Montgomery College Germantown Campus

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Paraphrasing and Summarizing

The following is the handout from this workshop. To view a Prezi on paraphrasing and summarizing, click here. 

Paraphrasing & Summarizing
A Germantown Writing Center Workshop

Paraphrasing & Summarizing in Everyday Life


a.    When do we paraphrase or summarize? Why?
b.      Think about the last movie you saw. How did you describe certain scenes to your friends? Could you remember the dialogue word for word, or did you rephrase it? What parts did you leave out?

Why paraphrase or summarize?


a.      To avoid plagiarism
b.     To write most of your paper (66-75%) in your own words
c.       To condense and/or present information the reader isn’t likely to have read or to want to read

What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is the use of other’s ideas written in your own words. Paraphrases must be introduced using a signal phrase and cited. Take a look at these examples:
a.      In discussing how wealth influences appearance, Leslie Fiedler, a literary critic and noted author, asserts that because the wealthy can afford to alter their bodies through surgeries or other medical means, they will become the norm for beauty while the impoverished who cannot afford to change their appearance will be our “sole remaining freaks” (p. 564-565).
b.      One noted author and literary critic, in discussing how wealth influences appearance, ironically argues that because the wealthy can afford to alter their bodies through surgeries and other medical means, they will become the norm for beauty while the impoverished who cannot afford to change their appearance will be our “sole remaining freaks” (Fiedler, p. 564-565).
·         Length: Generally the same length as the original text.

What is summarizing?

Summarizing, like paraphrasing, is putting an author’s thoughts and ideas in your own words. However, summarizing focuses on a larger portion of information, like a whole book, article, or movie. Summaries must also be introduced using a signal phrase and cited.
·         Length: Generally ¼ the length of the original text or less.

What is patchwork plagiarism?

Patchwork plagiarism is when some of the author’s original phrases or clauses are used without enclosing those words in quotation marks. This can occur when a writer substitutes some of the author’s words using a thesaurus and uses the author’s original sentence structure.

How do I paraphrase or summarize?


DO:                                                 
  • Read the text
  • Take notes
  • Reread if necessary
  • Put the text away and begin writing
  • Use an in-text citation

DON’T:                                             
  • Skim the text
  • Look at the text while writing
  • Replace words from the text with synonyms
  • Use the same sentence structure as the author 

Academic Paraphrasing Exercise

Now that we’ve practiced paraphrasing with a fellow student, let’s try paraphrasing a passage of text from The Reading-Writing Connection by John Langan.
Original passage:
“Improving your vocabulary will make you a better reader and a better writer. It would be nice if there were pills available for this purpose—with each pill automatically adding, say, a hundred words to your vocabulary! But while there is no instant cure for an underdeveloped vocabulary, there are steps you can take to build word power” (Langan, p. 15).
Your paraphrase:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Summary and Review

As you have seen today, we paraphrase for many reasons—some academic, some not. Paraphrasing is how we show that we’ve understood information or materials presented to us. When writing a college essay, you will often be called upon to present your opinion or analyze a certain text, or perhaps both! You will become more and more familiar with paraphrasing as you write more essays. Remember the two most important aspects of paraphrasing:
a.      Show your understanding of the text by accurately summarizing or paraphrasing the author’s original words.

b.      Give credit to the author by using correct citations in your paper.

If you would like additional information, the Purdue OWL's website has a good page called Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing.

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