In academic writing, paraphrasing generally refers to rewording contents and expressions, particularly when a writer is using and citing information from a source. Paraphrasing goes hand in hand with summarizing; they are in fact similar. When one summarizes, in the process one naturally paraphrases, and when paraphrasing, one naturally shortens the text when rewording it.
In a text, a paraphrase usually consists of the following elements.
- A paraphrase signal expression, before or after the actual content. This is an expression that signals that the content is paraphrased and cited from a source. This expression can be connector (transitional expression), or a reporting / communication expression (e.g., "X claimed that").
- The paraphrased content itself, often a half-sentence or one-sentence summary of the main idea of the contents, though this could be longer if it is important.
- The source citation: The source is cited in a semi-formal citation system (like footnotes or endnotes) or a formal citation system, e.g., with the author and year in parentheses, e.g., "(Smith, 2008).
- Interpretation. The writer comments on the content, explains it, interprets it, and/or critiques it. Often, the writer explain how it supports or connects with the argumentation or claim of the writer who is citing it.
Sometimes these elements might be missing, for example, for reasons like the following.
- The source citation may not be needed if the writer is paraphrasing commonly known information or beliefs.
- If several sources are cited and briefly paraphrased in succession, then the writer may wait until after the last citation to then interpret the cited contents altogether.
1 Paraphrase signals
The paraphrase signal expression might consist of one of the following.
- Quotation marks for direct quotes
- A simple reporting / communication / quotative verb, e.g., X reports / observes / maintains that
- A more evaluative quotative verb, e.g., X claims / argues / denies that
- A connector (transitional) like those below
- A participle phrase, which could also serve as an interpretive element, e.g., "Smith (2010) found that ..., showing conclusively that X causes Y."
- Other signals, such as a prepositional phrase like "according to X"
1.1 Common signal verbs
Here are a few common signal verbs.
Connectors may be used like so.
- A contrastive connector like although, however, but, on the other hand to compare different ideas or sources being cited, or to contrast the idea being cited with the writer's own opinion, e.g, "Although (Smith, 2010) argues that..., we have found ..."
- A cause/result connector, e.g., "Since Smith (2010) and Jones (2010) found that ..., the scientific community has come to accept this ... "
- Sequence connectors, e.g., for multiple findings of multiple sources, or multiple events; e.g.: "Smith (2008) found that ..., and then Jones (2011) reported that ..."
- Various other connectors