discussion.

    You should not simply substitute words.

    You should change up the sentence structure.

    The end result needs to capture all the main points but also be in your own words.

    You need to submit this assignment to your instructor for marking. (5%)


    Heroin as One of the Most Lethal Drugs
    Among prohibited narcotic substances, heroin has been classified as one of the most addictive and detrimental. In a recent research study run by the Institute of Narcotic Examination in Rollesque, Nevada, heroin ranked 2.89 out of 3 on a dependence rating scale (Perez, 2012). This result was also confirmed by scores of research held in London by the Academy of Pharmaceutical Studies (Perez, 2012). An opiate processed from morphine, heroin is delineated as a lethal drug. The common form of heroin sold in streets looks like a white or brown gummy substance with a high consistency of tar.

    Heroin is injected into the human body through a hypothermic needle directly in a muscle or a particular blood vein. It can also be smoked like cigarettes. There is the possibility of it being successfully mixed with drugs or snorted as cocaine. Street heroin is often mixed with other substances like sugar, starch, quinine, poisons or even powder milk to dilute the effect. Short and long term effects of heroin use have different levels of withdrawal, reinforcements, tolerance, dependency and intoxication. Heroin reduces pain and mimics the traits of endorphins, which causes the human brain to experience pleasure (Hollow, 2011). The central neural system becomes supersaturated with endorphin like substances, and when the effect of heroin ends, individuals begin to feel the need for a new injection to prolong pleasure (Hollow, 2011).

    The degree of heroin addictiveness can be measured by the severe withdrawal symptoms which it induces in individuals. Among the most common symptoms, one can enlist the following: a warm flush feeling in the skin, an ill mood and depression, vomiting, itching, nausea, and heavy pain in joints. The cardiac functions and the neural system functions slow down, though it often depends on the individual’s genetic type, amount of the drug taken, and the purity of the substance (Hollow, 2011).

    Heroin addiction causes numerous side effects to the physical body. Blood vein structure collapses, and a risk of receiving a heart infection, liver disease, or abscesses dramatically increases. Long term addiction to the drug takes the form of a chronic, relapsing disease. Long term use of heroin prompts users to gradually increase doses. Once a user is in the chronic stage, this implies such symptoms as restlessness, bone and muscle pain, insomnia, and intense withdrawal stages lasting for 24 to 48 hours after heroin has been taken (Lichter, 2012).

    The treatment of heroin addiction includes a thorough detoxification program, which helps to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms. The use of medications for treatment along with therapy helps individuals cope. Methadone programs, buprenorphine, together with behavioral therapies aid to recover from addiction (Perez, 2012). These aspects are important, as both behavioral and pharmacological interventions can effectively normalize addiction levels, brain functions and social behavior. These methods are used in a varied combination to cure the withdrawal, tolerance, dependence and intoxication elements to minimize the addictive qualities of heroin.


    Hollow, M. (2011). Heroin: The Ultimate Drug. Chicago: Running Hill Books.

    Lichter, M. (2012). The Dark Hole of Heroin. Boston: Sidetrack Books.

    Perez, G. (2012). Studies of Heroin. New York: Gold Beard Press.

    Essay taken and adapted from:

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