How to Paraphrase in a Research Paper

Paraphrasing material is oftentimes necessary for a research paper. You often have to summarize the information for space; other times, professors request that all cited material is paraphrased. Creating paraphrased material can stem from multiple techniques. One of the more common is memory recall. Some writers prefer to rewrite the material piece by piece, constantly referring to the original source. Always properly cite the material.

Determine what exactly from the original source is necessary for your paper. Read through the material. Duke University's Writing Center warns writers that "as with quotations, paraphrases should be used sparingly -- a paper should be a balance between thoughts of other scholars and your original ideas." Try to only use information absolutely necessary to your research.

On a separate sheet, without looking at the material, write down what you think is the major idea of the original source. Write out the paraphrase as you would have it appear in the paper. Bring back out the original and compare the two.

Put any key words or "any unique term or phraseology" that appears from the original inside quotation marks, according to Purdue's Online Writing Center. Even if it is just one or two words, anything unique to the original material needs a quotation mark. Integrate the paraphrased material into the original research essay.

Place an in-text citation at the end of the sentence. For MLA users, the author's last name and the page number must either appear within parentheses at the end of the sentence: (Smith 45). If the author's last name appears in the sentence, then it is not required to appear again in the parentheses. For APA users, the author's last name and the year of publication need to appear in the sentence, either in the body or in parentheses at the end.

Create a complete citation that will appear in the works cited section for MLA or works referenced section for APA.


A very fine line exists between paraphrasing and plagiarizing; be sure to quote rather than get in trouble for plagiarizing. If unsure, ask your professor before turning in the research paper.


Practice paraphrasing if it is a skill that does not come naturally.