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Why Is Paraphrasing in Academic Writing Important?

As the writing center at the University of Wisconsin says: “Use direct quotations only if you have a good reason. Most of your paper should be in your own words.” You need to show that you fully understand what the sources you have used are saying as well as targeting your writing for your audience. So quotations should be used sparingly, instead you should paraphrase for dissertation references or use some paraphrasing generator so that as much as possible is going to be in your own unique wording.

Paraphrasing is taking that quote and then rephrasing it so that the original meaning is fully preserved but you have used your own wording. This is not however as simple to do as most researchers think it will be. Often you will struggle to find that different wording to use or you will somehow change the meaning in some manner; not something that you will want to do in your dissertation if you want to gain credibility.

Where Would You Use Paraphrasing in Your Dissertation?

Your dissertation must be completed to a very defined structure and carefully formatted if you want your work to be accepted and to gain that degree. This structure may change a little depending on the specific subject that you are following and even the institution that you are studying at.

Typically your thesis structure will follow the layout below:

  • Title and abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices

The main part that you will use paraphrasing within is your literature review. The reason for this is that you will be referring to what other researchers have discovered to set the scene for your own research as well as to show the importance of what you want to show. You will therefore need to cite their research and findings within your own work. This should always be paraphrased into your own words rather than using a direct quotation unless there is a very specific reason for using a quote.

dissertation paraphrasing sample before    dissertation paraphrasing sample after
Even if you have paraphrased the information into your own words you must still give credit to the original author through a citation. This is typically done using either the author date (Smith, 2001) or numerical system where citations are numbered (1) in the order that they are used within your text. The details of each reference are then listed in detail using the correct academic format in the bibliography at the end of your paper.

paraphrasing in academic writing tips

Dissertation Paraphrasing Advice

It is not advisable to use software to do all of your paraphrasing. This is a highly unreliable way to undertake rewriting for an academic paper as it will usually result in poorly written text that does not reflect the original meaning or even complete nonsense. Your paraphrasing should always be done by hand so that you can be sure of its quality as well as ensuring that you fully understand the original. Paraphrasing is not simply about swapping words for synonyms, it is more about fully understanding the meaning of something that has been said or written.

If you have no idea how to paraphrase in an essay, click here!

So if you want to be sure that your paraphrasing is completed accurately just follow these steps:

  • Read until you understand. Paraphrasing is more like translation than anything else. You are seeking to repeat all of the points raised within the original text in your own words and to do that you must be able to fully understand it. So read what has been written several times so that you are sure that you have a full grasp of exactly what has been covered.
  • Identify the points raised. Read through the original and make notes using your own words of all of the points raised. Remember that paraphrasing seeks to repeat all of the points unlike summarizing which will only look at the main points.
  • Organize the points into a logical flow. Often there are many different orders in which you could repeat what has been said. So organize your notes into a logical flow for you to write them in that may be totally different to the original text.
  • Rewrite using your notes. If possible have a break of as long as possible between reading the original and making your paraphrase so that the original text is not fresh in your mind. Using only the notes that you have made rewrite the ideas into a new form aimed at your intended audience.
  • Review your text against the original. Once your rewriting has been completed you should compare the original against it. If you have inadvertently repeated chunks of the original text then minor changes can be made using synonyms or other changes to alter the wording. If key terms or ideas need to be kept within the original words then you should put them within inverted commas within your text.
  • Make your citations and proofread your writing. Thesis editing and proofreading are very important at all stages of your writing. Any issues with your writing can cause your paper to be rejected for alterations. So ensure that your citations are done correctly for the format that you are using and that you have eliminated any writing errors.

The above methods of paraphrasing will help you to ensure that your text is rewritten with your audience in mind and will help you to ensure that you demonstrate your full understanding of your own writing. Remember that you are aiming for originality in your own writing so you should always paraphrase or summarize the source that you have used. As the Harvard guide to using sources says:  “The basic rule of thumb in all disciplines is that you should only quote directly from a text when it’s important for your reader to see the actual language used by the author of the source.”

Gomer studying

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