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Paraphrasing a Paragraph: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Updated on April 16, 2024StudentsWriting Tips

Paraphrasing a paragraph is different than paraphrasing a sentence or phrase. In some ways, it’s more difficult, but in others, it’s easier. Knowing how to paraphrase a paragraph takes more than just changing a few words; you need to rewrite multiple sentences and understand the rules for citation, syntax, and avoiding plagiarism.

In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about paraphrasing a paragraph. We discuss steps, tips, and techniques, plus we share an example to illustrate exactly how to paraphrase a paragraph.

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What does paraphrasing a paragraph entail?

Paraphrasing a paragraph is rewriting the ideas from a paragraph written or said by someone else in your own words and style. The points remain the same, but you restate the meaning with new, original writing.

When you want to use another person’s ideas in your own work, you typically have two choices: direct quotes or paraphrasing. Direct quotes work best if you like the original wording, but if you use too many quotations, your writing may become hard to read. Academic writing flows more naturally when you strike a balance between paraphrasing and direct quotes. Alternating paraphrases and quotations is an essential part of how to write a research paper. Keep in mind that both paraphrases and direct quotes require citations.

5 steps for how to paraphrase a paragraph

1 Read the source paragraph thoroughly

Don’t jump into rewriting a paragraph. First, take time to review the original carefully. Read and reread the paragraph until you’re sure you understand each part. Otherwise, you may misinterpret something in your paraphrase, or forget to include it completely.

2 Identify the key points, words, and ideas

Once you’re familiar with the source paragraph, consider which parts—whether it’s abstract ideas or specific terminology — you want to include in your rewrite. If your topic is slightly different from the source topic, only include the parts relevant to what you’re writing about.

3 Rewrite the paragraph from memory using different vocabulary and syntax

Replacing words with synonyms is a main strategy for paraphrasing, but it’s not sufficient on its own. You also need to change the syntaxthe order that words come in. Because paraphrasing usually involves moving around a lot of words, be careful that you don’t inadvertently change the original meaning.

One advantage of paraphrasing a paragraph instead of a sentence is that you can sometimes change the order of the sentences. Paragraph structure typically uses a topic sentence (introduction) and a conclusion sentence, but the sentences in the middle can be rearranged except where the order matters, as with step-by-step instructions or logical progressions.

You can set apart your version even more by combining or splitting up some sentences. Look for clauses that can become standalone sentences or that you can attach to a different sentence.

Get rid of phrases or even entire sentences that aren’t related to what you’re writing about. Editing your paraphrases like this also makes your writing stronger by focusing only on your topic. If you plan on removing parts, paraphrasing a paragraph makes more sense than quoting it, because this lets you avoid using ellipsis breaks, which makes some quotes hard to read.

4 Review to ensure you restate the meaning correctly

When you move and change words, you may inadvertently introduce technical missteps, including grammar and spelling mistakes. Use Grammarly to check your paraphrase for clarity, conciseness, and correctness.

5 Use a citation to avoid plagiarism

Even though you’re using original words and your own writing style, you still need to include a citation. That’s because the phrasing may be your own, but the ideas are not.

Citing paraphrased text usually involves parenthetical citations, a type of in-text citation that puts the author’s last name in parentheses, along with the page number, year of publication, or both. Different formatting styles, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, all have different rules for citations, so check our guides for the one you’re using.

In addition to the in-text citation, you also need to include a full citation at the end of your work, in the bibliography section. The formatting for your full citation also depends on the formatting style. Use Grammarly’s citations generator to help you instantly add citations to your papers.

Paraphrasing a paragraph example

Original paragraph

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.

Albert Einstein,Condolence letter to Rabbi Robert Marcus over the loss of his daughter

Paraphrased version

What we call the “universe” connects everyone, but our individual experiences are still separated from each other. However, this sense of isolation is just an illusion that limits our worldview to only what is familiar to us. We can dispel this illusion by showing empathy to all humans, animals, and nature as a whole, even what is new and unfamiliar. This may be a lofty or even impossible goal, but even just attempting it is a good start to embracing the unity of the universe and, consequently, finding inner peace. (Einstein, 1950).

Tips and techniques for paraphrasing a paragraph

We’ve covered the most effective techniques for paraphrasing a paragraph. As a reminder, they’re summarized below.

  • Add or remove sections—You can make an idea unique by adding new parts that weren’t in the original or removing parts that aren’t related to your topic.
  • Replace words with synonyms—When people think of paraphrasing, they usually think about using synonyms, different words with the same meaning.
  • Switch the part of speech—A part of speech (or “word class“) refers to the function of a word, like a noun, verb, adjective, etc. Changing the part of speech, such as turning a verb into a noun, is a great way to rewrite an idea without losing its meaning.
  • Change the sentence structure—In addition to moving parts of the paragraph, you can also move parts of individual sentences, like swapping the position of phrases or using a different subject.

While these techniques have been proven effective, they still take time to learn. Keep in mind that Grammarly’s free paraphrasing tool can give you a few different recommended paraphrases. And once you’ve got a draft, you can rewrite with AI to polish it.

Common Paraphrasing Mistakes

  • Not altering the words sufficiently
  • Changing the meaning
  • Forgetting to cite the source

Paraphrasing a Paragraph FAQs

How much should I change when paraphrasing a paragraph?

Ideally, you want to change as much as you can when paraphrasing a paragraph. More than just individual words, try to rethink the entire paragraph as a whole and create a whole new structure. Aim to restate the meaning in your own style to stay consistent with the rest of your writing.

What are some techniques to help rewrite paragraphs?

The most common paraphrasing technique is to replace some words with synonyms, but this is not enough on its own. It’s best to rearrange the order of sentences, as well as combining and separating some of the originals. You can also add new ideas, or get rid of some that aren’t related to your topic.

Do you need citations when paraphrasing a paragraph?

Even though you’re changing the words, you also need a citation when paraphrasing a paragraph. Paraphrases usually use a parenthetical citation within the text and a full citation in the bibliography at the end.

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