How to Paraphrase Correctly

Updated on April 28, 2018
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

What is a Paraphrase?

Taking 1-3 sentences from a source and putting it into your own words using your own language and sentence structure but keeping the same meaning.

Difference from Quotation and Summary

Paraphrase: You give all the information from a small part of a source, but you do it in your own words rather than quoting. Often, your re-writing of the original may actually be longer because you need to make sure it is clear and not in technical terms or difficult language.

Quotation: You use the actual words that someone else wrote or said. You put quotation marks around what you take from that source.

Summary: You are saying the main idea of the source in your own words, but not giving the details. A summary is much shorter than the original material.

You take the words or perspective of someone else and explain it clearly.
You take the words or perspective of someone else and explain it clearly. | Source

Paraphrase Vs. Quotation

Most of the time, a paraphrase is better than a quotation. Only quote when:

  • The information can't really be re-phrased accurately.
  • The person who said the information is an important authority.
  • The exact phrase is well known, like Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

Sometimes, students want to quote when the information is complicated or scientific. However, that is exactly when you want to paraphrase. If the information is difficult for you to understand, it will be hard for your reader too. You need to carefully unpack the meaning of that information in your paraphrase so that the reader understands how that research supports your claims.

Paraphrase vs Summary

Summary and paraphrase both put something in your own words. The difference is that in a summary, you only tell the main ideas and don't worry about the details. A summary is a lot shorter than the original and leaves out a lot. On the other hand, a paraphrase is often longer than the original because you need to explain every detail in simple language and often it takes more words because you need to define and describe.

How to Paraphrase

Steps to Follow

  1. Read the original a couple of times carefully and think about what it means.
  2. Without looking at the original, write re-wite the passage in your own words.
  3. Look back at the original and see if you have used any of the same words, phrases or sentence order. If you have, change them.
  4. Note: sometimes you do need to use a few of the same words if there is no other way to say it that wouldn’t change the meaning (although it can also help to ask someone else if they have an idea how to say that phrase differently).
  5. If you do find a phrase or longer idea you can’t re-write, then enclose it in quotation marks. It is ok to combine paraphrasing with quoting.
  6. Don’t forget to mention the source at the beginning of your paraphrase, and don’t forget parenthetical citation at the end.


  1. Length: Unlike a summary which is usually a lot shorter than the original text, a paraphrase will often be longer than the original quotation because you often need more words to make the concepts understood.
  2. Citing: Like both a summary and a quotation, you will often want to cite the source inside your sentence (According to Raul Castro...) along with using a parenthetical citation (Castro 12).

Examples and Practice

Rules for Quoting

Sometimes you need to quote but many of my students use quoting rather than really understanding the sources they use. When you paraphrase and summarize, you need to read more closely to understand what you are reading. By putting things in your own words, your paper will be smoother and also have a stronger argument. However, sometimes really do need to quote the exact words. For example, you need to quote when:

  • The authority of your source is important to your argument.
  • You can't re-word and keep the same meaning.
  • The words are written in a memorable way.
  • The quote is famous.

Quote a famous saying.
Quote a famous saying. | Source

Student Examples and Teacher Comments

Frequently, my students use quotation when a paraphrase would work much better. The exercises below show you examples from student papers and my comments to explain when a quotation is needed and when a paraphrase would work better.

1. Student Sentence: When I asked Connie Cocanougher why she is so dedicated to Happy Endings Dog Rescue she put it bluntly, “Dogs are better than people.” I couldn't agree with her more.

My Response: This is a good use of a quote because it expresses the person's attitude in a way that it would be hard to paraphrase in your own words. It is also well-written with the second sentence emphasizing the quote.

2. Student Sentence: Animal Control focuses on three areas of animal control management, “administration, the use of management tools, and delivery of services,” (Aronson X).

My Response: This is also probably a time when quoting might work better than paraphrase because some specific words are used to characterize this criterion and you may want to use those exact words in your discussion of this issue so you may not want to paraphrase them. In addition, you are citing an authoritative source which you may want to quote to add authority. However, this is not written quite correctly. It is probably better to write the author's name (although the book title in italics would also be all right) and since this is a list you need to use a colon. Again, no comma before the parenthetical reference:

My Rewrite: Stephen Aronson explains that the three areas of animal control management are: "administration, the use of management tools, and delivery of services" (Aronson X).

3. Student Sentence: Another disturbing fact is that “More than 20 percent of people who leave dogs in shelters adopted them from a shelter” (ASPCA).

My Response: The above sentence does quote correctly but I really don't think you need to quote this information because it doesn't fit into any of the rules of when you need to quote. Instead, put this fact into your own words in a paraphrase.

My Rewrite of Quote into a Paraphrase: Another disturbing fact is that twenty percent of dogs left at a shelter are adopted dogs which are being returned (ASPCA).

4. Student Sentence: Many other reasons are grouped under the category of “social attitudes”. “One out of every five animal companions becomes lost at some point of their lives,” ( Also, “over 30% of the animals who wind up in shelters are surrendered by their guardians who are unable to care for them,” (

My Response: There is good information but by breaking up these quotes, you don't really use your information effectively by explaining how these ideas relate and connecting them to your overall argument. Moreover, there is really no reason to quote this rather than paraphrasing. Notice how much more information I'm able to give in the paraphrase below which doesn't rely on just the quotes but weaves the facts into an overall main point that pets go to shelters in part because their owners are not as responsible as they should be.

My Rewrite of Quote into a Paraphrase: Many other reasons why animals are given up to shelters are because of the attitude of their owners. Many people don't take careful care that their animals aren't lost, or work hard enough to find them when they are missing. In fact, 20% of all pets are lost by their owners at some point ( Moreover, owners often don't work hard enough to either control negative pet behaviors or find a new owner when they aren't able to care for them. Shelter statistics show that 30% of surrendered animals are there because their owners didn't want to care for them anymore (


Practice Exercises

Here are some more sentences from students that contain errors. Can you rewrite these into sentences which paraphrase the material carefully using your own words and sentence structure. Don't forget to cite correctly too.

  1. Overpopulation concerns are supported by the state that only “10 percent of animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered,” (ASPCA).
  2. “It is estimated that between six and eight million cats and dogs enter animal shelters every year in the United States,”(
  3. In 1990, Friends for Life was asked to "serve as legal guardian for a man who was found unconscious. He was unable to make medical decisions and he had no family who could intervene on his behalf. Friends for Life now offers guardianship service in 39 Texas counties and serves as guardian when the judge determines a person lacks capacity and there is no family member qualified and willing to serve" (Friends for Life 33).
  4. "Friends for Life serves the elderly and people with disabilities through five different program areas:
  • Guardianship
  • Money Management
  • Independent Living and Quality of Life Programs
  • Intergenerational Programs
  • Adult Day Care" (Friends for Life 2).

More Practice Exercises

Pick up a textbook, newspaper or magazine. Choose 1-2 sentences which contain important information. Using the format above, read and paraphrase them. Be sure to check them word for word with the source afterward.

  1. Did you say everything in the source?
  2. Did you use any of the same words, sentence structure or phrasing (outside of technical terms you can't change).
  3. Read the sentence out loud. Does it read smoothly? Does it sound like you wrote it?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Rishab Chimmanamada 

      3 years ago

      Loved it


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)