Read on to see our helpful paraphrasing exercises and tips in this article to get you started.
One of the most important skills you can hone as a student or writer is to paraphrase the words of other academics and experts effectively. Since new knowledge is built upon that which is already known, it makes sense that you’d want to reference the ideas of others in your work. However, this is often easier said than done. Paraphrasing, especially if you want to do it well, can be challenging.
Fortunately, as is the case with most other skills in life, you can improve your ability to paraphrase through practice. For instance, you can improve this skill by regularly doing paraphrasing exercises. As I was an academic for a long time in my life, I thought it might be helpful to those who have little or no experience in paraphrasing if I provided a list of paraphrasing exercises. If you’re such a person, I hope that this article will get you started on your journey toward mastering the art of paraphrasing. Your academic or writing career will undoubtedly be better off for it when you do.
- The Art of Paraphrasing
- Paraphrasing Exercises and Activities To Help You Master the Skill
- 1. Broaden Your Vocabulary
- 2. Create a Word Map
- 3. Paraphrase In Small Chunks
- 4. Ways To Paraphrase Shorter and Easier Sentences
- 5. Imagine You’re Explaining the Source Material To Someone
- Helpful Tips
- 1. Avoid Plagiarism
- 2. Summarizing Is Not Paraphrasing
- 3. Changing Word Order Is Not Paraphrasing
The Art of Paraphrasing
Although paraphrasing is an essential skill when writing papers, essays, or articles, it’s one that many find challenging to master. To paraphrase the words of others, you need first to comprehend their meaning, and then you need to express this meaning in your own words. To do this effectively requires a broad and sophisticated range of vocabulary and advanced grammar skills.
As stated in the introduction, you can improve your paraphrasing skills through paraphrasing exercises. Doing this will help you construct meaningful and original paraphrased sentences and increase the speed at which you work. Especially when you’re a student, reading, and paraphrasing the words of other scholars and experts can form a big chunk of your work. Learning how to paraphrase well and at a quick pace will enhance your academic experience and will open up your schedule for other activities, such as sports or parties.
Our paraphrasing vs. summarizing guide might be helpful.
Paraphrasing Exercises and Activities To Help You Master the Skill
Now that you know the importance of paraphrasing, let’s dive right in and look at some exercises and activities that can help you improve. Remember, as is the case when learning any other new skill, you need to engage with these exercises regularly.
1. Broaden Your Vocabulary
Since you cannot paraphrase appropriately without a decent range of vocabulary, it makes sense to aim to add more words to your vocabulary bank constantly. Of course, if you’re an academic, you’ll want to focus on improving your academic vocabulary in your specific field. However, since academic language has a formal tone, you can add general terms to your vocabulary bank to help you express yourself more sophisticatedly. Examples of such words, for instance, are verbs such as “theorize,” “opine,” “constitute,” and “approximate.”
There are various ways in which you can enrich your academic vocabulary. These include:
- Keeping a word journal: A great way to learn new words is to carry a little book along with you, in which you can write down words that you don’t know. You can write down the word and then look up the meaning when you have time. It can also be helpful to construct your sentence with the word once you’ve jotted down its definition.
- Highlight words in texts: Whether you’re working with a physical copy of a text or a digital version, it’s good to highlight or underline words that you don’t know. You can then either write a definition of the words in the margin or, if you’re working with a digital copy, you can add a comment. Another good tip is to write by hand – people learn better when writing something by hand than if they typed the same information.
- Read as much as you can: Although this may be obvious, the best way to improve your vocabulary is to read as many books and articles as you can fit into your schedule. Even if you don’t have the time to look up the meaning of each word that you don’t understand, just seeing the word pop up in different contexts will help you work out the meaning for yourself over time. Apart from reading, you can also listen to podcasts or watch documentaries and news channels.
2. Create a Word Map
If you’re battling to paraphrase an original paragraph or sentence into your own words, it can be helpful to create a word map. You can, for instance, write a few complex words or phrases down on a piece of paper. Next, draw a box around each word or phrase, and leave enough space around each so that you can draw and link other boxes. As a next step, you can draw boxes in which you write the synonym of each word. You can also write down the definition of each word if you’re unsure of its meaning.
Next, you need to clarify the relationship between these words or terms. Draw arrows between them indicating patterns, correlation, or cause and effect. You can also add boxes between the original words or phrases in which you add other words, such as verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, or adjectives. Doing so can help you further explain the terms or link them meaningfully. Once you’ve added all the information you can think of, try to create a paraphrased sentence or paragraph from your word map.
3. Paraphrase In Small Chunks
A valuable way to learn how to paraphrase when you’re a beginner is to break sentences into smaller parts. For example, instead of paraphrasing a long and complex sentence, which can become overwhelming if you’re not used to this process, you can focus on shorter phrases. Let’s take a look at an example. Here, for instance, is a long and complex sentence:
“Many impacts are unavoidable and will hit the world’s most vulnerable populations hardest, it warns — but collective action from governments to both curb greenhouse-gas emissions and prepare communities to live with global warming could yet avert the worst outcomes.“
You may find it challenging to paraphrase this sentence as a whole. However, breaking it into smaller chunks makes the task more doable. You can break this sentence up in the following way:
- Many impacts are unavoidable
- And will hit the world’s most vulnerable populations hardest, it warns
- But collective actions from governments
- To both curb greenhouse-gas emissions
- And prepare communities to live with global warming
- Could yet avert the worst outcomes
Remember, the sentence structure of your paraphrased version can and often will look different from the source. This means that you can form two or multiple sentences if this helps you create a meaningful paraphrased version, even if the original is one sentence.
4. Ways To Paraphrase Shorter and Easier Sentences
If you want to practice your paraphrasing skills, you can do so by paraphrasing a sentence in two or three different ways. You can practice finding different synonyms, grammar, and sentence structures while retaining the meaning across all versions.
If you have time, you can do this exercise with longer sentences. However, it may be good to start by paraphrasing shorter sentences. Doing so will allow you to focus on finding multiple synonyms and different ways to write the same sentence.
Here’s an example:
Paraphrased version 1:
“Experts maintain that the future of bees is in danger due to multiple causes.”
Paraphrased version 2:
“There are many different reasons why bees are going extinct, according to scientists.”
5. Imagine You’re Explaining the Source Material To Someone
A helpful way of practicing paraphrasing while reading through articles or research papers is to recite your paraphrased version of some more complex sentences. Since the first step of paraphrasing is to ensure that you’ve correctly understood the source, repeating what you’ve just read in your own words can help you grasp the meaning of the source material.
You don’t need to use formal academic language and complex terms when doing this paraphrasing exercise. Instead, the aim is to repeat what you’ve read in plain and simple terms. Also, since you don’t need to write anything down for this paraphrasing exercise, it’s something you can regularly do while you’re reading through the source material.
It’s vital that you understand what you’re reading and that all the information is not just going over your head. Doing this exercise, primarily when you find yourself drifting off or having problems grasping a sentence, will ensure that you’ve understood the section you’ve read. At the same time, you get to practice your paraphrasing skills.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while paraphrasing.
1. Avoid Plagiarism
Even though you’re not using direct quotes when paraphrasing but rather stating another author’s ideas in your own words, you still need to reference their work. Failing to do so amounts to plagiarism, a serious offense, whether you’re producing academic work or an article for a web page.
The format you have to use when citing the work of others varies. For instance, in academic writing, you need to provide in-text citations and a list of references at the end of your essay, article, or thesis. The precise way you’ll write your in-text citations and list of references will be determined by the formatting style, whether this is APA, Harvard, Chicago, or MLA.
2. Summarizing Is Not Paraphrasing
Although both tools or techniques involve using your own words to describe somebody else’s text, they are different. You need to retain the original work’s meaning with both techniques while using your own words. When you’re summarizing a work, you’re selecting only the most essential points of the text and rewriting these in your own words. This means that you provide a short overview of what a text is about.
It would be best to remain far more loyal to the source material with paraphrasing. You refer to specific ideas an author has provided to incorporate these into your work. To ensure that you’re not changing the original version too much or skewing the meaning the author intended to bring across, you have to rewrite actual sentences and paragraphs. You can’t just write a summary of large chunks of text.
3. Changing Word Order Is Not Paraphrasing
Although this is a “technique” employed by lazy students, you should be aware that merely swapping around the word order of an original text does not constitute paraphrasing. It’s also not good enough to merely change a sentence from passive voice to active voice or vice versa.
Using either of these as your only paraphrasing method when rewriting somebody else’s words can amount to plagiarism since you’ve not used your own words or demonstrated your understanding of the source material. In such instances, you’d be better off simply rewriting the author’s exact words and placing these in quotation marks.
To learn more, check out our guide on paraphrasing vs. plagiarism.