Unit 8: Paraphrasing

Unit 8: Paraphrasing

Unit 8: Paraphrasing

8. Paraphrasing

What Is Paraphrasing?

In Unit 5 we looked at one way of using the work of other writers in technical reports, i.e., quoting. In this unit, we will look at another method, paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing is rewriting essential information and ideas expressed by someone else in yourown words.

Ways of Paraphrasing

The following three extracts have been taken from this book.

Author / Fox, J. Andrew.
Title / An introduction to engineering
Imprint Info / London: MacMillan Press, 1977.

Task 1: Create a reference for this book.



Look at the following examples of paraphrases of extracts from this source.

  1. The task of the engineer is to produce the correct product at the correct cost at the correct time. (taken from page 30)

Fox (1977) states that engineers need to come up with the right products at the right time and at a reasonable price (p. 30).

  1. If a product misses its window of opportunity, the manufacturer can lose up to 33% of the life cycle profits. (taken from page 45)

Fox (1977) claims that 33% of profits can be lost if a product is not marketed correctly (p. 45).

3. Lost sales are never made up as changes in the market place and in competitors’ equipment mean that any product has a finite life (taken from page 48).

One expert points out that products only have a limited life due to market changes and competition. As a result lost sales cannot be regained (Fox, 1977, p. 48).

Task 2: What techniques (e.g., singular > plural, active > passive, synonym, antonym, change of word form, etc.) are used in each case to paraphrase?

  1. ______
  2. ______
  3. ______

Now let’s look at some of these techniques in more detail.


Task 3: Look at the text below and write down any synonyms you can think of for any of the words in the passage.

Of the more than 1000 bicycling deaths each year, three-fourths are caused by head injuries. Half of those killed are school-age children. One study concluded that wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85%. In an accident, a bike helmet absorbs the shock and cushions the head.[1]

Task 4: Now look at the following list of synonyms or near synonyms. Which words in the text could they replace?

1. / cycling / ______/ 6. / piece of research / ______
2. / decrease / ______/ 7. / result from / ______
3. / fatalities / ______/ 8. / showed / ______
4. / fifty percent / ______/ 9. / school children / ______
5. / likelihood / ______/ 10. / three-quarters / ______

Task 5: Now, rewrite the following paragraph, using synonyms to change the words in bold. Also, create the references page for the source and include the in-text reference for the source of the paraphrase.

While the SearsTower is arguably the greatest achievement in skyscraper engineering so far, it's unlikely that architects and engineers have abandoned the quest for the world'stallest building. The question is: Just how high can a building go? Structural engineer William Le Messurier has designed a skyscraper nearly one-half mile high, twice as tall as the SearsTower. In addition, architect Robert Sobel claims that existing technology could produce a 500-storey building.

(Written by Ron Bachman in his article titled “Reaching for the sky” published in the journal Dial in 1990, Volume 2, Issue 3, on page 15.)



Your paraphrase (don’t forget to cite your source)


What resources do you know that could help you find synonyms?

Word order

When paraphrasing we often change the word order. We have to be careful when doing this because sometimes we need to make changes to the grammar of the sentences as well.

Task 6: Look at the following sentences and complete the paraphrases below.

a)Travel from Europe to America took seven to ten days by boat.

It took ______

b)By the end of the century, the same trip took four hours on Concorde.

By the end of the century, Concorde ______

c)The speed and efficiency of air travel have made personal and cultural exchange possible on a global scale.

Personal and cultural exchange ______


d)In 1903, the first powered airplane carried Wilbur Wright 120 feet in 12 seconds.

Wilbur Wright ______


e)The cockpit was completely open, leaving the pilot unprotected from weather.

The pilot ______


f)Fuel was still unrefined and therefore not always reliable, and crash landings were not uncommon.

Crash landings ______


g)Flying at night was not a good idea, although in the 1920s a series of rotating beacons were set up every 50 miles or so across the country to guide planes.

Although ______


h)The race to be the first to fly successfully was a worldwide competition, and pioneers like Langley and Whitehead were serious contenders.

Pioneers like Langley ______


i)It wasn't until 1908, when Orville successfully flew for an hour, that the world began to take flight seriously.

The world ______


j)During this period, thousands of aircraft were produced by both sides.

Both sides ______

So what do we look for when we change word order? In which of your paraphrases did you use the following techniques?

1)If there are different clauses, or expressions, can we change the order?

2)Where is the subject of the sentence? Can we put it in a different place?

3)Are there any words that we could change the form of, e.g., make a noun into a verb?

4)Can we change the voice, i.e., active to passive, passive to active?

5)Are there any words we really don’t need?

6)Are there any other grammatical changes we might need to make?

Joining and dividing sentences

Another technique we can use when paraphrasing is to either join sentences together, or divide them. Look at the following extracts:

The television, which was invented by John Logie Baird, has changed the lives of millions of people. / The television was invented by John Logie Baird. It has changed the lives of millions of people.
John Logie Baird invented the television. His invention has changed the lives of millions of people.
Engineering is a challenging profession. It requires hard work and dedication. / Engineering is a challenging profession which requires hard work and dedication.
Engineering is a challenging profession requiring hard work and dedication.
Hard work and dedication are requirements in the challenging profession of engineering.

Task 7: Which sentences in the following article about artificial intelligence could you either join, or divide?

Researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial life (A-Life) make their living by modeling, copying or adapting systems from biology. The combination of human ingenuity and the explosion in computer power has created a host of creations that take as their starting point anything from human intelligence and emotions to genetic inheritance and evolution.

‘Traditional’ AI grew out of efforts to crack enemy codes in the Second World War. It aimed to capture human intelligence by following vast lists of rules programmed into a computer. Today, this approach is best known for creating Deep Blue, the computer that beat the chess world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

But this strategy has serious limitations because it seems unlikely to produce anything that really resembles human intelligence. Instead, a new wave of AI is slowly making its mark. It relies to a large extent on coaxing complex behaviours from the interaction of simple components. So, for example, networks of artificial brain cells can learn and recognize patterns. Already such neural networks are advising financial wizards about investing their money and helping doctors to diagnose cancer.[2]

If we change the word order, use synonyms (change words), and join or divide sentences, the writing can now be said to have been written in our own words (paraphrased). According to the APA publication manual, 4th ed. (1994)“Each time a source is paraphrased a credit for the source needs to be included in the text….The key element of this principle is that an author does not present the work of another as if it were his or her own work. This can extend to ideas as well as written words” (pp. 292, 294).

Practice Using a Combination of Techniques

Task 8: Read the articles at the end of the unit on quoting, Task 7. Choose three or four short sections and using these questions, make notes on another piece of paper:

  • What is the topic?
  • What is the main idea? / What do you understand from this section?
  • What important information is the author trying to convey to the reader?

Without looking back, rewrite the sections (paraphrase), using your own words (synonyms, changing word order and grammar). In other words, write what you understand for each section. Don’t forget to include the in-text reference. Remember, without the in-text reference, even if you paraphrase well, you will still have plagiarized.




Unit Summary

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...

  • it is better than quoting information from an undistinguished passage;
  • it helps you control yourself from quoting too much;
  • the mental process needed for successful paraphrasing helps you to understand the full meaning of the original.

When to paraphrase

As an alternative to a direct quotation.

To use someone else’s ideas without changing the meaning.

To express someone else’s ideas in your own words.

To support and provide evidence for your own arguments.

Six steps to effective paraphrasing

  1. Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
  2. Put the original passage away, and write your paraphrase on a note card.
  3. Write down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you can use this material. At the top of the note card, write a key word or phrase to indicate the subject of your paraphrase.
  4. Make sure that your paraphrase reflects the original text accurately and expresses all the essential information in a new form.
  5. Use single quotation marks to identify any unique term or phrase you have borrowed exactly from the source.
  6. Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can refer to it easily if you decide to include the material in your paper.

Task 9: Which column describes paraphrasing and which column describes quoting?


/ ______…
  • matches the source word for word.
  • is a small part of a text (usually not more than three sentences).
  • is put between quotation marks
(“… ”).
  • must give a reference to the original source.
  • should be used less frequently in a report.
  • does not match the source word for word.
  • is a passage from a source written in your own words.
  • changes words in the original source but still keeps the original meaning.
  • must give a reference to the original source.
  • should be used more frequently in a report.


Technical Report Writing

[1]Taken from: Bike helmets: Unused lifesavers. (1990, May). Consumer Reports, 50(5), 348.

[2] Taken from: Reed Business Information Ltd. (n.d). Artificial intelligence and A-life. Retrieved April 3, 2003, from the World Wide Web: hottopics/ai/