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Good Academic Practice: A Guide


Sometimes you will want to refer to the ideas of others using the exact  words of the author. In this case you should copy the quotation carefully and use quotation marks. Sometimes you want to write about what an author has said using your own words. Writing a passage you have read in your own words is called paraphrasing.  

Good paraphrasing demonstrates an understanding of another person's ideas. You'll want to think about how you can use different expressions from those used by the authors. If you borrow the words and phrases from the passage then you could be penalised for plagiarism. Even when paraphrasing it is important to credit the original writer. You could use a phrase such as 'According to Smith (2000)....' to introduce their ideas.

Tips for Paraphrasing

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:

  • Gain an overview of the article or chapter by reading the introduction and conclusion.
  • Then read the document through quickly, to get a 'feel' for the structure of it.
  • When you read through again, focus on things that are relevant to your essay. As you read, consider the writer's argument. What are they saying? Do you agree or disagree?
  • Then put the article out of sight, and try to sum up the writer's argument in one sentence or short paragraph. This will force you to use your own words and will test your understanding of what you have read. You can then check the original text to ensure that you have produced a fair summary. 

Examples of paraphrasing

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).

Paraphrase 1:

  • Only a few words changed. This would be considered plagiarism.

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. 

Paraphrase 2:

  • Uses totally different expressions but gets to the heart of what the original passage wanted to convey. This paraphrase also credits the original author at the start.

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. 

University of Birmingham (2014) About Birmingham.  Available at: to an external site. (Accessed: 6 May 2014).

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