plagerismIf a summary consists of a very general description of an academic source, paraphrasing is restating a specific portion of a text in your own words.

For example,

Original:  “Women are depicted in quite a different way from men—not because the feminine is different from the masculine—but because the ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him” 

Paraphrase: According to John Berger, the portrayal of women in western art differs from the portrayal of men. This is because traditionally the intended viewer is male, with the image of the female presented merely as a flattering complement to masculine desire.1

Here the citation in the footnote includes the page number from which this sentence has been paraphrased:

  1. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p.64.

Paraphrasing requires full understanding of the meaning and context of the original source.  Successful paraphrasing may involve the following steps in the research stage:

  1. Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
  2. Record the source (including the page number) so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your piece. Much easier to do sooner rather than later.
  3. Set the original aside, and write out your paraphrase.
  4. Write down how you envision using this material.
  5. Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form. You might like to add some direct quotes (see below)
  6. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.

A good paraphrase will be different enough from the original so as to reflect your own ‘voice’, but not depart so far from the source that it fails to clearly communicate the ideas conveyed in the original passage. A paraphrase that follows the original source too closely, without quotation marks to show which words belong to the source and which  are your own, may still be considered a form of plagiarism (see below), even if the sentence includes an appropriate citation. Paraphrasing demonstrates that you have understood, absorbed, and interpreted information. The mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original.

Next page: quoting