What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is clearly restating in your own words the ideas or thoughts of another person. A paraphrase differs from a summary in scope. A summary usually conveys all of the main ideas of a text, while a paraphrase can convey the just main point or a small bit of the text, like a single paragraph or sentence.

Why do we need to paraphrase?

When writing, we include source material as evidence for our arguments, or we include it in order to challenge it. Paraphrasing source material can show that you’ve understood the information (because you are conveying it accurately), and this enhances your own credibility as a writer.

Paraphrasing also helps you integrate source information without using too many direct quotations. See our handout on quotations for more on this.

Characteristics of a good paraphrase

  • It includes only the author’s ideas.
  • It is accurate and fair.
  • It is entirely in your own words.
  • It is properly cited.

How do we paraphrase?

Read and Understand

First, read the source material carefully so that you understand it. Identify its main claims and pieces of evidence. (TIP: When taking notes on a source, be sure to write them in your own words in order to avoid plagiarism later. Always write down where you got the information, including page numbers.)

Strategies for Paraphrasing

  • Imagine that you are explaining the material to a friend who doesn’t understand it well.
  • Break down complex ideas into smaller pieces.
  • Identify relationships between the pieces, e.g., cause/effect or contrast. Write the paraphrase using words that signal the relationship, e.g., because, therefore, however.
  • Put the information in a new order.
  • Change the expression from active to passive voice, or passive to active.
  • Use different vocabulary. Consult a thesaurus if necessary, then consult a dictionary to make sure the new words are synonymous.
  • Transform words into different parts of speech, e.g., decision–>decide.
  • Be clear that the ideas presented are clearly attributed to the author. (TIP: Check a manual for acceptable citation styles.)


Original Text

(Seidlhofer, Barbara. “Section 1: The global spread of English.” Controversies in Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.)

“The global spread of English is not only an issue for teachers and learners of English. The unprecedented spread of one language and the extent of its use as a global lingua franca in many walks of life raises as many questions and concerns as does economic and cultural globalization. A fact which must certainly not be overlooked is that talk about ‘the global spread of English’ does not mean that having access to English in order to gain access to knowledge is a commodity available to all who desire it, nor that English as an international means of communication is welcome wherever it is available – far from it.” (Seidlhofer 7)

✓ Acceptable Paraphrase

The worldwide use of English concerns people outside of language classrooms. The issues raised by the global use of English as a lingua franca are as numerous as the issues raised by the globalization of cultures and economies. In discussions of English as a global language, people should note that English language instruction may not be available to everyone who wants it, and in places where English can be spoken, it may not be the most welcome language for international communication. (Seidlhofer 7)

✗ Unacceptable Paraphrase

The spreading of English worldwide is not only an issue for people who teach and learn English.The spread of this one language is unprecedented, and its position as a global lingua franca by many different types of people creates many issues and problems as does economic and cultural globalization. An important fact is that although people talk about English spreading globally, this does not mean that using English to get more knowledge is something available to all who desire it. It also doesn’t mean that English as an international means of communication is always welcome. (Seidlhofer 7)

This paraphrase is unacceptable because the expressions are too similar to the original texts in sentence structure and vocabulary.


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout (just click print) and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

If you enjoy using our handouts, we appreciate contributions of acknowledgement.