How to Paraphrase Fairly

When you paraphrase, you restate the information in a source in your own words, including not only the source’s main ideas but most of its details as well. In most cases, your paraphrase< will be about the same length as the original passage. But it must always sound more like you than like your source. If you find that you want to use the same words as your source because the original says it best, then you should quote rather than paraphrase<.

NOTE: When you paraphrase<, you must use your own words. Readers will think your paraphrase< is too much like a quotation if you repeat most of the words in the original or if you change the words in the original one-by-one but nothing else. Also, you must always cite the source of every paraphrase<, both in your text and in your bibliography or works cited. If you fail to do so, even by accident, you open yourself to a charge of plagiarism.

How to Construct a Paraphrase<

Read the passage in your source. Identify its main idea and list the details most relevant to your argument. Then read the passage again. Turn away from the page or screen and state what you remember from the passage as though you were explaining it to a classmate. If you stumble, reread the passage and try again. When you are happy with your oral version, write it out. Then compare it to the original to be sure that you have indeed said it in your own words.

Original:

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words: it is war minus the shooting.


Source: George Orwell, “The Sporting Spirit,” The London Tribune, December, 1945, reprinted: George Orwell. Shooting an Elephant, and Other Essays. (Secker and Warburg, 1950), 194.<
Paraphrase:

In his essay, “The Sporting Spirit,” George Orwell argues that sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play, he says, is for serious athletes only a myth. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat (194).

<

This paraphrase< conveys Orwell’s ideas, including the key details, but it reflects not Orwell’s distinctive words and sentence structure, but the writer’s.

Readers will object, however, if your paraphrase< is only a quotation in disguise, like this one:

Too Close Paraphrase:

In his essay, “The Sporting Spirit,” George Orwell claims that sport has little to do with fair play. He says that sport leads to the same feelings of hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, and sadistic pleasure that comes from witnessing violence. Sport is combat without weapons (194).

<

In this paraphrase<, the writer follows Orwell’s original almost word-for-word, changing a few words and cutting out others. The paraphrase< is not identical to the original, but it is too much like a quotation to count as a fair paraphrase. Use too many paraphrases this close to the original, and readers may think you have plagiarized, even though you cited the source.

How to Introduce a Paraphrase<

You can introduce a paraphrase< with a phrase, clause, or sentence (underlined):

In George Orwell’s view, sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play is, for serious athletes, only a myth. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat (194).

<
In his essay, “The Sporting Spirit,” George Orwell argues that sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play is, for serious athletes, only a myth. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat (194).

<
George Orwell understood the intensity of the professional athlete better than most. Sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play is, for serious athletes, only a myth. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat (194).

<

That introduction usually names the author of the source, but it does not have to:

The essay, “The Sporting Spirit,” shows that sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play is, for serious athletes, only a myth. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat (Orwell 194).

<

You can also identify the author of a source at the middle or end of a paraphrase<, although that makes it hard for readers to know when the paraphrase< began.

Sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play, says George Orwell, is only a myth for serious athletes. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat (194).

<
Sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play is, for serious athletes, only a myth. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat, according to George Orwell (194).

<

When you introduce a paraphrase<, you can help readers know how to judge the quality of its information in three ways:

  1. Mention the credentials or reputation of the author.
    George Orwell, the famed author of 1984 and Animal Farm, has suggested that …

    <
    According to General James Mattis, commander of the United States Central command, …

    <
    In the words of a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, …

    <
  2. Mention the publication information of the source.
    In a pamphlet intended for anti-government Militia groups, Norman E. Olson argues that …

    <
    According to a report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), …

    <
    An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that …

    <
  3. Use a verb that reflects your judgment of the source. You can use no verb or a neutral one that express no value judgment:
    • According to Posner, …
    • Posner says that …
    • Posner writes that …
    <

    Or you can use a verb that indicates whether you think the information is reliable or not:

    Posner proves that …

    vs.

    Posner wants to think that …

    <

    Or you can indicate whether the information is generally accepted as factual or is contested:

    Posner reports that …

    vs.

    Posner argues that …

    <

Your words matter when you introduce a paraphrase<. So think carefully about how you introduce them and you will help readers know how to judge the information you present.

How to Mix Quotation with Paraphrase<

Although you have to treat paraphrase< and quotation very differently, you can incorporate quotations into a paraphrase< if you do not want to lose the most original language in a source.

In his essay, “The Sporting Spirit,” George Orwell argues that sport can be just as violent as war. The idea of fair play, he says, is only a myth where serious athletes are concerned. They feel the same hateful and violent feelings as do soldiers in combat. Sport, according to Orwell, is “war minus the shooting” (194).

<

Whenever you weave elements of a quotation into your own sentences, those sentences almost always include some paraphrase< (underlined):

George Orwell understood the intensity of the professional athlete better than most. We say we value sportsmanship, but for serious athletes “sport has nothing to do with fair play.” They are caught up in the same “hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure” experienced by those engaged in violence. For Orwell, sport is combat without the weapons (194).

<

When you add a few quotations to your paraphrase< you give readers an idea of your source without quoting so much that your paper seems a cut-and-paste job. If you have pages that are mostly summary and paraphrase<, add a few key quotations that will anchor your summary to your source.