Paraphrasing is often defined as putting a passage from another author into your own words. You may want to do this when referring to the viewpoints of other scholars. But how different must your paraphrase be from the original?
The answer is considerably different. The point of paraphrasing is to show you have understood another person's ideas, and can summarise them in your own writing style rather than borrowing their phrases. If you just change a few words, or add some of your own to an otherwise reproduced passage, you will probably be penalised for plagiarism.
You should aim to summarise the key ideas using different sentence structures and expressions. It is also important to credit the original writer, not just through a reference stuck at the end of the passage, but by introducing your summary with a phrase such as 'According to Smith (2000)....'
In order to paraphrase well, you must understand the essence of a writer's argument. Here are some reading strategies that may help you to do that:
An original piece of text, from the University of Birmingham (2014):
The University's 250 acre campus was recently listed in the top ten most beautiful Universities in Britain by The Telegraph. It is a campus that is expanding and improving all the time with our most recent investments being in the planned building of a brand new multi-million pound sports centre, a redeveloped library with a cultural hub and a brand new student hub housed in the iconic Aston Webb building (University of Birmingham, 2014).
The University's large campus was recently listed by The Telegraph in the top ten most beautiful universities in Britain. It is a campus that is growing and developing all the time with its most recent investments being in the planned building of a new sports centre, an improved library with a cultural hub and a brand new student hub housed in the famous Aston Webb building.
The University of Birmingham website (2014) reports that its campus was recently listed in the Telegraphs 'top ten most beautiful Universities in Britain.' It goes on to highlight that the campus is being continually developed. Future plans include a new sports centre, a state-of-the-art library and a student hub.