Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

3 Reasons you Should Paraphrase

  • Reader may doubt your credibility if you quote too much.
  • Paraphrasing shows readers you understand the topic.
  • Paraphrasing makes paper more unified

3 Steps to Paraphrasing

Step One: Read and study the original text you want to paraphrase. Know the material well.

Step Two: Say your understanding of the text out loud.

Step Three: Write your understanding of the text on a piece of paper.

Do I need to change every word when paraphrasing?

This is a good question. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy answer, and for a simple reason.

Paraphrasing is more of an art than a science.

If it were a science, there would be a formula to follow — step one, step two, and step three. But it is not, it’s more of an art, which means, we take a concept from another writer and transpose it into our own voice, or style of writing. That doesn’t mean we change the meaning, just the style.

For example, think about it this way. If you were translating a passage from Japanese to English, you would use your own voice. But more important, you would try to keep the original intent and meaning the same.

When paraphrasing we need to preserve the original ideaintent, and the tone it was written in to be reliable. (The temptation is to slant information to support our positions, but this would not be in keeping with academic honesty).

We need to show that we understand the original text, and are able to write about the author’s concept without using his or her words. In other words, we know the writer’s thoughts well enough to use our own voice.

With that said,  proper nounscommon facts and common knowledge words do not need to be changed. These words are generally considered common and understood. So when we paraphrase from a writer talking about, let’s say, the Eiffel Tower, Eiffel Tower is a proper noun, and it doesn’t need to be changed. (If we tried, it would be awkward and vague).


Directions: Read to understand the original text below. When you feel you know the points the text is making, set it aside and either say your understanding to a friend, or say it out loud to yourself. Then write your understanding on a piece of paper.

Then check your paraphrase with the original. Remember, a good paraphrase sounds like your language, and it carries the original meaning.

You may repeat this exercise as many times as you need. 

Original Text

“Bananas are extremely healthy and delicious. They contain several essential nutrients and provide benefits for digestion, heart health and weight loss” (

Richard Carrigan, MSE

Richard Carrigan has been an educator for over 30 years and a filmmaker for the past ten years. He has experience teaching English as a Second Language in Asia and teaching university students in the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree from Loma Linda University and his graduate degree from Shenandoah University.