Paraphrasing – Techniques for Rephrasing, Rewording, and Rewriting.

Paraphrasing is the process of rewriting text into a different form but still retaining the core meaning of the text. Most people misunderstand the term paraphrasing and think it simply involves either rewording or rephrasing the text. Rewording is a simple process of swapping words with synonyms, whereas rephrasing involves changing the order of words in the text. In an academic context paraphrasing means conveying somebody else’s ideas or work in your own words in your essay paper.

When writing an academic paper or a research article, you should be very conscious about using text from other’s work and even your own previously published works. The use of text from other papers without proper referencing will constitute plagiarism, and the use of your own previous work will constitute self-plagiarism. If you are using text from your own articles then simple rewording and rephrasing will do, however, if you are using text from other’s work then the core idea should be rewritten in your own words.

In this blog, we discuss the importance of paraphrasing and highlight good paraphrasing techniques. We also discuss how existing paraphrasing tools and rewording tools can be used to rewrite your text. The blog concludes with a brief discussion on plagiarism checkers and how they can be used to avoid academic misconduct.

1. Paraphrasing Examples – Good and Bad Samples

Following are some examples of good and bad paraphrasing. The original text that is to be paraphrased is given below.  

Mammography is the most common screening technique used for breast cancer screening. However, the technique has many limitations.

Original Text

In the example below, the text has been paraphrased by selectively rewording the text. The word ‘technique’ has been replaced by the word ‘method’, and the word ‘limitation’ has been replaced by the word ‘drawback’. Furthermore, no part of the text has been rephrased and rewritten.

Mammography is the most popular screening method used for breast cancer screening. However, the method has many drawbacks.

Bad Paraphrasing

In the following example, the user has just taking the idea from the original text and rewritten using completely new language. This qualifies as good paraphrasing as it goes beyond simple rewording and rephrasing.

Mammography is considered the gold standard technique for detecting breast cancers. Despite its widespread usage, it suffers from numerous shortcomings.

Good Paraphrasing

2. Good Paraphrasing Techniques

In most cases paraphrasing in academic text involves explaining somebody else’s work or technique in your paper. One way to do this would be to use ‘think aloud’ technique. This approach involves you explaining the technique aloud as would to a colleague or a friend in everyday language and simultaneously typing it in a text editor or writing in a piece of paper. When you look at the text, you will notice three things  (1) the choice of words will be much simpler than the original source; (2) the order of words and ideas would have been changed and (3) the text will be a bit shorter than the original as it is more of a summary now. In the  video below, the instructor explains how to paraphrase a piece of technical text using a practical example. 

3. Citing the Source

If you are using direct quotes from previously published documents. Then, the text should be enclosed in quotes followed by the reference.

“I have copied this text word to word from the source document and hence enclosing in quotes” (Author et al., 2013)

It is very important to cite the source wherever appropriate even if the text has been fully paraphrased. Following examples show how to give credits to the author even if the text has been completely rewritten by you.

According to Author et al. (2013), this method is ……..
Author et al. (2013) states that ………

4. Paraphrasing Software

There are many paraphrasing tools, article rewriters and rewording tools available that allow users to quickly rewrite large chunks of text to produce unique content for websites. These tools simply replace the words in the text with their synonyms and some tools reorder the words. These tools are not suitable for academic writing since students are required to understand the meaning of the text and then rewrite the text in their own words. There are some scholarly paraphrasing tools available that provide users with writing ideas in the form of phrase templates extracted from high-quality scientific documents. The students can use these phrase templates as guidance to reword and rewrite their text.  Following is a screenshot from an online article rewriter which simply rewords the text, and below that is a screenshot from the REF-N-WRITE scholarly paraphrasing tool which provides academic writing ideas.

Screenshot from Online paraphrasing tool
Screenshot from an Online Article Spinner Tool
Screenshot from REF-N-WRITE scholarly paraphrasing tool
Screenshot from the REF-N-WRITE Scholarly Paraphrasing Tool

5. Plagiarism Checkers and Detectors

It is a good practice to run your academic essays and papers through plagiarism detection tools to check if your text is unique. There are many paid and free plagiarism checkers available. Most universities require essays to have less than 10% overlap with previous documents. There might be slight flexibility if the overlap is with your own document or paper published previously. However, it is good practice to use a similarity checker during writing so that you can check for text overlap and fix the issues while writing rather than checking for plagiarism after finishing your work. This will save you a lot of time and effort.

Screenshot from an Online Plagiarism Checker
Screenshot from an Online Plagiarism Checker

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