How To Paraphrase for Research Papers

Are you looking for a guide on how to paraphrase for research papers? Read on to learn how to paraphrase correctly and avoid plagiarism in your research papers in academic writing.

If you want to write a strong research paper, you need to incorporate the information you uncover in your research; however, you must make sure you do not plagiarize any research. You need to rephrase the source in your own words while also using APA Style, AMA, MLA, or other text citations to give credit where credit is due. You may even want to use parenthetical citations, an annotated bibliography, and quotation marks to specify how you are using the information in your paper. Take a look at a few steps you need to follow to employ effective paraphrasing in your writing.

Materials Needed

You need to have several materials with you before summarizing your sources. They include:

  • You need to have the original passage or source materials you are summarizing.
  • You should have access to a program or text to help you cite your sources.
  • You need to have a computer or pad of paper you can use to take notes.
  • You should have your research paper or original work you are writing.

Once you have these materials together, you can paraphrase your sources.

Step 1: Select a Topic

Before pulling out the main points of your sources, you need to select a topic. What do you want to write about? In some cases, you might have the topic assigned to you. In other cases, you might have to pick the topic. Try to pick something interesting for you and your reader.

Then, you need to identify the key terms and main idea of the source materials you need. What are some of the terms that repeatedly appear during your initial searches? What is the central theme of the original content? Then, you can use these ideas to guide your research and writing as you go along.

Step 2: Do Your Research

How to paraphrase for research papers? Do your research
Do not forget that you can visit the local library to see if there are any books you can use for your research paper

The next step is to do your research. There are numerous places to look when you need sources for your paper. For example, you will probably want to start by turning to the internet for help. A basic Google search can help you uncover some quick sources you can use for your paper. You can also look at the top results to see the most important points for your topic.

You can also turn to newspapers and magazines to see if current articles are published. Take a look at what the journalists and researchers are writing about. You might even be able to take some direct quotes from their articles to use for your research paper. 

Do not forget that you can visit the local library to see if there are any books you can use for your research paper. If there is a book on the list that you can’t find, you might be able to request it from a local library. In addition, many libraries have programs that allow other libraries to borrow books that you might need. 

Finally, you might also want to watch a few documentaries or interviews with important people in your field. This could help you by giving you a quick glimpse into the mind of someone who is an expert on the topic. But, again, it is better to be too broad than too narrow with your research because you never know what you might uncover that could be relevant to your topic.

Our paraphrasing vs. quoting guide might be helpful.

Step 3: Divide the Kinds of Sources You Have

Next, you need to take a look at the sources you have. Each of them can play a different role in your research. Some of the sources you might use include:

  • An encyclopedia, dictionary, or thesaurus, which you can use to build the foundation of your research topic
  • Videos from documentaries, TV shows, or interviews that have been conducted with individuals on your topic
  • Textbooks that can help you learn about some of the most important points of your various topics
  • Articles that you might have pulled from academic journals, magazines, and newspapers
  • Statistics that you might have collected on the topic from either textbooks or research papers
  • Websites that you might have uncovered during your primary search engine searches

You need to break up your sources into these categories because they will be necessary for attribution later. In addition, different types of sources need to be cited in different ways, so make sure you divide them in a way that makes sense.

As you go through your sources, identify the author’s ideas. You can use the themes of the original content to help you refine your topic. You might develop sub-questions you can use to conduct further research and identify other sources that will further enhance your writing. Your topic might evolve as you go through your source material, but this is essential for research writing. You might find our et al meaning guide useful.

Step 4: Evaluate the Quality of Your Sources 

Now that you have collected your sources and divided them, you need to evaluate the quality of each source. For example, if you are writing a research paper for a class, you might be required to limit the number of sources you use, or you might be required to use a certain number of primary or secondary sources. Therefore, you need to comb through the sources and determine which ones you want to use for your research paper.

It would be best to consider the reliability of the sources before you move forward. Specific sources will be more reliable than others. A quick way to figure out how reliable a source is is to look at how many other papers have cited the same source. This is easiest to do with an online research tool. In general, the more often people cite that source, the more reliable it is. This is a sign that numerous other researchers have trusted that source. 

You need to finalize the list of sources you want to use before you go to work paraphrasing them. Once you have your final list, you can move forward.

Step 5: Pull Out the Main Ideas

How to paraphrase for research papers? Pull out the main ideas
You might find it helpful to take notes in the margins as you go along

You can start going through the individual sources and pulling out the most important parts. There are a few tips you should follow during this process. They include:

  • You might find it helpful to take notes in the margins as you go along. If you cannot write in the books, you might want to get a separate notepad to pull out what you think is the most important. You might want to put sticky notes in the books to make it easier to revisit certain areas down the road.
  • If you have video sources, make sure you watch them on a device that allows you to track the time. Take notes as you watch the videos, but don’t forget to write down certain times in the video that you might want to visit later.
  • You might want to use templates to help you structure your citations as you go through your sources. This can also be helpful if you need to construct an annotated bibliography or a literature review later.
  • If you notice that specific ideas are coming to the surface repeatedly, highlight each point of view of each author. Make a note of whether the points of view are similar or different. This will help you structure your research paper down the road.

Once you have gone through each source and pulled out the main ideas, you can figure out how to use your point of view to paraphrase the original words used in the sources.

Step 6: Begin Paraphrasing

Now, it is time for you to paraphrase the main ideas you have pulled out from the sources. There are a few ways you can paraphrase the ideas you have found in your sources. They include:

  • Consider taking the main idea and paraphrasing it three times. What this means is that you take the original text and paraphrase it. Then, take the paraphrased text and paraphrase it again. Finally, take the new text and paraphrase it one more time. This is called “paraphrase times three,” You can use this technique to generate your version of the idea quickly.
  • If you see a series of items that you want to use in your text, consider reversing the order of the series. This will help you produce context that passes a plagiarism checker, such as Copyscape.
  • Paraphrase by identifying the main idea of each paragraph of the source material. Then, when you write the paragraph, keep the crux of the main idea while using your own words to surround it. You can also change the order of the main ideas if you feel like it makes better sense to you and your audience. 
  • While you might want to use a paraphrasing tool to help you save time, remember that these tools often produce text that is not grammatically correct. The syntax might not make sense, so you need to do an excellent job proofreading to make sure you catch any potential mistakes.

Once you have completed these steps, you can take your content and figure out how you want to order it in your research paper. Of course, you might have to make a few tweaks to make everything make sense and flow smoothly, but this is an effective way to produce a paraphrased research paper.

Step 7: Cite Your Sources and Identify Any Potential Conflicts

Finally, before submitting your research paper, make sure that you cite your sources correctly. You need to give credit where credit is due, and you need to figure out which citation style you want to use. You might have been told to follow a specific format before starting your research paper, or there might be a common style that your field uses.

Take a look at how you divided your sources, and make sure you cite them accordingly. For example, video interviews are usually cited differently than in textbooks. You might also want to put together a literature review that goes through your various sources, why you used them, and how they contributed to your research paper.

You also need to identify any potential conflicts of interest. There might not be any, but now is the time to voice them. For example, if you are writing a research paper on behalf of a specific company and got funding from a specific source, it might slant your research in a specific direction. It would be best to let the reader know of any conflicts you might have, as they could be a significant ethical concern. Then, you can submit your research paper.

Step 8: Proofread the Paraphrased Material

Once you have your paraphrased ideas put together, it is time to proofread the paraphrased material. Start by rereading what you have written to ensure that you correctly captured the main ideas and themes. While you might have changed the words, you should not change the point of view of the material or the message it is trying to convey.

You should also proofread your paraphrased material to ensure there are no grammatical errors. It might be helpful to use a grammar checker to help you, such as Grammarly. A grammar checker can ensure that you do not overlook anything during your proofreading.

When you proofread something immediately after writing it, you frequently see what you intended to write instead of what is there. You need to produce a professional, finished product. Therefore, don’t forget to proofread carefully and catch any grammar concerns.

To learn more, check out our top paraphrasing examples.


  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.