Paraphrasing: express it in your own words

What is paraphrasing (and what it's not)

Paraphrasing is the process of expressing (or re-expressing) an authors' words in words of your own; specifically to deepen the understanding of what is being said.

Paraphrasing is used ordinarily, as when we attempt to learn something, it is often helpful to be able to express it in our own words.

Paraphrasing is not repeating what the author wrote, or using direct quotations to reference the author's ideas.

Helpful tip: a paraphrased sentence requires an in-text citation. Without it, you could be plagiarizing.

How do we paraphrase?

Decide what information is most important Change the tense and structure of a sentence
Use different language

Write in your own words and for your intended audience

Reword the sentences It's useful to read the text until it's understood
Change the start of the sentence you are paraphrasing Try to paraphrase using your memory or from what you can recall

Don't forget these three steps when paraphrasing:

Read: do you understand the info?

Restate: can you take the info and put it into your own words?

Repair: did you convey your ideas and the author's ideas correctly?

The differences between: quoting, plagiarizing and summarizing

As some helpful advice, there are important differences between quoting, plagiarizing and summarizing. They are very different from each other but can often be confused with each other.

Use these definitions to help you remember the differences:

Quoting is copying a piece of work word for word that gives credit to the original author. Quotation marks are also used.

Plagiarizing is copying a piece of work word for word and does not give credit to the original author.

Summarizing is putting the main ideas and points from a piece of work into your own words. It requires looking at the information more broadly in order to create a summary.

Examples of correct vs. incorrect paraphrasing

"A paraphrase is a restatement or rewording of a paragraph or text, in order to borrow, clarify, or expand on information without plagiarizing. Paraphrasing is an important tool to use when writing research papers, essays, and pieces of journalism" (

Incorrect: To paraphrase means to restate or reword a paragraph or reword a paragraph or text, especially in order to borrow, clarify or expand on information without actually plagiarizing. Paraphrasing is a vital tool to use when writing research papers, essays and pieces of journalism.
Why? This is incorrect because only one way of paraphrasing was used which was switching the words around and nothing else. This is also incorrect because there is no in-text citation. Therefore, this is considered plagiarism.
Correct: According to, paraphrasing means to restate a text in your own words and to clarify information without plagiarizing or stealing from the author (
This sentence is correct because different language was used to convey the author's message. There is also an in-text citation at the end of the sentence and there is also the use of a signal phrase in the beginning of the sentence.

Why do we need paraphrasing?

In academic writing, it's important to express ideas in your own words, even when you're discussing work written by someone else. Paraphrasing benefits you, your reader, and your sources.

For you: Paraphrasing allows you to express information in your own way, builds research skills that you'll continue to use throughout your academic career, and avoids plagiarism.

For your reader: Paraphrasing proves your authority -- it shows that you know what you're talking about when it comes to your sources by using your own words rather than just quoting language from a source.

For your sources: Paraphrasing takes the work done by the writers of your sources and properly conveys it to others in a way that shows you understand and value it.

Avoiding plagiarism: If your professor suspects you of plagiarism, they can refer you to the VCU Honor Council for Academic Misconduct. There are a number of possible penalties for plagiarism, including:

  • A minimum of one year on Honor Probation
  • Receiving a 0 on the assignment
  • Receiving a grade of F in the course
  • Being suspended or expelled from VCU
  • Receiving a notation on your transcript