How do I paraphrase information? (Workout E)

Most of the time, when we want to bring ideas from our research into our essays we do so using paraphrasing. This means understanding an idea or argument in the source material and restating it in our own essay using our own words. Then, of course, indicating where the idea came from using in-text citation.

Paraphrase is the unique expression of someone else’s idea. When we bring other people’s ideas into our writing, we have two choices. Direct quotation uses the exact words from the source. Paraphrase uses none of the original words or phrasing from the source.

Paraphrasing is more efficient than using direct quotation as it lets us focus on the specific ideas we want to bring into our essay, and lets us do this in our own voice and style.

Key features of a good paraphrase:

  • Uses unique vocabulary and grammatical structure. The idea from the source must be written in your own words.
  • Includes language and attribution and in-text citation so we know where the idea came from.
  • Quotes any unique phrasing, if necessary.

Process for paraphrase

To write effective paraphrase, we must make sure we really understand the ideas we want to restate in our own words. It helps to follow a specific process.

Let’s go through this process using an example.

For this exercise, we’ll use this passage from Finey’s 2015 article on the Internet of Things.

Finley, K. (2015). Why tech’s best minds are very worried about the Internet of things. WIRED. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from

Process for Paraphrase (Sample Answers)

Paraphrase Evaluation Activity

Let’s complete two practice activities to evaluate strong and weak examples of paraphrase.

  1. Read the sample paraphrase of the passage below. List the reasons why this is not an acceptable paraphrase.

    Finley, K. (2015). Why tech’s best minds are very worried about the Internet of things. WIRED. Retrieved 8 October 2015, from

    Paraphrase Evaluation Activity (Sample Answers)

    Indicate problems you can identify with this paraphrase:

    1. This paraphrase takes many words and phrases from the original and changes and moves them around. It is neither an accurate direct quotation nor a unique phrasing of the original passage. The reader has no way of knowing whether the words and phrases are from the writer or come from a source.


      The brightest tech minds have doubts about the internet of things which may have an impact on security and privacy to human dignity and social inequality. The internet of things will extend the online world to wearables and household appliances.

    2. I In addition, there is no language of attribution and no in-text citation.

    For these reasons, this passage could be considered plagiarism.

    Download Sample Answers

  1. In the next activity, read over the original source and the sample paraphrase. Then, identify all the types of errors that you can see in the sample paraphrase.
    Original Passage from Eli Pariser’s 2011 article “The Troubling Future of Internet Search.”

    Sample paraphrase:

    Sometimes, if we let algorithms make decisions about what we see and get online things will be more fair. For example, computers don’t see race and gender. For this to happen, algorithms have to be designed with care and acuteness or else they reflect the culture around us. This reinforces the social norm.

    Process for Paraphrase Continued (Sample Answers)

    Problems in the sample paraphrase:

    • No attribution (Author’s name and the year are not included).
    • Too much word-for-word copying (the same phrases and words are copied from the original without quotation marks; this is more like lazy quotation that paraphrase).
    • Structure and grammar are too much like the original (the overall organization of information is too similar; the paraphrase should be unique expression of the idea).
    • Meaning does not match the intended meaning of the original (the meaning in the paraphrase is not particularly accurate, especially in the point about computer’s not “seeing race and gender.”

    Sample Effective Paraphrase:

    In his 2011 article, Pariser argues that while it’s possible that the algorithms that shape what information we see online could make society fairer, in fact the opposite is more likely. It’s more likely that the algorithms will replicate the inequalities of society that already exist and reinforce them.

    Notice in this improved paraphrase:

    • The author is introduced so we know whose ideas we are reading.
    • The vocabulary and structure of the paraphrase are unique and don’t attempt to mimic the original.
    • The meaning accurately reflects the author’s intended meaning.

    Download Sample Answers

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