Paraphrasing Essentials – How to Paraphrase

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Paraphrasing is an essential skill when composing college-level essays. You’ll need to rely on paraphrasing more often than direct quotations for one simple reason: you will likely quote too much. Learning how to paraphrase will allow you to use sources in your work without risking plagiarism.

The following primer can get you up to speed on how helpful paraphrasing can be in writing college-level essays.

What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is an essential skill for any writer. It is also critical for college students. To paraphrase involves taking information from a source and rewording it in your own words while remaining accurate to the original meaning.

TLDR; Paraphrasing is essential for academic writing. It allows you to use other people’s ideas and research without the risk of plagiarism. Learning to paraphrase will enable you to communicate information that matches your writing style.

So how do you paraphrase a paragraph effectively?

How to paraphrase – Getting started

Before you start paraphrasing, you need to understand the meaning of the paragraph you’re working with. Take the time to read through your source. Make sure you know the main idea and key points. Be sure to take notes as you read – highlight any vital information or quotes that would work in your paraphrase.

Once you’ve grasped your passage well, you can start the paraphrasing process. This is where you’ll start putting things into your own words.

Start by breaking the paragraph down into smaller, more manageable chunks. This will make it easier to focus on one section at a time and help you avoid copying too much from the source. This is where your highlights and notes can be helpful.

How to paraphrase – What are the keys?

When paraphrasing, you must use vocabulary and sentence structures that are unique to you. Avoid simply changing a few words here and there and then rearranging the sentences. This may confuse the point and make your writing appear patchy. Instead, take the information you’ve read and express it in a new way, unique to you. You can use synonyms, rephrase sentences, and change the structure of the source information.

In addition, it is crucial not just to replace the words but to understand their meaning and the context they were written in. Your writing will not make sense if you do not know what you paraphrase.

It is also essential to maintain the original meaning and intent of the source. You cannot be dishonest and change the meaning of the source to suit your aims. A paraphrased passage can use quotes to help you be precise and accurate in your paraphrasing, but make sure to cite them appropriately. You can also partially quote in a paraphrase, but do not selectively quote to change the quote’s meaning.

When paraphrasing, it’s also important to remember the audience that you’re writing for. You may need to adjust your writing to make the information more accessible or relevant to them. You can do this by changing the structure and tone.

As you paraphrase, comparing your work with the source is helpful. Do this to show that you haven’t accidentally copied any language or ideas and that the new version is accurate to the source. If you’re having trouble, consider asking someone else to read your paraphrase and compare it to the original.


Learning how to paraphrase is an essential skill that allows you to use other people’s ideas and research without plagiarizing them. You still need a good understanding of the source material and careful writing to convey the original meaning in your own words. With practice, you’ll be able to paraphrase paragraphs more manageably with experience.

Key Tips

You’ve scrolled to the bottom! Here is a time-saving summary for you!

  • Paraphrasing is taking information from a source and putting it into your own words.
  • Paraphrasing is more valuable than direct quotes for most students.
  • You should always cite your source, even when paraphrasing.

Cite This Page

Here are citations for this webpage based on the most common undergrad essay formats.

MLA: X, Writer. “Paraphrasing Essentials – How to Paraphrase – Essay Writing 101.” Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101, 16 Jan. 2023,

APA: X, Writer. (2023, January 16). Paraphrasing Essentials – How to Paraphrase – Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101.

Chicago: Writer X, “Paraphrasing Essentials – How to Paraphrase – Essay Writing 101,” Essay Writing 101, January 16, 2023,

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Writer X is an educator in Southern California who wants to share writing strategies for college writers.