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Paraphrasing and Summary

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on February 26, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource provides guidelines for paraphrasing and summarizing the sources you have researched.

Whether you are writing for the workplace or for academic purposes, you will need to research and incorporate the writing of others into your own texts.  Two unavoidable steps in that process are paraphrasing (changing the language into your own) and summarizing (getting rid of smaller details and leaving only the primary points).  These steps are necessary for three reasons.


First, if you used the original writer’s language without any changes, it limits your own learning; by paraphrasing and summarizing, you make a piece of information your own, and you understand it better.

Second, the original writers did not write for the audiences you are targeting; there are inevitably contents and language choices that will not necessarily work for your audience.  Third, what authors write is considered to be their property, just like a coat or a car; by copying it (without giving credit), you can be accused of plagiarism. 

Summarizing and paraphrasing are frequently used together, but not always.  The following will give you some basic information on paraphrasing and summarizing, and then you will have the chance to reflect on appropriate paraphrasing and summarizing yourself.

Paraphrasing

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on November 12, 2008 .

Summary:

This resource provides guidelines for paraphrasing sources you have researched.

Whether you are writing for the workplace or for academic purposes, you will need to research and incorporate the writing of others into your own texts.  Two unavoidable steps in that process are paraphrasing (changing the language into your own) and summarizing (getting rid of smaller details and leaving only the primary points).  These steps are necessary for three reasons.


First, if you used the original writer’s language without any changes, it limits your own learning; by paraphrasing and summarizing, you make a piece of information your own, and you understand it better.

Second, the original writers did not write for the audiences you are targeting; there are inevitably contents and language choices that will not necessarily work for your audience.  Third, what authors write is considered to be their property, just like a coat or a car; by copying it (without giving credit), you can be accused of plagiarism. 

Summarizing and paraphrasing are frequently used together, but not always.  The following will give you some basic information on paraphrasing and summarizing, and then you will have the chance to reflect on appropriate paraphrasing and summarizing yourself.

Paraphrasing

As explained above, paraphrasing is making different word choices and re-arranging words in such a way that maintains the same meaning, but sounds different enough that readers will not be reminded of the original writer’s words.  Here is an example, followed by inadequate and adequate paraphrases:

Example:  The current constitutional debate over heavy metal rock and gangsta rap music is not just about the explicit language but also advocacy, an act of incitement to violence.
 
Inadequate paraphrase:  Today’s constitutional debate about gangsta rap and heavy metal rock is not just about obscene language but also advocacy and incitement of acts of violence.
 
Adequate paraphrase:  Lyrics in some rap and heavy metal songs that appear to promote violence, along with concerns about obscenity, have generated a constitutional debate over popular music.

In the inadequate paraphrase, the meaning of the original is altered somewhat:  it claims that the debate is about advocacy AND violence, but it is supposed to be about advocacy FOR violence.  Also, too few of the words have been changed, and the order of the sentence remains essentially the same.  In the second attempt at paraphrasing, enough changes have been made so that readers would not feel that they are reading somebody else’s words.

When you are paraphrasing, there are a number of strategies you can apply:

* Kennedy, M.L. & Smith, H.M. (2000). Reading and Writing in the Academic Community. New York, NY: Prentice Hall College Division.

Summarizing

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on November 12, 2008 .

Summary:

This resource covers how to summarize your research findings.

In many situations, you will not have to provide the level of detail that the original writer did.  At such times, you should summarize, or remove minor details.  Here’s an example:


Example:
  Overall, the first two quarters of 2008 have been profitable to the company.  Nineteen of twenty departments report cutting costs at least twenty percent, and sales from fifteen departments have risen five percent, or about $5 million.  Despite these positive developments, most department heads believe that they will not be able to maintain these levels for the remainder of the year. 

Revision:  The first two quarters of 2008 have been profitable, but the rest of the year is not expected to be as good.

Unlike paraphrasing, the basic order of the original text is maintained.  However, some words have been changed to close synonyms.  When summarizing, avoid cutting too much important information.

For more information on paraphrasing, visit the OWL’s resource, Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing.

Paraphrasing and Summarizing Exercise

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .

Summary:

This resource contains the practice exercise on paraphrasing and summarizing to help you learn how to apply the guidelines in this section to your own writing.

Take a look at the text below (excerpted from “Expert: Wikipedia Won't Go Away, So Learn How to Use It” by Maggie Morris) and the following attempts at paraphrasing and summarizing.  The first four are not adequate, but the last one is.  Look at each of the four inappropriate attempts, and decide what exactly makes each inappropriate.

The popularity of Wikipedia makes it important that users learn to use the online collaborative encyclopedia as a starting point for their research rather than as the final word, says a Purdue University communications expert. "Students are addicted to Wikipedia, and teachers fight it with stern grading policies and restrictions on its use," says Sorin A. Matei, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication. "But Wikipedia is here to stay and, despite penalties, people are likely to continue using it."

Version 1:  The popularity of Wikipedia makes it important that users learn to use the online collaborative encyclopedia as a starting point for their research. "Students are addicted to Wikipedia, and teachers fight it with stern grading policies and restrictions on its use," says Sorin A. Matei, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication.

Version 2:  The popularity of Wikipedia makes it important that users learn to use the online collaborative encyclopedia as a starting point for their research. "Students are addicted to Wikipedia, and teachers fight it with stern grading policies and restrictions on its use," says Sorin A. Matei, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication (Morris).

Version 3:  Wikipedia is popular, which makes it vital that users learn to use the online collaborative encyclopedia as a beginning point for their research. "Students are addicted to Wikipedia,” says Sorin A. Matei, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, “and teachers fight it with stern grading policies and restrictions on its use" (Morris).

Version 4:
  “Wikipedia is popular, which makes it necessary to learn using the online collaborative encyclopedia as a beginning point for their research. ‘Students are addicted to Wikipedia,’ says Sorin A. Matei, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, ‘and teachers fight it with stern grading policies and restrictions on its use’” (Morris).

Version 5:  Sorin A. Matei of Purdue University says that because students are "addicted to Wikipedia" and will continue to rely on it, it is important for teachers to help them to use Wikipedia as a place to begin research, rather than as a final source.  Matei also says that penalties are unlikely to be effective (Morris).

Version 5 is correct. Here the student combined her own paraphrasing with a quotation of striking language of the original text. She made certain her words and those taken directly from the source fit together; she quoted accurately and cited her source.  Some of the information is consolidated, and the specific kinds of penalties given by teachers—a minor detail—are left out.

Click here for execise answers.