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If you look away from the text for a while and then try to write the same content in your own words, you are writing a paraphrase.

Paraphrase is your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form. Also, paraphrase is a legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a source.

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill becauseit is better than quoting information from an undistinguished passage. The mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original.

For example, let us try to paraphrase the first sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: " It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." We can start by making " It is a truth" a little less formal: It’s true, that, perhaps. Now " universally acknowledged": everybody acknowledges, or even everybody agrees. Now we may choose to drop the whole first clause to begin Everybody agrees that " a single man" – a bachelor – " in possession of a good fortune" – rich – " must be in want of a wife" – wants a wife. Or is it needs a wife? Okay, Everybody agrees that a rich man needs a wife.

You can see that the process of paraphrasing is something like that of translation: we are translating Austin’s nineteenth-century English prose into twentieth-century informal language. So, the process of paraphrasing enables us to test whether we really understand what we are reading. Certain elements of the text become clearer: we may see now that Austin’s sentence is meant to be ironic and humorous, and we now understand the two possible meanings of " in want of". Besides, we have learned how dependent a text is upon words. A paraphrase, no matter how precise, can render only an approximate equivalent of the meaning of a text – how good Austen’s sentence is, how flat our paraphrase is.

When paraphrasing, read the original passage several times until you understand its full meaning. Check the text of your paraphrase with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source and record the source (including the page) so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.

Consider another example:

The original passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46–47.

A legitimate paraphrase:

In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46–47).


Paraphrase is a useful tool when you write about other people’s work in other ways. In trying to explain or clarify a literary text for someone, to illustrate a point you are making, or to remind your readers of a passage you will at times want to paraphrase. Unlike an exact copy, a paraphrase, being written in your own words, adds something of yours to the text or passage – your emphasis, your perspective, your understanding. You have begun to interpret, explain, and clarify.

2.2. Paraphrase the following passages:


1. Jim Rose, chief executive of online auction house QXL Ricardo is still bidding up the company’s chances of breaking even by 2003 – despite a fall in the value of goods sold through its websites in the first three months of the year. He said the introduction of fees to use QXL’s services and slashing expenses had boosted the profit margins and cut losses over the quarter to $8.5 million. The company has $45 million in cash to take it through to break even. QXL is targeting its marketing effort on men aged 18 to 44 and is forging partnership with other online service providers such as Ebookers. The gavel came down on the shares at 4.4 from 5.4.

Andrew Johnson, The Daily Mirror


2. It may be remarked, however, that, of all the events that constitute a person’s biography, there is scarcely one – none, certainly, of anything like a similar importance – to which the world so easily reconciles itself as to his death. In most other cases and contingencies, the individual is present among us, mixed up with the daily revolution of affairs, and affording a definite point for observation. At his decease, there is only a vacancy, and a momentary eddy – very small, as compared with the apparent magnitude of the ingurgitated object – and a bubble or two, ascending out of the black depth and bursting at the surface.

Nathahiel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables


3. Here’s a Pop Quiz for auto aficionados. What upcoming car technology will have the most impact on teenage boys with a penchant for sneaking late-night joyrides in daddy’s Porch, on soccer Moms balancing a baby in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other, and on carjackers who prey on clumsy folks in empty shopping-mall parking lots? If you guessed keyless door locks and ignitions: bingo.

Ron Stodghill, Time


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