Integrating Sources in Writing

The Importance of Good Paraphrasing

When you want to express an idea that you’ve read in a paper or other resource, it may be helpful to paraphrase. Paraphase when you want to explain the meaning of something in your won words or when you don't need to use the exact wording from the original source.  If you are not significantly changing the wording, phrasing, or sentence strucutre of the original source, you must use a direct quotation instead. Swapping out a few words for synonyms is not paraphrase.  Paraphrased passages must still include in-text citations to the original source, including a page number for the paraphrased passage when appropriate. While this is fine in moderation, you want to make sure that you are not quoting or paraphrasing too often in your work, as it should be mostly your voice. 

What does it mean to paraphrase? This means that you are really, genuinely putting what’s being said into your own words. Here are a few short examples from

Original: Her life spanned years of incredible change for women as they gained more rights than ever before.
Paraphrase: She lived through the exciting era of women's liberation.

Original: Giraffes like Acacia leaves and hay, and they can consume 75 pounds of food a day.
Paraphrase: A giraffe can eat up to 75 pounds of Acacia leaves and hay daily.

Original: Any trip to Italy should include a visit to Tuscany to sample the region's exquisite wines.
Paraphrase: Be sure to make time for a Tuscan wine-tasting experience when visiting Italy.

When you don’t paraphrase enough, you can find yourself in danger of plagiarism. Sometimes, however, you can take too much license with what was originally said in the source material. Watch the video below to learn about a famous instance of poor paraphrasing.


Link to Stephen Colbert video on a Martin Luther King Statue from Comedy Central

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