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A Practical Guide to Paraphrasing


As described in Citing and Referencing in Academic Writing, paraphrasing is rewriting someone else’s oral and written ideas in your own words. In research papers, it is used to provide support or examples, or as an alternative to a quote and summary. Instead of a quote, paraphrasing is used when (1) the exact words are not important and (2) the exact words are not coherent with your paper (e.g., the style is too simple or too dense) or useful (their highlighted point is dissimilar to what you want to accentuate); (3) to show that you have grasped the material (not a slave to the original writer’s word; (4) to “condense” a section from the source that is too long to quote; and (5) to avoid plagiarism as paraphrasing requires you to express the same idea in different words and to cite the source.

There are four important points to remember when you are paraphrasing. First, you should not copy the original sentence because it is done to quote, not to paraphrase. Second, you should not use too many words from the source because, by so doing, you are plagiarizing. Third, you should not change the meaning of the original sentence. Fourth, you should not leave out important information.

The passage to paraphrase can be a sentence or a group of sentences or a longer text. However, the passage usually focuses on one point or idea. So, paraphrasing is frequently conducted at the sentence level,  Additionally, paraphrasing is basically rewriting someone else’s ideas using different words, different grammar, and different word order, and it could be most effectively carried out at a sentence context. Thus, if you are paraphrasing a paragraph, for instance, start by paraphrasing each sentence. Then you can rearrange the paraphrased sentences to produce a coherent paragraph.

Paraphrasing Process

Paraphrasing is conducted in six steps. First, identify grammar structures, keywords, and word order. Second, change grammar structures. Third, change words with the best synonyms. This could be effectively done by consulting a thesaurus. Fourth, change the word order. Fifth, write in a complete sentence, compare it to the original sentence, and make necessary adjustments. Sixth, indicate the source using an appropriate citation introduction (e.g. according to X, …, X affirmed that …, In X's opinion) that conforms to the citation style you are using (e.g. APA, MLA, etc.).

The grammar structures you can modify while paraphrasing include: word forms (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs), connecting words (coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions), conjunctive adverbs phrases (prepositional phrases, participial phrases), verb phrases (active voice and passive voice, phrasal verbs), clauses: (adjective, noun, and adverb clauses, and independent and dependent clauses), and transitional words or phrases that show relationships between ideas (purpose, comparison, contrast, cause/effect, condition, addition manner, opposition, time, place, concession).

Paraphrasing example 1

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)

In the first possible paraphrase above, the clause “The British Council says” is converted to the prepositional phrase “According to British Council”. The clause “there are 750 million English as foreign language speakers” is changed to 750 million people use English as a foreign language.” In the second possible paraphrase, the verb ‘says’ is changed to its synonym ‘states’. Then, the active voice “there are 750 million English as a foreign language speakers and 375 million English as second language learners” is converted to its passive voice “English as a foreign language is spoken by 750 million people, English as a second language is learned by 375 million people.” All changes made to both paraphrases do not change the meaning of the original sentence.

Paraphrasing example 2

If the use of native short stories facilitates students to learn the essential cultural aspects of the target language necessary to inculcate intercultural awareness, the use of local short stories translated into English provides students with language skills and areas development and a better understanding of their own culture as well (Pardede, 2021).


Beare, K. (2020). How Many People Learn English? ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020. Available at online [Accessed 10 January 2021]

Harshbarger, T. G. (2012). The Process of Paraphrasing: Exercises to Build Paraphrasing Skills. The Tsuda Review Journal, 57, 67–94.

Pardede, P. (2020). Integrating the 4cs into EFL integrated skills learning. Journal of English Teaching, 6(1), 71–85.

Pardede, P. (2021). A Review of Current Conceptual Research on Short Stories Use in EFL Classrooms. EFL Journal of English Teaching, 7 (1), pp. 31-42


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