Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing

Paraphrasing and summarizing are both essential for writing. These techniques allow a writer to incorporate credible research and original material into their work, which, in turn, gives authenticity and validity to your own writing.

However, some people confuse these terms, although there is a substantial difference between both practices. This article explains the difference between the two in definition and usage.

What is Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing involves putting a piece of information in your own words while keeping the original context intact. A writer alters the words, sentence structure, and entire paragraphs to give the whole passage a different look. The result is essentially a passage that looks and feels different from the original but still covers the same information.

Original Passage:

I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s essential to getting your day started on the right foot.


It’s crucial that you eat breakfast every day. Breakfast is the meal that starts your day, and it’s important to get your day off to a good beginning.

The technique is used extensively at the academic and professional levels. To effectively paraphrase a work, a writer should have a sound grasp of vocabulary, grammar, verbal expressions, and all necessary linguistic skills. Otherwise, your work might end up looking like a poor copy of the original, which isn’t good for your image as a writer. 

When to Use Paraphrasing

You might consider using paraphrasing in the following cases:

  • While including information in your essay from authentic sources
  • When showing an understanding of credible research or theory’s key concepts
  • When simplifying a complex passage
  • When you don’t know the exact quote 
  • When reviewing a research work
  • When writing assignments to avoid plagiarism

How to Paraphrase?

The paraphrasing can be done in two simple ways. These ways are:

Manual paraphrasing – rewriting the content all by yourself. It means reading the original text multiple times, understanding its meaning, and then rewriting it in your own words while trying to maintain the same context.

  • Pros: You have complete control over the content. You can make sure that the context is intact and that the result is an original piece of writing.
  • Cons: The process is time-consuming and requires excellent writing skills.

Tool-assisted paraphrasing – using an online paraphrasing tool for rewriting. These tools use AI to create multiple copies of a work with complete contextual accuracy.

  • Pros: The paraphrased content is ready in a few minutes. You don’t have to put in a lot of effort, and the result is usually good. You might only have to slightly proofread the passage. The time depends on the quality of the output provided by the tool.
  • Cons: You don’t have any control over the final outcome. The tool might not work as intended, which can lead to poor paraphrasing.

Make sure the tool you choose can do more than just replace words with synonyms.

To see that in practice, see below how an efficient paraphrasing tool works:

example of how paraphrasing tools work

The highlighted words show the amendments which have been made to the original draft. You can see that 40% of the content has been paraphrased.

What is summarizing?

Summarizing involves putting the condensed essential information from a piece in your own words. The writer only communicates the main idea of the work.

A summary is usually much shorter in length than the original piece. In literature, you can write a summary of several pages in just a few sentences. However, it needs to grasp all the important ideas of the work.

The summary doesn’t involve any explanation. It only gives pointers. It doesn’t touch upon the detailed analysis of a book or any other work.

The summary doesn’t have any fixed length. As a rule of thumb, it is always shorter than the original text, and it generally depends upon your requirements.

When to Summarize

You might use summarizing in the following cases:

  • When you need to focus on the central idea of a work
  • When you want to save time by reading a shorter version
  • When you don’t need the detailed information
  • When you want to provide an overview of a research
  • When you have an assignment to show how well you understand the material
  • When you need to keep notes of what you read
  • When you are writing a literature review for a research paper and describing the source material you used

How to summarize?

Generally, there are two simple types of summarizing:

Manual summarizing – involves condensing a work without any digital intervention. It is solely dependent on the skill of the writer.

For manual summarizing, the fundamental thing is the grasp of original work.

To summarize manually, you should think proactively about the theme of the original draft and then formulate your simplified version. Condense each section of the work and give importance to the main points. Use simple words and phrases that can be easily understood by everyone.

  • Pros: You can maintain the originality and voice of the author.
  • Cons: It is a time-consuming process, and you might miss out on some essential points.

Digital summarizing – using an online summarizer to your advantage. These AI-based tools are adept at finding the key points of a subject. By using this method, you can get your desired summary in a matter of seconds.

The tools also provide you with multiple summarizing percentages. They can summarize content from 10 to 50%, depending upon the tool of choice.

  • Pros: It is a fast way of summarizing and can be done with just a few clicks.
  • Cons: The summarized content might not be up to the mark as these tools are still in their nascent stages.

This is how an efficient online summarizer works:

example of how summarizing tools work

Here, you can see that the whole passage has been condensed into 3 bullet points.

Note: If you are writing an academic paper, you must attribute summarized ideas the same way you attribute paraphrased material and exact words.

The three key differences between the two

The first difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is the purpose. Paraphrasing is done to reiterate the whole content in your own words, whereas summarizing involves extracting the central idea and creating a shorter version.

The second difference is the amount of detail and complexity involved. Paraphrasing requires you to maintain the voice of the author and go into the depth of each point. On the other hand, summarizing is a surface-level task that doesn’t involve any explanation.

The last difference is the length of both these tasks. A paraphrased version is usually as long as the original content. A summary, on the other hand, is always much shorter.

But do paraphrasing and summarizing have anything in common?

Yes, there are a few similarities between paraphrasing and summarizing as well:

  • Both can help you understand the content better.
  • Both are actively used in academic writing.
  • Both can be done manually or with the help of an online tool.

Now that you know the key differences and similarities between paraphrasing and summarizing, it will be easier for you to decide which one to use in a particular situation.

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