Perfecting your paraphrasing

by Dean Colarossi

In academic writing, students rely on other people’s words to make arguments, refute claims, and prove their points. Evidence comes in many different forms—in books, online, and even through audio—and writers need a way to capture this information and give proper credit to the author. In my experience, I sometimes realize that a quote just won’t cut it, so I choose to paraphrase instead. It is worth noting that paraphrasing means taking an author’s idea and translating it into your own words. This means that you must restructure your sentences, vocabulary, and even paragraphs to be different from the original writing.

A common misconception is that paraphrases do not require a citation. They do!  In fact, you must cite a paraphrase the same way you cite a quote or summary. Let’s see an example of how to paraphrase a quote. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Arnold Schwarzenegger—

“While you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that.” (

This quote, paraphrased, looks like this:

          Think about this: Someone is always working to better themselves, even when you are going out, enjoying yourself, and causing mischief. (

Note that the entire structure of the quote has changed because it is not a quote anymore! It is a paraphrase, and we still give credit to Mr. Schwarzenegger for his insightful idea.

Here are a few steps to make the paraphrasing process easier to understand:

  • Read the passage you wish to paraphrase
  • Try to ponder until you fully understand the quote you wish to paraphrase.
  • Look away from the original words and write the ideas down (on paper).
  • Compare your words to the author’s words. Ask yourself: Do my words convey the meaning of the author’s point?
  • Cite your author to credit them for their idea.

Happy paraphrasing!


Dean Colarossi is a business administration and economics major and competes for the Principia track and field team.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *