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Paraphrasing Ideas in Writing

 

Paraphrasing is one of the ways for including someone else’s oral and written ideas to support your claim in writing. Although it is only an alternative to a quote and summary, it is the most frequently used in most writing. In paraphrasing, you should not include too many similar words from the source because, by so doing, you are plagiarizing; you should not change the meaning of the original sentence, and you should not leave out important information. Paraphrasing can be conducted in six steps: identifying grammar structures, keywords, and word order; changing grammar structures; changing words with the best synonyms; changing word order; writing in a complete sentence and making necessary adjustments; and indicating the source using a proper citation introduction. This essay briefly describes these six steps.

The first step in paraphrasing, identifying grammar structures, keywords, and word order of the source is essential to achieve two goals: to comprehensively understand the ideas conveyed by the original author and to be familiar with the source grammar structure. The grammar structures you can identify in this step may include word forms (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs), connecting words; phrases (adverbial, verb, especially active voice, and passive voice), clauses (adjective, noun, adverb, and independent and dependent); and transitional words or phrases. The excerpt “The British Council says that there are 750 million English as a foreign language speakers and 375 million English as second language learners” (Beare, 2019), for instance, employs active voices. It includes three clauses: The British Council says…”, ”There are 750 million English as a foreign language speakers” and “There are 375 million English as second language learners”. The excerpt contains three keywords, i.e., “says”, “speakers”, and “learners”.

In the second step, you should try to change the grammar structure. The second and third clauses in the example, for instance, can be converted into passive, so that they run: ” English is spoken as a foreign language by 750 million people” and “English as a second language is learned by 375 million people”. In this conversion, the keyword “speaker” is changed to the verb “spoken”, and “learners” is changed into “learned”.

In the third step, the original words of the source are replaced with the most appropriate synonyms in the context of the text. This could be effectively done by consulting a thesaurus. For instance, the word “says”, “speakers”, and “learners” in the excerpt above could be replaced by “states/declares”, “users”, and “students”, respectively.

The fourth step, changing word order, is one of the ways to avoid text similarity between the original source and the paraphrase. It is done by shifting the position of words, phrases, or clauses in the text. The shift should certainly be followed by necessary grammatical adjustments. For example, the phrase “750 million English as a foreign language speakers” can be changed into “750 million speakers of English as a foreign language”.

Next, based on the results of the first four steps, you should write your paraphrase in a complete sentence. Make sure you make the necessary adjustments. The excerpt above, for instance, can be rewritten as follow: “The British Council states that English as a second language is learned by 375 million people and English as a foreign language is spoken by 750 million people”.

Finally, indicate the source using an appropriate citation introduction. Conforming to the APA style, for instance, you can introduce the paraphrase by using, “According to The British Council …  (Beare, 2019),”, or “The British Council (as cited in Beare, 2019), states …” Thus, the paraphrased version of the excerpt can be as follow: (1) According to The British Council English as a second language is learned by 375 million people and English as a foreign language is spoken by 750 million people (Beare, 2019); (2) The British Council (as cited in Beare, 2019), states that 750 million people speak English as a foreign language, and 375 million people learn it as a second language.

Paraphrasing is not simple. To obtain an effective paraphrase that shows your understanding of the ideas conveyed, prevents plagiarism, and is coherent with your writing, you need to go through six steps: identifying grammar structures, keywords, and word order; changing grammar structures; changing words with the best synonyms; changing word order; writing in a complete sentence and making necessary adjustments; and indicating the source using an appropriate citation introduction. It also requires intensive reading to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the ideas conveyed by the original author and good knowledge of grammatical structures and word meanings. Although the six steps seem a bit complicated to do the first time, practicing to apply them will empower you to paraphrase effectively.


Reference

Beare, K. (2020). How Many People Learn English? ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020. Available at online thoughtco.com/how-many-people-learn-english-globally-1210367. [Accessed 10 January 2021]

 

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