Paraphrasing Tips in Academic Writing
In the academic environment, aside from writing a research paper, the most important question that is asked is who is the owner of the content/idea being espoused? Is it an original idea or is it being lifted from somewhere? If the idea is being copied from somewhere, is it being referenced? Failure to answer these questions convincingly can lead to a research paper being flagged for plagiarism. And to avoid such a scenario, there are different things to do and one of such things is paraphrasing.
As we have defined in previous posts, paraphrasing is just the rewriting of another person’s ideas in your own words without affecting the original message being attempted to be passed.
When you are writing an essay, you often look at supporting texts and feel that you can use them to improve your argument, don’t you? However, you do not want to faithfully copy the passage that you consider ideal in your essay. You wish there was a way to convey the same content as that supporting text, however, in your own words…Did you know that this is possible? Yes, through paraphrase. Academic paraphrasing is not the exchange of words in a sentence but rather the interpretation of the text being examined. This is quite crucial when rewriting academic papers and the failure to acknowledge this is a drive towards plagiarism.
It is important to point that when explaining another person’s text in your own words you cannot afford to ignore referencing the original author of the work and this will be done with in-text citations, according to the formatting requirements — Harvard, Chicago, APA, AMA, MLA, etc.
In this article, we will be looking at different tips to carry out paraphrasing effectively:
Regardless of the type of text you want to paraphrase, there are five important steps every writer should be cognizant of to avoid plagiarism:
Read the passage multiple times to fully understand the meaning: First, you must fully understand the text you intend to paraphrase. Ask yourself, “What did the author mean? What does this mean for him? What does it mean to me? Until you grasp the idea being espoused by the author, you cannot effectively paraphrase a text.
Note down key concepts: The next step is to note down the important ideas and key terms you have noticed in the work.
Rewrite: After you have finished the first two steps, you need to make a rewrite of the whole passage and this time without looking at the original passage but through those key concepts and ideas you have noted down earlier. It is at this time you will make use of your own words and terms without distorting the message of the author of the original text.
Compare: After you are done rewriting the text, the next step is to do a review of your work with the original passage to ascertain that your work has covered the main ideas and concepts of the original work.
In-text citation: Like it was mentioned earlier, when you are done rewriting, you should reference the sources where you found the ideas you have rewritten using in-text citation.
With the five above-mentioned steps in mind, now you should study three major tips and techniques for effective paraphrasing when writing your manuscript for any purpose:
1. Use synonyms and related words
The most popular way people paraphrasing a text is through the use of synonyms and related words indicating your vast vocabulary. Even if you don’t know many words, you can make use of a dictionary to look for related words, however, be cautious of going overboard. You are not expected to replace all the words used by the author in the main work. Be careful when replacing a word with synonyms, many times synonyms don’t fit well into the sentence we use them for thereby disrupting the meaning of the sentence.
2. Change the structure of a sentence
Another way common of paraphrasing a text is by replacing the structure of the sentence. And you can only do this by altering the voice of the sentence; that is, changing from active voice to passive and passive voice to active. With this, you will find out that you have altered the general structure of the text. When using synonyms to paraphrase, a lot of people often leave many words that are in the original text and depend heavily on the altering of the structure of the sentence and the vocabulary. This may seem like a failed attempt at paraphrasing, however, it is known as “patchwriting.” Patchwriting occurs when your work is very similar to the author’s work. This is a type of plagiarism and to avoid such a situation, the sentence structure of you must be distinct from the author’s work. The question then arises, how do you change the structure of a sentence? As earlier mentioned, you alter the structure of a text by changing the voice, break up sentences that are too long, combine short sentences, make sentences more extensive for clarity, or to achieve brevity, make them shorter.
3. Change the order of words
Another way of paraphrasing in an academic environment is by changing the arrangement of words in a sentence, however, maintaining the meaning being espoused in the sentence. This style is far easier than looking for related words or synonyms. The rearrangement of words most times leads to the addition of new words to complete the sentence.
Here are two suggestions to change the order of words to make correct sentences:
Firstly, change the order of the clauses if the main sentence has two or more clauses.
Secondly, change the adjective to the relative clause if the main sentence has an adjective and a noun.