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Paraphrasing Thesis Statements: A Strategic Skill

Updated on April 1, 2024StudentsWriting Tips

A thesis statement explains the main point of a piece of writing, so naturally, other sources on the same topic would want to mention it. Ideas build on one another, and if your argument depends on someone else’’s data, opinions, or theories, you should mention the original (along with citing it as the original source). That’s why paraphrasing thesis statements is so common in academic writing.

In this guide, we explain how to paraphrase a thesis statement, discuss the best strategies for restating a thesis claim in your own words, and share some examples.

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How to paraphrase a thesis statement

Paraphrasing a thesis statement is restating the main topic of another piece of writing in your own words. We paraphrase other people’s ideas to use them in our own works, whether as supporting evidence, background context, or a conflicting point of view. Because thesis statements encompass the central points of larger and more complex works, restating the thesis claim is more convenient than going over every detail. In order to avoid plagiarism, please note that it’s important to include a citation of the original source even when putting those ideas into your own words.

Identifying thesis statements

The first step in paraphrasing thesis statements is always identifying them in the source. A thesis statement is a single sentence that succinctly sums up the main point of the work, such as the topic of an essay or the hypothesis of a research paper.

Typically, thesis statements come in the introductions of academic writing, as well as in abstracts. They’re usually placed in the first paragraph as a way to prepare the reader for the rest of the writing.

Paraphrasing thesis statements

Once you’ve identified the thesis statement in your source, try to rewrite it in your own words. Restate the thesis claim using original phrasing to differentiate it from the original. You do not need quotation marks when you rewrite thesis statements because you’re using your own words.

However, you still need a citation when paraphrasing thesis statements. Even though you changed the wording of the ideas, the person who came up with those ideas still deserves credit. Typically, the citation includes placing the author’s last name in parentheses after the statement, but the specific details change depending on the formatting style you’re using.

If you’re having trouble, you can use some reliable paraphrasing techniques to help:

  • Use synonyms. Replace some words with different words that mean the same thing.
  • Change the word class or part of speech. Modifying the part of speech, such as turning a verb to a noun, is a good way to change the words without changing their meaning.
  • Rearrange the sentence structure. If no synonyms are available, you can try moving the phrases or clauses around in a different order, breaking up the thesis statement into multiple sentences, or changing the subject, active verb, or other sentence components.
  • Add or remove parts. When paraphrasing, don’t be afraid to edit; you can omit parts that aren’t relevant to your work, or add new parts to give better context for what you’re trying to say.
  • Try a paraphrasing tool. AI rewrites can help you reword thesis statements; paste fewer than 500 characters into our free paraphrasing tool and it automatically paraphrases the text with a few different options.

Feel free to use more than one paraphrasing strategy to set your wording apart from the original. Don’t forget to use the proper research paper thesis format for your genre.

Example of paraphrasing thesis statements

Original Thesis Statement Paraphrased Thesis Statement
Our data shows that students who eat a full and nutritious breakfast every day earn better grades in school, retain information longer, and participate more in class. A recent study proved children perform better at school in various fields after a daily breakfast.
A comparison between weight-lifting techniques found that faster repetitions improve type II muscle fibers better than slower repetitions do. Faster repetitions in resistance training proved more effective with type II muscle fibers than slow repetitions did, according to a new paper.
The popularity of pseudosciences comes from their ability to satisfy an inner desire of the believer, regardless of any factual backing. Pseudosciences don’t need scientific evidence to attract believers because they target more emotional goals that supersede logic.

When to paraphrase thesis statements

Literature reviews and other explanations of sources

Paraphrasing thesis statements comes in handy when writing literature reviews, which outline the main ideas in the sources used for academic writing. Likewise, anytime you need to explain a source, you can restate its thesis claim so the reader understands what it was about.

Applying general ideas from other sources to your own work

If the conclusion of another piece of work is an important building block or piece of evidence in your own idea, you can simply rewrite the thesis statement to get your readers up to speed. It’s a lot more convenient than having to explain the step-by-step processes the original source took to arrive at its outcome.

Comparing/contrasting viewpoints on topics

One of the most effective strategies for convincing a reader of your point of view is to address conflicting points of view and discuss why your ideas are better. Instead of devoting too much of your writing to competing ideas, you can paraphrase their thesis statements so the reader knows their opinion and its justification.

Common mistakes with paraphrasing thesis statements


Patchwriting is when you attempt to paraphrase something but don’t change it enough. Think of it as a failed attempt at paraphrasing. To successfully rewrite thesis statements, you must change it enough to make it unique. Patchwriting a thesis statement won’t be enough to pass a plagiarism checker.

Incorrectly identifying the thesis statement

Sometimes the thesis statement is not easy to find, or another piece of information distracts the reader from the main point of the writing. This can lead to misinterpreting the main idea of the source, or “missing the point.” If you can’t find an adequate thesis statement at the beginning of an academic work, check the conclusion—the thesis statement is usually repeated there.

Forgetting the citation

Just because you’re using your own words doesn’t mean the ideas are yours. You still need to use proper citations when you paraphrase or else it’s plagiarism. The proper format for how to cite a paraphrase depends on the style—APA, MLA, or Chicago—so double-check the citation guidelines for the one you’re using. And don’t forget the source’s full citation in the bibliography section at the end.

Paraphrasing a thesis FAQs

Do you use quotations when paraphrasing thesis statements?

Restate the thesis claim using original phrasing to differentiate it from the original. You do not need quotation marks when you rewrite thesis statements because you are using your own words.

Where does the citation go when you rewrite thesis statements?

Typically, the citation includes placing the author’s last name in parentheses after the statement, but the specific details change depending on which citation style you’re using: APA, MLA, or Chicago.

When should you quote or reword thesis statements?

Paraphrasing thesis statements is generally preferred over quotations because the wording remains consistent with the author’s style throughout the rest of the piece. It also alleviates the risk of overusing direct quotations. However, if the original source’s wording is already perfect, a quote can work well.

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