How to Paraphrase Original Material: 13 Steps

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How to Paraphrase Original Material: 13 Steps
How to Paraphrase Original Material: 13 Steps

Paraphrasing is a great way to incorporate someone else's ideas into your written work without using a verbatim quote. You can use this technique to incorporate evidence or support for your ideas. When paraphrasing, it is important to present the author's original ideas accurately in your own words. After paraphrasing the passage, be sure to quote it appropriately.


Part 1 of 3: Examine the Quote

Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 1
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 1

Step 1. Choose a passage of the text that has between 1 and 3 sentences

Don't try to paraphrase a lot of information in one go. Focus on the sentences that most effectively support your ideas or arguments and condense them into a paraphrased statement. If you want to use a larger section of text, it will be better to write a summary.

  • An abstract is broader than a paraphrase because it focuses on the main points of an entire section and gives an overview of the entire text. A paraphrase focuses on a single idea or a main concept within a larger work.
  • Pick a quote that directly supports your argument. For example, you could choose statistical data that is within an article or the opinion of an expert on the subject you are writing about.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 2
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 2

Step 2. Make notes on the quote identifying the main ideas and supporting details

Identify what the author is saying, as their main idea or argument. Then write down how you support those ideas. What does this quote mean in general?

  • Make detailed annotations, which will help you understand the quote, as well as condensing the notes to form a paragraph.
  • For example, let's say you choose the following quote: "Despite expectations, installing metered ramps did not decrease highway congestion levels. Travel times from the city center to the nearest residential area were from an average of 40 minutes before meters were added to the ramps. After installation, travel times averaged 38 minutes, a difference that is not significant. " In this quote, the main idea of the author is that the metered ramps did not solve the traffic problems on this road and the details that support this idea are the statistics that specify that the travel times were similar before and after installation.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 3
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 3

Step 3. Paraphrase a passage if the words are less important than the idea

If you can express the same ideas in different words, it is recommended to use a paraphrase when including them in your work. This will ensure that most of the text is in your own words. Also, it is not a good idea to include many verbatim quotes.

  • If you are going to quote data, information or statistics, your best option is to paraphrase.
  • You can use the paraphrase to avoid having many verbatim quotes in your work. A paraphrase condenses the ideas in a passage and alters the original language.
  • In any case, you will have to quote when paraphrasing, otherwise, you will be plagiarizing.
  • For example, you could quote verbatim a dialogue, poem, speech, or quote that contains a unique sentence construction. In any other case, it would be nice to paraphrase.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 4
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 4

Step 4. Don't paraphrase if the construction of a passage is important

The writing might be important if you need the original words of the author to preserve the original meaning, preserve the authority of the subject matter expert, or present an eloquent formulation. For example, you could quote from the famous “I have a dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, as the words he spoke are important.

  • It is best to quote verbatim the words of a political figure, celebrity, or writer.
  • If the language of the text is important, a verbatim quote is best. However, you may decide to paraphrase a longer paragraph or passage to make it more concise.

Part 2 of 3: Using your own words

Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 5
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 5

Step 1. Reread the passage you want to use

You will have to fully understand it before you can paraphrase it. In some cases, it is good to reread it several times before writing the sentence.

  • Focus on the ideas in the passage. What does the author really mean?
  • For example, you could reread it, review your notes, and then read it one more time.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 6
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 6

Step 2. Reframe the ideas in your own words

Use your notes and your understanding from the full text to rewrite the quote. Don't just change the words of the original phrase for synonyms, as this is plagiarism. Rather, make sure that your wording is completely original. This also means that you should use a different sentence structure than the opening passage has, which suits the style of your essay.

  • For example, let's say your original quote is "Our results show that 40% of the voters who participated in the referendum did not make up their minds until they got to the polling place."
  • This is an example of plagiarism: "The product of your research showed that 40% of the people who voted in the referendum decided their answer when they arrived at the polling place."
  • Rather, you could write the following: "Based on this study, 40% of the voters in the referendum waited to get to the voting location to decide who to vote for."
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 7
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 7

Step 3. Compare the paraphrase you made with the original quote

Read both passages aloud and make sure they convey the same ideas, but in different words. Your statement should be different enough not to be plagiarized, but not so different that it loses the author's intent.

  • Review the paraphrase if you are not sure it reflects the original quote properly.
  • You could ask someone else to read the original quote and then your paraphrased version. Ask if your version reflects the author's ideas, but in your own words.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 8
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 8

Step 4. Make sure the paraphrase reflects the author's intent

It is possible to take a passage out of context and use it with a different intention than the author. This way you can support your arguments, but it will not be correct. Any material you cite from a source should reflect the author's intent in the context of their work as a whole.

  • For example, let's say the original author wrote a case study on the special vote in a small town on allowing dogs in the local park. You may find this quote: “When we spoke to citizens who voted against this measure, we noticed that most of them were not concerned about dogs. However, they did not like the way that supporters exerted pressure for the park rules to be changed. "
  • If the essay is about voting in general, it would not be correct to use the passage in this way: "According to Williams, most people who vote in an election care more about the campaign than about the options of the ballot.". This sentence does not reflect the true intention of the author.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 9
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 9

Step 5. Do not put the paraphrased text in quotation marks

Since a paraphrase is written in your own words, you won't have to put it in quotation marks. Rather, you will write it like any other text that you have written yourself.

Use quotation marks for the unique words that are necessary to convey what the author means. For example, if you quote a passage from the book Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, you will have to use the term "freakonomics" in quotation marks

Part 3 of 3: Cite the text

Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 10
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 10

Step 1. See what style of dating your teacher prefers

The most popular style guides are MLA, APA, and Chicago. You will need to follow the requirements in the formatting guide to cite the paraphrase both within the text and on the reference page at the end of the essay.

Review your assignment sheet or talk to your teacher. If you use the wrong style guide, you may not receive full credit for your work

Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 11
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 11

Step 2. Use a parenthetical citation for an in-text citation in MLA or APA

You will need to quote the passage you paraphrased right after it appears in your essay. To do this, you will have to put the publication information in parentheses after the paraphrase.

  • If you are using MLA, the citation in parentheses will include the author's last name and page numbers. For example: "Children should play outside for an hour a day (Lopez 25-27)."
  • In the case of the APA format, you are going to use the author's last name and the year of publication. For example "Children should play outside for an hour a day (Lopez 2018)".
  • In either style, if you use the author's last name in the paraphrase, you can omit it from the citation. In the case of MLA, you would write the following: "According to Lopez, children should play outside for one hour a day (25-27)."
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 12
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 12

Step 3. Insert footnotes for in-text citations in Chicago style

After the paraphrase, insert a superscript number next to the period. Then use the formatting tools of the word processor you are using to insert a footnote at the bottom of the page. It includes all the publication information that is included in the bibliography page. However, in the case of the footnote, the first name of the author is written and then the last name.

  • Begin the footnote numbers with 1 and increase them sequentially as you insert more.
  • For example, this might be what the footnote looks like: 1Eva S. Lopez, "No Dogs Allowed: A Campaign Failure" in Local Politics Case Studies (New York: Lights on Publications, 2018), 122-137.
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 13
Paraphrase Quoted Material Step 13

Step 4. Create a bibliography, references, or works cited page

You will have to prepare the appointments according to the style guide that you have chosen. Each type of source requires a specific format to record the author, title, and publisher information.

  • If you are going to use MLA, create a works cited page.
  • In the case of APA, a reference page is used.
  • In the Chicago style a bibliography is compiled.


  • This technique can be applied to any form of writing. It doesn't matter if you are in elementary school, high school, college, or work.
  • Paraphrasing means taking someone else's ideas and expressing them in different words. This is why you must cite the source.
  • Look at the reference or guide you chose to find examples of verbatim quotes and paraphrases, and how to cite them.
  • It is best not to use this technique when quoting dialogue verbatim in an essay. If you want to use a part of a dialogue from a literary work, use a direct verbatim quote.


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