Paraphrasing Same meaning, different words

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In academic writing, you will need to use other writer's ideas to support your own. The most common way to do this is by using paraphrase. This section considers how to do this by first looking in more detail at what paraphrasing is, then giving reasons for using paraphrase, and finally considering how to paraphrase.

What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrase is one of three ways of using another writer's work in your own writing, the other two being quotation and summary. The aim of paraphrasing is to change the words in the original text, while keeping the same meaning. This is different from quotation, which has the same words (as well as the same meaning). As the words have been changed, a paraphrase should not use quotation marks ("..."). Summary differs from paraphrase in that a summary is shorter than the original, whereas a paraphrase is the same length. When you paraphrase another writer's ideas, you will need to use in-text citations to acknowledge the source (this is the same for all three ways of using another writer's work). The following table summarises these points.

Same words as originalYNN
Same length as originalYYN
Uses " "YNN
Uses in-text citationsYYY

Why paraphrase?

Effective paraphrasing is essential in order to avoid plagiarism. A mistake many beginning academic writers make is to change a few but not enough of the words, leaving copied chunks from the original - so it is part paraphrase, part quotation, but without quotation marks (and therefore stealing a writer's words).

Avoiding plagiarism, however, is not the main aim of paraphrasing. As mentioned above, there are three ways to use another writer's work in your own: quotation, paraphrase and summary. Paraphrase is the most common of the three. It is usually favoured over quotation for two reasons: first, it allows you to demonstrate understanding of the original work; and second, it allows you to integrate the idea into your own writing. Although using quotation is easier, especially for beginning writers, most university lecturers will tell you to use quotation sparingly, and to use paraphrase or summary more frequently. Paraphrase is favoured over summary because it allows you to keep the full meaning of the original text, rather than just stating the main points.

While paraphrasing is an important skill in itself, it is also a part of writing a summary, as when you write a summary you still need to change the writer's words. It is also recommended that you use paraphrasing when reading and note-taking (although many students do not, and prefer to paraphrase later, when using their notes). These are additional reasons why learning how to paraphrase is important in your academic study.

How to paraphrase

A good paraphrase is different from the wording of the original, without altering the meaning. There are three vocabulary techniques you will need to use in order to achieve this, with good paraphrasing employing a mix of all three. They are:

  • changing words;
  • changing word forms;
  • changing word order.

The skill of paraphrase is another reason why it is important to understand more than just the meaning of a word, but also know its different word forms.

Below are two different examples of paraphrase, with an explanation of how each original text has been changed.

Original text 1, from Pears and Shields (2013, p.113)

Paraphrase: A restating of someone else's thoughts or ideas in your own words.

Paraphrase of text 1

Paraphrasing is a restatement of another person's ideas or thoughts using your own words.

In this example, the following changes have been made:

  • Paraphrase ⇒ Paraphrasing (change word form)
  • restating ⇒ restatement (change word form)
  • someone else's ⇒ another person's (change words)
  • thoughts or ideas ⇒ ideas or thoughts (change word order)
  • in ⇒ using (change word)

Original text 2, from Bailey (2000, p.21)

Paraphrasing involves changing a text so that it is quite dissimilar to the source yet retains all the meaning.

Paraphrase of text 2

Paraphrase requires a text to be altered in a way which makes it different from the original while keeping the same meaning.

In this example, the following changes have been made:

  • Paraphrasing ⇒ Paraphrase (change word form)
  • involves ⇒ requires (change word)
  • changing a text ⇒ a text to be altered (change word order)
  • changing ⇒ altered (change word)
  • so that it is ⇒ in a way which makes it (change words)
  • dissimilar to ⇒ different from (change words)
  • the source ⇒ the original (change words)
  • yet retains all the meaning ⇒ while keeping the same meaning (change words)


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Below is a checklist for paraphrasing. Use it to check your own paraphrasing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.

Area Details OK? Note/comment
Paraphrasing skills The text has been changed in several ways (changed words, changed word forms, changed word order).
The text has been changed enough to avoid plagiarism (no copied chunks).
Referencing skills The paraphrase includes an in-text citation for the source text.
Meaning The meaning of the text is the same as the original.
Length The length of the text is about the same as the original.


Bailey, S. (2000). Academic Writing. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2013). Cite them right: The essential guide to referencing (9th ed.), Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

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Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 27 November 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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