A paraphrase is a restatement of a source in a writer's own words in about the same number of words as the original. It is useful when a writer needs to clarify poor writing in a source or to restate difficult material more simply. It also demonstrates your understanding of your reading.
The following passage is from The Harbrace College Handbook.Regardless of whether you are summarizing or paraphrasing, you should be aware of duplicating the exact words or phrases from the original. If you simply change a few words from the original but maintain most of the same words and/or phrases without using quotation marks, you do not note to what extent the source material is not your own.
Your restatement of someone else's words should honor two important principles: your version should be almost entirely in your own words, and your words should accurately convey the content of the original passage. Ifyou simply change a few words in a passage, you have not adequately restated it. As you compare the source below with the paraphrase that follows, notice differences in sentence structure as well as word choice.
Source (from Agents of Opportunity by Kenneth Shropshire, page 106):Athletes must be able to receive more income as students. The logical entities to provide these increased funds are, first, the member institutions and, if that is not financially feasible, then the NCAA. At a minimum the additional amount the student athlete receives should be equal to the amount that brings the spending money available to the student athlete up to the university's average student. This amount may be enough to prevent substantial cheating.
Inadequate paraphrase:Student athletes deserve more income. They should be paid by their schools or by the NCAA. Pay should be set at a level so that student athletes have at least as much spending money as the average student on campus. Paying students this amount could eliminate cheating (Shopshire 106).Although this passage ends with a parenthetical reference to the original source, the reference does not reveal the size of the debt. The author could be giving credit to Shropshire for the whole passage or only the last sentence--it is hard to tell. And when you compare this "paraphrase" to the original source, you will find that the author has followed the same structure. Although the wording has changed, the paraphase in this case is so close to the original that it could be considered plagiarism.
Adequate paraphrase:Kenneth Shropshire has argued that corruption in college sports could be reduced if college athletes received stipends from the schools that they play for or, if necessary, from the NCAA. Athletes should have at least as much spending money as their fellow students do (106).In this example, the page reference establishes where the paraphrase ends; the introductory "Kenneth Shropshire has argued" establishes where it begins. When you paraphrase, make sure that your audience will be able to tell whether you are paraphrasing a single sentence or more. As a general rule, begin paraphrases with a phrase that indicates that you are about to restate another writer's words.
(Hodges et al. 414-16)