To paraphrase means to express someone
else's ideas in your own language. To summarize means to distill only
the most essential
points of someone
else's work. Paraphrase and summary are indispensable tools in essay
writing because they allow you to include other people's ideas without
your essay with quotations. They help you take greater control of your
essay. Consider relying on either tool when an idea from one of your
sources is important to your essay but the wording is not. You should
be guided in your choice of which tool to use by considerations of space.
But above all, think about how much of the detail from your source is
relevant to your argument. If all your reader needs to know is the bare
bones, then summarize. Ultimately, be sure not to rely too heavily on
either paraphrase or summary. Your ideas are what matter most. Allow
yourself the space to develop those ideas.
How do I paraphrase?
Whenever you paraphrase, remember these two points:
1. You must provide a reference.
2. The paraphrase must be entirely in your own words. You must
do more than merely substitute phrases here and there. You must
alter the sentence structure.
It can be difficult to find new words for an idea that is already
well expressed. The following strategy will make the job of paraphrasing
1. When you are at the note-taking stage, and you come across a passage
that may be useful for your essay, do not copy the passage verbatim
unless you think you will want to quote it.
2. If you think you will want to paraphrase the passage, make a note
only of the author's basic point. You don't even need to use full
3. In your note, you should already be translating the language of
the original into your own words. What matters is that you capture
4. Make sure to include the page number of the original passage so
that you can make a proper reference later on.
When it comes time to write the paper, rely on your notes rather
than on the author's work. You will find it much easier to avoid
from the original passage because you will not have recently seen
it. Follow this simple sequence:
1. Convert the ideas from your notes into full sentences.
2. Provide a reference.
3. Go back to the original to ensure that (a) your paraphrase is
accurate and (b) you have truly said things in your own words.
How do I summarize?
Summary moves much farther than paraphrase away from point-by-point
translation. When you summarize a passage, you need first to
absorb the meaning of
the passage and then to capture in your own words the most
important elements from the original passage. A summary is necessarily
than a paraphrase.