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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Avoiding Plagiarism: Paraphrasing

Learn about plagiarism and how to avoid it.

What Is A Paraphrase?

In a paraphrase, you are taking someone else's ideas and thoughts and putting them into your own words. This does not make the paraphrase your own work!  When paraphrasing, make sure to:

  • Include a citation to the original source.
  • Change the wording and sentence structure.

A paraphrase is NOT breaking out the thesaurus and replacing words from the original source with synonyms.  Paraphrases are actually demanding to write; you want to capture the essence of the original idea, but the wording and sentence structure are fundamentally different.

Sample Paraphrase

Original:  The dog jumped over the cat.

Bad paraphrase: The canine hopped over the feline.

Why? This is plagiarism. The sentence structure is exactly the same, with words substituted.

Good paraphrase:  Because the cat was in its way, the dog had to make a running leap.

Why?  It reflects the meaning of the original, but shows the author thought about it for a little bit.

Remember that paraphrases need to be cited!

Why Is Paraphrasing Helpful?

Unlike a quote, in which you are repeating someone else's words, paraphrasing allows you to retain your own voice in your narrative.  Paraphrasing shows a deeper level of understanding about the original source than quoting does. 

How To Paraphrase

  1. Read and mark up the passage until you understand it.
  2. Without looking at the passage, write down the main points of the passage.
  3. Use your written-down notes to write a coherent understanding of the passage.
  4. Now, look back at the original and confirm the original and paraphrase are sufficiently different from one another.
  5. Cite the original source.

The OWL at Purdue site has some paraphrasing exercises to help you learn this essential skill.