Paraphrasing: Usually Not the Best Choice

In addition to integrating direct quotation into your writing, you may sometimes want to paraphrase your research material. A paraphrase is your rewording of something somebody else has written. But note that you still cite the material. So paraphrase is like quotation—you are making it clear that this is not your writing. But instead of including material from a source word for word, you reword it while still preserving the original sense.

In most cases—almost all cases—it is preferable to quote directly. After all, the whole purpose of research is to put multiple voices and sources into conversation, so it makes sense to include the actual wording from those sources. But in cases where you have a general idea that has been expressed in a research source or you have a lot of material from a source that you would like to provide in brief in your own writing, paraphrase can be useful.

Keep in mind these three basic rules for paraphrasing:

  1. the source must be cited properly
  2. the wording must be your own
  3. the paraphrase, though a rewording, must express the original idea

Since effective paraphrase requires you to walk a fine line between rewording a source and preserving its meaning and intent, it is almost always more effective to quote directly.