How Instructors View Paraphrases

Should writers paraphrase more than they quote? When should a writer use paraphrase? When should quotes be used?

Believe me, students can get frustrated and nervous at the prospect of paraphrasing. The reason, I think, is that one needs to know what a source means before being able to paraphrase. As handbook editor Jane Aaron writes in an early edition of The LB Brief Handbook “[. . .] an unsuccessful paraphrase–one that plagiarizes–copies the author’s words or sentence structures or both without quotation marks” (423). You will need to get good at paraphrasing to do well in college-level writing.

Cite as you write.  Remember, when in doubt about whether or not to cite, just cite. Cover yourself against accusations of plagiarism.

Reword and Reorder
Reorder and Reword
To count as a valid paraphrase, you need to reword and reorder the original. Then, of course, you cite the source. You cannot just switch around a few words and hope that you’ve done enough.

It’s not okay to slightly reword the original, or simply to replace the verb with a synonym. This is a form of plagiarism. While still keeping to the source’s meaning, you must attempt to entirely reword and reorder the original.  If part of the original cannot or should not be reworded, put that phrasing in quotes.

Please ask questions if you are unsure about what constitutes a proper paraphrase. Like most citing issues, judge on a case-by-case basis.

Don’t forget to interpret your cited information. Even though it’s in your words, you still need to interpret.

Remember These Questions?
Should writers paraphrase more than they quote?
When should a writer use paraphrase?
When should quotes be used?

Quotes should be used when the writer couldn’t say it better, or when the source “said it” in such a distinctive manner that it’s almost impossible to paraphrase without losing much of the meaning. Advertising and famous speeches convey meaning better if they are cited. Imagine paraphrasing “Coke, the real thing” or “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”

However, in academic writing situations you are expected to paraphrase a lot. Quotes should be used sparingly. Take the time to understand what you’re quoting. Reorder and reword it, cite it, then interpret.

Do you see how all those activities (reordering, etc.) will tend to give you lots to say about a paraphrase? If you think of the area after your citation as the place where proving happens, then the work of interpretation becomes much easier. That is, if you go to the trouble of understanding, reorder and rewording a given quote, then throwing in a few sentences of interpretation is a relatively easy task. You already translated the quote into your own words by paraphrasing; now, show what the quote means and how it helps one’s thesis.