Definition of Paraphrase

Updated Aug 17, 2021

The Definition of Paraphrase

By Matthew

A paraphrase is a rewording of a text that retains the same meaning and often the same tone of the original text. Paraphrases are often used to condense or summarize an article, book, essay, or poem. They are also used for academic papers to demonstrate understanding of the original text. Paraphrases can vary from short summaries to long rewordings.

When writing a paraphrase, you must ensure that your rewording is different from the original text. Read through your paraphrase multiple times to make sure that it is entirely different from the original. You must also ensure that your rewording is accurate. Once you have finished your paraphrase, you should read it aloud to make sure that it sounds natural and flows well.

According to Merriam-Webster, there are four definitions of paraphrase, two when paraphrase is used as a noun, and two when it is used as a verb:

Paraphrase as a Noun

1: a restatement of a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form

2: the use or process of paraphrasing in studying or teaching composition

Paraphrase as a Verb

intransitive verb : to make a paraphrase

transitive verb : to make a paraphrase of

How to Write a Paraphrase

The process of writing a paraphrase involves more than just changing words in the original text. You will need to modify phrases and possibly clauses as well. It may take multiple drafts before you have created a rewording of the original text that fits these parameters.

There are several strategies that you can use to write a paraphrase:

1. Synonym Replacement

Choose one word or phrase from the original text and change it to another word or phrase while retaining the same meaning. This strategy is referred to as synonym replacement. For example, if you were rewriting an article about animals, you might choose “dog” as the one word that you will change in order to use this strategy. You could then replace “dog” with “canine” or “puppy” and still retain the same meaning as the original text. In some cases, you may need to rewrite more than one word or phrase in order to achieve this goal. Some synonyms for “dog” include canine, pup, mutt, hound, terrier, and chihuahua.

Look for other words with similar connotations when making synonym replacements. The connotation is how other readers feel when they read a certain word or phrase. For example, “toast” has positive connotations because people associate it with celebrations such as Thanksgiving dinner and New Year’s Eve parties; however, “toast” also has negative connotations because people associate it with fires and burning buildings. Needless to say, the context is critical.

In some cases, it might be better to leave out words or phrases with negative connotations rather than replacing them with more neutral terms like bread or flour breads instead of toast). Use your own language when writing a paraphrase if no synonym seems appropriate for your rewording of an entire sentence or phrase in your source material. You can do so by using language that sounds natural but retains the same meaning as your source material (i.e., not changing meanings). Create a new sentence by combining sentences from your original material.

This strategy works well if you have two sentences from different sections of an article that say basically the same thing but provide additional information on each topic separately (i.e., not repeating information). Combine these two sentences into one sentence while maintaining all of their meanings and only adding new information necessary for supporting both ideas together (i.e., not repeating information).

2. Reword complete sentences

In this case, all of your sentences come from your source material. However; they make sense on their own without any supporting sentences from your original text at all. This strategy works well for rewriting complex paragraphs into separate but related sentences. To rewrite sentences well, it is important to use your own words. If you are getting stuck at any point, take a break and then return to your sentences. The easiest way to get sentence paraphrases quickly will be to use a paraphrasing tool.

3. Rephrasing Paragraphs

Separate thoughts into separate paragraphs . Each paragraph should contain only one idea related directly back to its own thesis statement . If each paragraph has multiple ideas, then revise each paragraph as needed until each idea fits within its own paragraph according to its own thesis statement
Paragraphs should also contain only ideas directly related back to their thesis statements or underlying themes. Paragraphs should make logical sense on their own without support from other parts of an essay. A topic sentence should appear at the beginning of every paragraph; however, this topic sentence should not repeat information contained within other portions of an essay.

For more on the definition of paraphrase and all things paraphrasing, check out our other blog posts.

To learn more, check out this paraphrase how to guide; it's always good to see examples of paraphrase, so you know what to expect.