How to Paraphrase (5 Steps)

Paraphrasing (also called rephrasing) is a technique used to express someone else’s ideas or concepts in your own (different) words. In simple terms, paraphrasing provides the same information from a source of your choice but in a different form.

Due to excessive competition in almost every field and academic requirements regarding unique content, paraphrasing has become an essential technique to avoid plagiarism. Being a writer or a student, you might have to face many situations where you need to rewrite others’ work for different reasons.

With this quick guide, we’d like to provide step-by-step guidelines for paraphrasing, along with a few examples of what “before and after” looks like.

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Why Paraphrase?

Whether you are a student writing an essay or a professional writer, you’ll need to deal with paraphrasing. The reason is you will find numerous web pages with content on the same topic as well as opinions from research papers and academic sources that you might want to use in your work.

Therefore, it might be difficult for you to write 100% unique content that has never been posted or written before. In almost every field, plagiarism is prohibited and punishable.

For instance, search engines will penalize your website and will not show it to people if you just copy someone’s content.

Similarly, you might have to get poor grades for copying someone’s paper from the internet or even get expelled from school in some cases. Therefore, knowing how to paraphrase correctly is compulsory to know for both students and professionals.

When should I paraphrase?

Paraphrasing can be used in different situations. The following are some when paraphrasing would be useful:

To simplify a text: You can use paraphrasing when you need to simplify a text for your audience. This would be useful, for example, when you are writing for a younger audience or when you are writing about a complex topic.

To avoid plagiarism: As we mentioned, paraphrasing is a way to avoid plagiarism. When you paraphrase, you use your own words to express someone else’s ideas. This means that you are not copying the text verbatim and, therefore, avoiding plagiarism.

To improve your writing: Using paraphrasing in your writing can also help you to improve it. This is because, when you paraphrase, you are forced to think about the meaning of what you are reading and to express it in your own words. This can help you improve your writing skills.

5 Steps to Paraphrasing

Many writers use a paraphrasing tool to rewrite the content and make it unique. It is because the process of using such tools is pretty simple and quick compared to manual rewriting. But you should consider all the pros and cons before using one.

Pros of using an online tool:

  • Saves time
  • Saves money
  • Simple process
  • Wide range of options

Cons of using an online tool:

  • Not all tools are free
  • Not all tools are reliable
  • Phrasing might seem unnatural
  • Simple synonymization is still plagiarism
  • Text still requires proofreading

If you are looking to rewrite the content without assistance from any tools, follow the guidelines on how to paraphrase below. We have listed the five steps required to paraphrase any type of content without changing its meaning.  

⇒ 1. Read the passage

First of all, to paraphrase, you have to read the passage that you want to rewrite very carefully. In this step, you have to be very attentive because the entire rewriting phase will depend on it. You can also highlight or underline the main points in the text to make sure you don’t forget them.

2. Extract key points

Once you have read the passage at least twice, you need to jot down the key points. You can do this by writing the key phrases in an online notepad or on a piece of paper. This step can be skipped if you’re rewriting only a sentence or two.

3. Rewrite manually

After noting the key ideas, you need to use them and write your own version of this content. You have to use a different wording (see paraphrasing techniques) instead of copying the original content. Make sure not to look at the original because it might tempt you to reuse some of its parts.

Here are the major rephrasing techniques you can use:

Do not use only one technique when paraphrasing. For the best result, combine several techniques.

1) Changing part of speech

Original sentence: The results received during the experiment were shocking.

Rephrased sentence: The experiment resulted in a shocking discovery.

2) Synonym replacement

Original sentence: In many cases, people use social media to share their opinions on current affairs.

Rephrased sentence: In many scenarios, individuals utilize social media to express their views on current events.

3) Modifying sentence structure

Original sentence: Jane is the best candidate for the job because of her great experience.

Rephrased sentence: Because of Jane’s fantastic experience, she is the best candidate for the job.

4) Changing the order of words

Original sentence: The professor pointed out that the students’ essays were full of errors.

Rephrased sentence: The students’ essays were full of errors, the professor pointed out.

5) Adding words or phrases

Original sentence: We should always be careful with what we post on social media.

Rephrased sentence: We, as responsible users, should always be very careful with what we post on social media platforms.

4. Compare the original and paraphrased content

It may take a couple of iterations to rewrite the original content to a point where it is entirely different. Compare the original and rephrased content side-by-side to ensure the meaning is still the same, but the sentence structure and wording are different.

5. Add citation

Sometimes, you might not be able to rewrite some lines or sentences. It happens when you are dealing with some statistics and subject-specific terms. In such a case, you will have to cite the source by adding a quote.

Remember that key terms and proper nouns must remain unchanged not to distort the original meaning.

Examples of Paraphrasing

With the above five steps, you will be able to rewrite any content to make it unique and avoid plagiarism. We have also prepared a few “before and after” examples of paraphrasing in the following section.

Rephrased Sentences

Original sentence: The police have arrested the man without finding any proof against him.
Paraphrased: The individual was detained by the policemen despite the fact that there was no evidence of him being guilty.

Original sentence: It is easy to fall into an incoherent rambling of emotions and senses when writing a descriptive essay.
Paraphrased: When working on a descriptive paper, you can easily stuff your writing with a jumble of redundant emotional and sensory details without even noticing it.

Original sentence: According to Live Internet Statistics, you can browse more than 1.7 billion websites.
Paraphrased: The data collected by Live Internet Stats suggests that there are over 1.7 billion sites you can visit today.

Original sentence: The legislation passed the Senate but died in the House, bogged down by a debate over food stamps and the cost of subsidies to the sector.
Paraphrased: The bill cleared the Senate but didn’t pass through the House due to a disagreement over food assistance and the expenses required for industry subsidies.

Original sentence: Traditionally, the inedible parts, like beef fat, were rendered to make products like soap and candles.
Paraphrased: In the past, any animal leftovers, such as lard, were utilized in the soap and candle manufacturing process.

Rephrased Paragraph

Original Paragraph

Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in such an order that makes the most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader’s logic. (Harvard Writing Center)

Paraphrased paragraph

Within the academic domain, an essay entails putting together a logical argument from a collection of thoughts. Due to the orderly nature of essays  (they provide one thought after another), you must express your ideas in the most logical sequence for the person reading the essay. When it comes to organizing essays, taking the logic of your audience into consideration is beyond doubt essential.

Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing

Many people use paraphrasing and summarizing interchangeably, implying that these are the same techniques. Some of the points of both these methods coincide, but these concepts are not the same.

First of all, paraphrasing is rewriting someone’s ideas in your own words to make them unique. You can do this by following the five steps we described earlier. By using this method, your rephrased text can be either longer or shorter than the original, as it all depends on your approach and the sensitivity and dimensions of the topic that you are rephrasing.

Summarizing is a technique that aims to shorten an essay or essentially any other text. In this process, a writer will only include the most important points of the text, omitting everything that can be labeled as redundant.

Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing – here, you can learn more about the differences between these two methods.

What you shouldn’t do when paraphrasing

When paraphrasing, you should avoid a few common mistakes that can cause your text to be considered plagiarized. These are:

  • Copying the exact wording of the original text
  • Paraphrasing without adding your own analysis or interpretation
  • Not citing the source of the original text
  • Changing only a few words from the original text while keeping the overall structure and meaning the same
  • Not changing the order of the words or using a thesaurus just to replace some words with synonyms

If you want to avoid these mistakes, make sure you take the time to understand the original text before you start paraphrasing it. Once you have a good understanding of the main points, try to express them in your own words.

Key takeaways

  • Paraphrasing is a way to restate someone else’s ideas in your own words.
  • To paraphrase effectively, you can follow a set of simple steps: read the text, understand its main points, and then write it in your own words while keeping the same meaning.
  • Paraphrasing is different from summarizing, which is a way to shorten an essay or text by including only the most important points.
  • When paraphrasing, make sure to avoid common mistakes like copying the exact wording of the original text, changing only a few words, or not citing the source.
  • With practice, paraphrasing can be a helpful tool to improve your writing and avoid plagiarism.


Is paraphrasing plagiarism?

Paraphrasing is not plagiarism as long as you cite the original source of the idea. That is true if we are talking about academic writing like essays and research papers.

Is using paraphrasing tools considered cheating?

Overall, you will not be found guilty of cheating while using a paraphrasing tool if you proofread everything yourself, too. But if you are using such tools for rewriting someone’s paper, it will be considered cheating.

Are paraphrasing and quoting similar?

No, paraphrasing and quoting are not similar. In the first case, you have to use your own words to express someone’s ideas or views. In the second one, you insert a quote word by word and indicate the source.

Can I paraphrase a whole essay?

You can paraphrase an essay manually or with a paraphrase tool, but it is not a recommended practice. If you still want to try it, you should definitely proofread the result yourself and check it via an academic plagiarism checker.

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