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Techniques for paraphrasing

Here are some techniques to use when paraphrasing.

Remember that these techniques should only be used once you have ensured you fully understood the text; do not try to paraphrase a text you have not understood.

1. Using synonyms (words that mean the same)

Source text: The need for investors to ear a commercial return may (highlighted in yellow) put upward pressure on (highlighted in green) prices. Paraphrase: The need for profit is likely to (highlighted in yellow) push up (highlighted in green) prices

Here; “may” is replaced with “is likely to” and “put upward pressure on“ is replaced with “push up”.

Be careful when using synonyms. Many words have several meanings, depending on context, and you have to think about the synonym which expresses the right meaning for the particular context.

2. Changing the form of words

Source text: Privatisation has failed (highlighted in yellow) on several counts. Paraphrase: Bayliss & McKinley (2007) point out that the failure (highlighted in yellow) of privatisation is due to many factors. Source text: The region (Sub-Saharan Africa) is widely perceived as risky (highlighted in yellow) by investors. Paraphrase: Investment in the region is considered a significant risk (highlighted in yellow) (Bayliss, 2003)

In the first paraphrase a verb has been replaced with a noun from the same word family. In the second an adjective has been replaced by a noun.

3. Changing the grammatical structure

Source text: While many governments have taken steps to implement privatisation programmes, progress has been slower than was anticipated (highlighted in yellow) in the early 1980’s. Paraphrase: According to Bayliss (2003), although the implementation of privatisation programmes has been a priority for many governments, progress (highlighted in yellow) in the area has not been as rapid as expected (highlighted in yellow) in the early 1980’s.

Here one grammatical structure for making a comparison (“slower than”) has been replaced with another (“not as rapid as”).

4. Using several techniques

Source text: …the privatisation of such strategic industries has raised a number of concerns. Firstly, these enterprises are usually monopolistic and, in the absence of competition, require effective regulation if private ownership is to be beneficial for the wider economy. Paraphrase: Due to the vital role they play in a country’s infrastructure, it is essential for the operation of privatised water utilities to be regulated effectively. This is because they usually have a monopoly, and without competition there is no incentive to keep tariffs low or provide a high standard of service. (Bayliss 2003).

In this final example, you will notice that:

  • the order in which information is presented is different in the paraphrase

  • different word forms in the same word family have been used (effective regulation > regulated effectively)

  • synonyms have been used (in the absence of competition > without competition).

Note that successful paraphrasing requires the use of multiple techniques each time. It is not sufficient to simply replace the keywords with synonyms and in fact this is a common mistake among students learning to paraphrase. Changing the structure of the sentence is also important to fit the sentence into your paragraph effectively.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading