How To Teach Paraphrasing To Students? 6 Important Steps

Paraphrasing is an essential part of a writer’s skill set. Here, we’ll explore how to teach paraphrasing to students.

Paraphrasing is vital when writing a research paper, article, or other academic work. While quoting others is essential in academic writing, you’ll also need to show that you can summarize important researched concepts in your own words. This improves the readability of your work and makes it clear you’ve adequately researched and that you understand the concepts behind your paper.

When paraphrasing, you’ll need to use citations to avoid plagiarism, giving credit to authors where credit is due. Suppose you’re discussing a concept or idea for the first time in your work (and it’s not an original thought). In that case, academic integrity standards require that you attribute the thought to the author who first developed it–this can be easier said than done. Nevertheless, paraphrasing and correctly attributing concepts to their rightful source is an important writing skill that students and authors alike need to master to write academically sound work.

Here, we’ll explore precisely what paraphrasing is, how to paraphrase with integrity, and ways to teach it to high school students, English language learners, and others interested in boosting their reading strategies.

Step 1: Ensure Your Students Understand Paraphrasing

How To Teach Paraphrasing To Students? Ensure your students understand paraphrasing
Teaching paraphrasing can help students delve into their knowledge base, using the already familiar concepts to explain academic work in a new light

The idea of paraphrasing is simple–it’s taking another person’s work or idea and putting it into your own words. Ensure that you teach students precisely what paraphrasing is and the purpose of paraphrasing. While paraphrasing comes naturally to some people, others struggle to put academic text into their own words. Teaching paraphrasing can help students delve into their knowledge base, using the already familiar concepts to explain academic work in a new light.

Step 2: ChooseThe Right Paraphrasing Format 

Teach your students how to select the correct paraphrasing format. For example, when writing an academic paper, you often collect the latest research on a topic to help your reader further understand your thesis. This means that many of the ideas you discuss are pulled from research studies and literature reviews. Of course, you must include the latest research to support the main points of your work, but unless you’re a doctoral student in your field, it’s unlikely that any of your writing is based on your research projects.

Paraphrasing allows you to share ideas developed and researched by others without continually pulling quotes from academic journals and research studies. Sometimes, quotes can be necessary, such as when you’re working to prove a point with statistics or want to refer to a specific conclusion that a scientist or other researcher drew during their study. Other times, however, you’ll want to get the main point of the study or paper across to your reader without relying on long blocks of text from an academic journal (which may be difficult for your reader to understand if they are not experts in your area of study). This is where paraphrasing is key.

When you paraphrase academic work, you’re making it easier for your reader to understand where you’re coming from. You’re providing them with the general idea of the concept rather than forcing them to wade through the nitty-gritty academic details that can make it tough to stay focused on the main point. As long as you practice proper attribution when you paraphrase, using this skill to convey information to your readers can be an excellent way to help them understand your main point.

Step 3: Teach Students About Plagiarism

Tips for avoiding plagiarism
There’s nothing inherently long with paraphrasing, but you need to ensure that you give credit where it’s due

When used correctly, paraphrasing is not plagiarism. You must always reference and credit the source, and if you’re teaching others the ins and outs of good academic writing, it’s key to teach your students to do the same.

When sources are not cited to the authors, your work loses academic integrity. There’s nothing inherently long with paraphrasing, but you need to ensure that you give credit where it’s due.

Step 4: Attribute Information While Paraphrasing

When citing authors as your paraphrasing, stick with the citation format preferred by your professor or editor. For example, many professionals use APA or MLA format, which includes in-text citations and citations at the end of the work.

You’ll use an in-text citation the first time you reference an idea by an author. In subsequent paraphrasing of the author’s work, you won’t need to use the full citation again (unless you’re referencing a new work by the author), but you’ll still have to attribute the thought or idea to the author. Your specific formatting style will provide guidelines on citing the same author multiple times within the exact text.

When paraphrasing information, there’s no need to use quotation marks (unless part of your paraphrasing requires a direct quote–such as a specific fact or statistic–in the author’s own words).

Step 5: Reword, Rearrange, Realize, Recheck

Teaching paraphrasing can be challenging, as many students struggle to read information and restate it in their own words. However, with some practice, students can learn how to take an author’s ideas and reformat them into their own words. Many teachers use a concept known as “the four R’s” to teach paraphrasing: reword, rearrange, realize, and recheck.

  • Reword: In this step of learning how to paraphrase, students read the original information and develop synonyms that can be used to take the place of words in the original work. It may be helpful to provide your students with an online or digital thesaurus to help them in this stage of the paraphrasing process. It can take time for students to figure out how to put another author’s work into their own words, and it’s normal for students to read a passage a few times to figure out where they can reword specific phrases.
  • Rearrange: During this part of the process, students move words around to get the same general idea across to the reader without using the exact wording of the original author. Typically, it makes sense for the rearranged phrase to come after the reword phase, as this allows students to create a flow that makes sense for the reader.
  • Realize: Here, students learn to remember that some parts of an original text can’t be changed, such as a statistic or date. As long as the statistic or date is cited correctly, there’s no need to use quotation marks or treat the information as a quote from the original work. When teaching paraphrasing to students, be sure to let them know that they aren’t doing anything wrong by keeping these hard facts in their explanation of the author’s original idea.
  • Recheck: In this final phase of the paraphrasing process, students their paraphrased work to ensure that it makes sense. For many students, reading their paraphrased work aloud can provide valuable insight into the flow of the text. In addition, students may find it helpful to have another student check their work to make sure it contains the same ideas as the original work while still rephrasing and rearranging the words to ensure that plagiarism isn’t occurring.

Step 6: Have Students Practice With Paraphrasing Activities

Many fun activities can be used in the classroom to help students learn how to paraphrase. Separate the class into small groups. In the groups, give each student an individual paragraph to paraphrase. Have groups trade their work. Present the group with both the newly paraphrased work and copies of the original work, and have the new group work match the paraphrased versions of the work with the original work.

Students can also paraphrase one another’s work. For example, ask students to write short paragraphs about a topic they’re knowledgeable about (sports, a celebrity, a specific topic they’re studying in school–anything goes), then trade their work with another student. The second student paraphrases the original work, and then reads it back to the original student, who can critique whether they felt the spirit of the original work was embodied in the paraphrased version.

For more help, check out our round-up of the best paraphrasing tools available.

  • 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.