Unit 2: Paraphrasing and Avoiding Plagiarism

2 Paraphrasing Techniques

Technique #1: Tell-a-friend method

This method involves using a new way to explain the meaning of the original sentence.

  1. Read the original sentence(s).
  2. Make sure you understand the sentence(s) completely.
  3. Cover the original source.
  4. Imagine you are talking to a friend and try explaining the information to your friend. Write down your explanation.
  5. Read the original source and make sure you have retained the original meaning.
  6. (See Technique #4 below: Using AI-based paraphrasing tools to improve your paraphrasing.)


Practice the Tell-a-Friend method using the proverbs below.

Proverb: You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Paraphrase: Things sometimes look different from what they really are.

Match the proverb with its paraphrase. (Answers located below.)

Proverb Paraphrase
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. a. You did something exactly right.
2. You hit the nail on the head. b. When a person really wants to do something, they will find a way to do it.
3. Don’t count your chickens before your eggs have hatched. c. Be optimistic. Even difficult times will lead to better days.
4. Every cloud has a silver lining. d. One should not risk everything they have in a single venture.
5. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. e. You shouldn’t make plans for something that might not happen.

Technique #2: Chunking method

Another way to paraphrase is to break the original into smaller units, or “chunks.” This method can be useful for longer passages.

  1. Read the original sentence(s) and make sure you understand the sentence(s) completely.
  2. Divide the sentence(s) into chunks (these are often grammatical clauses). Underline each chunk, focusing on how you can divide the sentence into phrases.
  3. Re-write each chunk in your own words.
  4. Combine these rewritten chunks into one or more sentences to create a paraphrase. Think about how the ideas are related to each other; you might need to include additional words (e.g. transition phrases) as you combine the chunks.
  5. You may re-order the chunks to make the order of ideas different from the original, but if you do, make sure the paraphrase still makes sense.

Chunking examples:

#1 Original: “As more and more people have become increasingly used to sharing and collaborating outside the workplace via social networks, (chunk 1) they are coming to expect firms to be more open and collaborative places too (chunk 2).” From Author Unknown, “Yammering Away at the Office,” (2010), p. 1.

Rewordings of chunks:

  • 1) people have grown more accustomed to using social media platforms for collaboration and sharing ideas beyond their jobs
  • 2) there are increasing expectations that companies will encourage more collaboration.

Paraphrase: Workers are expecting companies to encourage more collaboration since many people have grown accustomed to using social media platforms for collaboration and sharing ideas beyond their jobs (“Yammering away at the office,” 2010, p. 1).

#2 Original: “Psychologists have argued that digital technology is changing the way we write (chunk 1) in that students no longer need to plan essays before starting to write (chunk 2) because word processing software allows them to edit as they go along (chunk 3).” From David Derbyshire, “Social websites harm children’s brains,” (2009), p. 2.

Rewordings of chunks:

  • 1) psychologists claim that computers and software are influencing the writing process
  • 2) students can skip the planning process
  • 3) word processing programs help them revise throughout the writing process

Paraphrase: Because word processing programs help students revise their essays throughout the writing process and even skip the planning process altogether, psychologists claim that computers and software are influencing the writing process (Derbyshire, 2009, p. 2)

Adapted from Dollahite, N.E. & Huan, J. (2012). SourceWork: Academic Writing for Success.

Technique #3: Paraphrasing plus Summarizing method

Sometimes you will be able to identify one or two specific sentences to paraphrase. However, it is more common to use information from a longer passage, like a paragraph or two, or a section or sections of an article. To do this effectively, you must combine the skills of paraphrasing and summarizing.

  • Paraphrasing: Restating an individual sentence that contains key ideas in your own words, keeping the same length and meaning.
  • Summarizing: Expressing an overall idea of a longer passage in your own words, keeping the same meaning, but making it much more concise (shorten it).

Follow these steps to summarize AND paraphrase:

  1. Identify the original chunk(s) of text that you would like to cite in your paper.
  2. Read the chunk(s) several times to make sure you have accurate understanding and are able to “tell a friend” what the chunks are about.
  3. In the margins, identify key words, synonyms, or ideas that describe each chunk (color-coding can help identify similar ideas).
  4. Think about the most logical sequence of these ideas; you could number them.
  5. Write your summary, keeping it short (1 to 3 sentences). Set it aside.
  6. Re-read the ideas in the margins and your summary and rewrite any parts you feel could be improved; repeat steps 5-6 as needed.

The example below illustrates how a student used the skills of paraphrasing and summarizing below to condense a paragraph into a single sentence.

Original:The pandemic tested the resilience of colleges and universities as they executed online learning on a massive scale by creating online courses, adopting and adapting to unfamiliar technologies, engaging faculty en masse in remote teaching, and successfully meeting the instructional needs of students. Those experiences and lessons should not be discarded. The next phase for higher education in a post-COVID-19 world is to harness what worked well during the emergency response period and use those experiences to improve institutional practices for the benefit of both internal and external constituencies in the future.” From John Nworie, “Beyond COVID-19: What’s next for online teaching and learning in higher education,” (2021), p. 7.

Rewordings of chunks:

  • 1) valuable lessons learned
  • 2) higher education institutions developed large-scale online courses
  • 3) as a response to the pandemic
  • 4) adapting and overcoming challenges in the process
  • 5) should be applied to future education models

Paraphrase: Nworie (2021) recommends that the valuable lessons learned as higher education institutions developed large-scale online courses as a response to the pandemic, adapting and overcoming challenges in the process, should be applied to future education models (p. 7).

Proverbs matching answers: 1-d, 2-a, 3-e, 4-c, 5-b

Technique #4: Using Online Tools

AI-based paraphrasing tools can help you improve your writing. Most tools have free and premium versions, which have more features. Examples include:

  1. QuillBot
  2. WordViceAI
  3. ChatGPT
  4. Grammarly

The best way to use AI-based paraphrasing tools is to write your own version first and then use the tool to find alternative ways to express your paraphrase. Being able to write a paraphrase on your own will allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of AI-generated paraphrases.

Benefits of using AI-tools:

  1. By seeing how the tool rewrites your text, you can learn to identify where your writing could be improved. You can learn to use more effective vocabulary, or how to structure your sentences in a more effective way.
  2. You can expand your vocabulary and learn effective collocations.
  3. You can spot grammar errors you make and learn to avoid and correct them.

Follow these guidelines when using AI tools for writing paraphrases:

  1. Write the paraphrase on your own first. Then paste your paraphrase into the AI with a clear prompt to check its effectiveness.
  2. When using AI to support your writing, always review the original text to ensure the AI accurately maintained the meaning of the original passage.
  3. Some tools only change the words and not the overall structure. If they tool only uses synonyms, you must change the grammar yourself.
  4. Always check the citation format. Do not assume the tool will use the correct citation.

To learn more about how to cite your use of AI Tools see the UW Libraries’ Research Guides on Citing Generative AI.

Knowledge Check

Exercise: Take the paraphrasing quiz below.

From Excelsior Online Writing Lab, Paraphrasing – Try it Out


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