Paraphrasing Activity

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Daniel Go

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Daniel Go

Paraphrasing is when we put another person’s ideas into our own words. Even though we use our own words, we must credit the author/source for the idea (see “Incorporating Secondary Sources” for more information). Although paraphrasing is more difficult than incorporating a direct quotation, it is preferred and expected when expressing an author’s idea rather than his/her original words.

Quick Tips

  • The paraphrase should be roughly the same length as the original statement.
  • The “syntax,” or the sentence structure, of the paraphrase should be completely different from the syntax of the original statement. For example, if the original statement has a dependent clause followed by an independent clause, the paraphrase should not use this same structure.
  • Use different words than the ones the author uses (you may use one or two key words/phrases).
  • Read the original statement a couple of times, and then put it away or cover it up. Then, write down the idea the best you can in your own words. Refrain from looking at the quote until you are confident you have captured the main idea accurately. Check your final version against the original to make sure you have used a different sentence structure and different words.


  1. Group up with 2-3 of your peers who also need to practice paraphrasing.
  2. Choose a short passage/statement (3-5 sentences long) from each person’s research. Copy this passage/statement to a shared Google doc, and make sure to put it in quotation marks and include a proper citation.
  3. Now, spend 5-10 minutes individually paraphrasing one of the passages for each “paraphrasing round.” Make sure everyone is paraphrasing the same passage and make sure to include a citation.
  4. Copy your individual paraphrases to the Google doc beneath the original passage.
  5. As a group, go through each paraphrase and determine which one(s) works best and why. Discuss how the other paraphrases could be improved, and make these improvements together.
  6. Share-out: Post a copy or screenshot of your work to the comments thread.