To paraphrase means to restate someone else’s ideas in your own language at roughly the same level of detail. To summarize means to reduce the most essential points of someone else’s work into a shorter form. Along with quotation, paraphrase and summary provide the main tools for integrating your sources into your papers. When choosing which to use, consider first your discipline and the type of writing in which you are engaged. For example, literature reviews in science reports rely almost exclusively on summary. Argumentative essays, by contrast, rely on all three tools.
Paraphrase and summary are indispensable in argumentative papers because they allow you to include other people’s ideas without cluttering up your paragraphs with quotations. These techniques help you take greater control of your essay. Consider using either tool when an idea from one of your sources is important to your essay but the wording is not. Space limitations may guide you in your choice. But above all, think about how much of the detail from your source is relevant to your argument. If your reader needs to know only the bare bones, then summarize.
Though paraphrase and summary are often preferable to quotation, do not rely too heavily on them, either. Your ideas are what matter most. Allow yourself the space to develop those ideas.
How do I paraphrase?
Whenever you paraphrase, remember these two points:
You must provide a reference.
The paraphrase must be in your own words. You must do more than merely substitute phrases here and there. You must also create your own sentence structures. Finding new words for ideas that are already well expressed can be hard, but changing words should not be your chief aim anyway. Focus, rather, on filtering the ideas through your own understanding. The following strategy will make the job of paraphrasing a lot easier:
When you are at the note-taking stage, and you come across a passage that may be useful for your essay, do not copy...
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