Text: Paraphrasing a Thesis Statement


We’ve discussed the fact that every piece of writing has a thesis statement, a sentence that captures the main idea of the text. Some are explicit–stated directly in the text itself.  Others are implicit–implied by the content but not written in one distinct sentence.

A key part of understanding a thesis statement of a text is being able to express it in your own words.  This paraphrase of a thesis is a key component in summarizing a reading accurately.

The following “How to Identify a Thesis Statement” video offers advice for locating a text’s thesis statement.  It asks you to write one or two sentences that summarize the text.  When you write that summary, without looking at the text itself, you’ve actually paraphrased the thesis statement.

Tips for effective paraphrasing

  • The statement must be in your own words.
  • If you use any phrases that are in the original quote, place them in quotation marks.
  • Add a citation—even if a paraphrase is in your own words, it is still someone else’s idea.
  • If you’re having difficulty paraphrasing, make a short list of the quote’s main idea(s) and words that relate to it. Incorporate these concepts and words in your paraphrase.

An Example of an Effective Paraphrase

Compare this direct quote, which comes from an article in The New York Times discussing the relocation and redevelopment of a train station in New York City, with an effective paraphrase in the right column:

Original Quote Effective Paraphrase
“New tracks aside, the challenge is at the bare minimum to bring light and air into this underground purgatory and, beyond that, to create for millions of people a new space worthy of New York, a civic hub in the spirit of the great demolished one, more attuned to the city’s aspirations and democratic ideals.” – Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times One of the biggest issues facing Penn Station’s revitalization is developing a brighter, airier space. It is an abysmal “underground purgatory,” and with so many New Yorkers and tourists traveling in and out of its doors every day, should be reconstructed to better reflect the endeavors and passions of the city (Kimmelman).

Take note of these good practices!

  • The paraphrase reflects the same ideas as the original quote, but is in its own words and writing style.
  • The term “underground purgatory” is placed in quotes, as it is a unique phrase used in the original quote.
  • There is a parenthetical citation, citing the source of the idea.