Paraphrase and Summary

Paraphrase and summary are different writing strategies that ask you to put the argument of the author in your own words. This can help you better understand what the writer is saying, so that you can communicate that message to your own reader without relying only on quotes. Paraphrases are used for short passages and specific claims in an argument, while summaries are used for entire pieces and focus on capturing the big picture of an argument. Both should be cited using the appropriate format (MLA, APA, etc.).  See KU Writing Center guides on APA Formatting, Chicago Formatting, and MLA Formatting for more information. 


When you paraphrase, using your own words, you are explaining one of the claims of 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. A paraphrase tends to be about the same length or a little shorter than the thing being paraphrased. 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.
  • Can even retain the basic examples used in the passage.
  • Most importantly, it accurately conveys the author's meaning and opinion.


A summary covers the main points of the writer’s argument in your own words. Summaries are generally much shorter than the original source, since they do not contain any specific examples or pieces of evidence. The goal of a summary is to give the reader a clear idea of what the source is arguing, without going into any specifics about what they are using to argue their point.

In your own words:

  • State the thesis
  • Main claims of their argument
  • 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.