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Paraphrase and Summary

Paraphrase and summary are different writing strategies that will help you understand what you are reading. Both ask you to put the information you are reading into your own words. Both should be cited using the appropriate format (MLA, APA, etc.) See KU Writing Center guides on Citing/Documenting Your Sources.

Paraphrase

When you paraphrase, using your own words you are explaining your source's argument, following its line of reasoning and its sequence of ideas. The purpose of a paraphrase is to convey the meaning of the original message and, in doing so, to prove that you understand the passage well enough to restate it. The paraphrase should give the reader an accurate understanding of the author's position on the topic. Your job is to uncover and explain all the facts and arguments involved in your subject. The paraphrase:

  • Alters the wording of the passage without changing its meaning.
  • Retains the basic logic of the argument.
  • Retains the basic sequence of ideas.
  • And it can even retain the basic examples used in the passage.
  • Most importantly, it accurately conveys the author's meaning and opinion.

Summary

A summary restates in your own words only the author's main ideas, omitting all the examples and evidence used in supporting and illustrating those points. The function of a summary is to represent the focus and emphasis of a relatively large amount of material in an efficient and concise form.

In your own words:

  • State the thesis,
  • main arguments and
  • conclusion of the original material.

In both the paraphrase and summary, the author's meaning and opinion are retained. However, in the case of the summary, examples and illustrations are omitted. Summaries can be tremendously helpful because they can be used to encapsulate everything from a long narrative passage of an essay, to a chapter in a book, to an entire book.

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Revised: 07/11


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Meet the writer: Charlesia McKinney. Graduate student at KU, pursuing an MA in rhetoric and composition, focusing on cultural rhetoric, feminist rhetoric, and afrocentric pedadogy. KU Writing Center consultant. “If I could give a piece of advice to a large group of people, I would ask this question: ‘Are you doing something in your life today that would have an impact 3,000 years from now?’ In many ways, I think we should live that way: that we should have a focus beyond our lifetime or even the next, but on what matters for many years to come.” Want to hear more from Charlesia? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @tonitaxcherea #writersofku #thisiswhatawriterlookslike
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