Set V, 8

Research Skills & Exercises


Paraphrasing means expressing someone else's ideas in your own words. It is a necessary skill when you write papers based on research. In paraphrasing, you need to mention the author's name so that the reader knows that you are discussing someone else's ideas, not your own.

To paraphrase properly, it is very important to read carefully and to make sure you understand what you read. This way you will present the author's ideas accurately and clearly. As you read, jot down notes on the main points and examples of the source. Read the paragraph below and the notes that follow:

What effects does television have on the candidates themselves? It dictates priorities that are different from those of an earlier day. The physical appearance of the candidate is increasingly important. Does he or she look fit, well-rested, secure? Losing candidates like Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and Richard Nixon all seemed to look "bad" on TV. Nixon overcame this problem in 1972 with ads that featured longer shots of him being "presidential"--flying off to China. Close-ups were avoided.

Both John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter seemed more at home with the medium, perhaps because both were youthful, informal, physically active outdoor types. Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson seemed to have a paternal, fatherly image on the small screen.

--from E.J. Whetmore, The Selling of the President, p.152

Notes --nowadays TV affects presidential candidates --physical appearance important --losers look bad on TV Stevenson, Humphrey, Nixon --Nixon avoided close-ups when he won --winners look good on TV, Carter and Kennedy young, Eisenhower and Johnson father figures.

If you compare the notes with the passage from the source, you will notice that the notes condense and restate Whetmore's point and examples. Notice that I started by jotting down the answer to the question Whetmore raises. That is the topic sentence and point of the paragraphs. I also underlined and jotted down notes on Whetmore's examples because in my paraphrase, I will need to show how Whetmore proves his point. I can then use these notes as the basis for a paraphrase of Whetmore's paragraphs:


According to E.J. Whetmore, a presidential candidate's looks are becoming more and more important because of television. On television, voters can see if a candidate is healthy and if he seems secure. Whetmore says losing candidates such as Stevenson, Humphrey and Nixon did not look good on television. When Nixon did win in 1972, he avoided close-ups on TV. Whetmore also shows that winning candidates did look good. Kennedy and Carter were young-looking, friendly, and athletic, while Eisenhower and Johnson looked fatherly on TV (152).

Notice here that the paraphrase presents both Whetmore's main idea about the importance of a candidate's appearance on television and the examples Whetmore uses to support his point.

How to Paraphrase

To write a good paraphrase, you need to follow three steps:

a. Make sure you understand the material you are reading. Separate main ideas from examples, and try to figure out the relationship between them. Taking careful notes can help.

b. Use tags. A tag is a reference to the name of the author who wrote the source. You use tags so that the reader knows you are presenting someone else's ideas. Note in the example above the mentions of Whetmore's name: According to Whetmore . . . , Whetmore says . . ., Whetmore also shows . . .

Using tags is not difficult. You can write "According to _________," or "As _________ says." Or you can use the author's name and a verb to lead in to your sentence: "Whetmore says . . . Here is a list of handy verbs that can be used easily with tags: argues illustrates asserts offers believes says claims shows contends states demonstrates

Although using tags may seem new to you, you have been using them all of your life in your everyday conversations. If as a child you said to a friend, "My Mom said I can't come out to play," you used a tag. In your conversations with friends now, you use a tag every time you tell one friend something that another friend said. For example, "Pam claimed that she did not know she was supposed to meet me last night." Just for practice, listen to yourself and your friends speak today and try to notice the many times tags are used.

c. Cite the page number in parentheses after your paraphrase. A full bibliography entry for Whetmore's book would then appear in your bibliography at the end of the paper.

d. Put the ideas in your own words.

While all of these steps are important, the third one is probably the most difficult, but the following section gives you steps and exercises to help you to put the idea in your words.

Using Your Words

I. Change the sentence structure. Try not to use the same type and order of clauses and phrases that are used in the material you are paraphrasing.

Exercise 1: Below are some sentences. Rewrite them reversing the order of the sentence structure. Don't worry now about writing a successful paraphrase; just concentrate on changing the sentence structure.

1. Like Napoleon before him, Hitler blundered when he ordered an invasion of Russia in the winter.

2. Because of the severity of the Russian winter, Napoleon's troops became sick and demoralized.

3. Hitler should have learned from the lesson of history.

4. Also the Russian invasion meant the Germans were fighting on two fronts; thus the German army was not at full strength on either front.

5. Historians generally believe that the Russian invasion marked the downfall of the German war machine.

II. Paraphrase "blindly." This means read the material, make notes, and then write your paraphrase without looking at the material. Paraphrasing blindly will help you to change the sentence structure.

Exercise 2: Go back to the sentences in exercise 7.1, read the first one carefully, cover it with a sheet of paper, and rewrite the sentence. Repeat the process for each sentence. Then compare these sentences to the first set you wrote. This set of sentences should contain more of your own words.

III. Do not use more than three words of the source material in a row.

Exercise 3: Compare the sentences you wrote in exercise 2 to the original sentences. Underline any phrases in which you used more than three of the original words in a row. Rewrite those sentences in which you did.

IV. Use synonyms. A synonym is a word that means approximately the same thing as another word. For example, in the following sentence the words appeared and looked are synonyms.

Yesterday morning the patient appeared better, but by evening he looked ill again.

Students who lack experience in paraphrasing often think they can merely replace a couple of words in the source with synonyms and have a good paraphrase. Synonyms are helpful and should be used, but they are only one step in paraphrasing. So make sure you follow the other rules for paraphrasing too. Remember too that you need to keep key words from the original so that you capture the meaning.

Exercise 4: Go over the last set of sentences you have written and see if you can use synonyms for any of the words in your sentences.

V. Use key words from the original. While you need to paraphrase in your words, you cannot, and need not, substitute a different word for every word in the original. For example, earlier in the chapter, my paraphrase of Whetmore used the words television and presidents. Because these are common words in the English language and do not belong to Whetmore, I can use them. To substitute the slang word tube for television would be needless and silly. To substitute chief executives of America would also be needless and would sound unnatural. Whetmore is writing about television and presidents. Those are his key words, and the paraphrase must use them if it is to present the source clearly.

Exercise 5: In the passage below, underline the words which you think would be absolutely necessary to keep in a paraphrase.

The scholars of the intellectual effects of television routinely insist that no more than an "association" can be verified between poor performance in school and hours of TV viewing. There's no scientific proof of cause and effect, they report. Some even scoff at the thought it might exist, pointing out that in the pre-TV era, those hours that kids now spend before the TV were devoted to radio listening and comic books. --"Electronic Gizmos Make Us Stupid" by Daniel Greenberg

VI. Do not use striking or catchy language (clever phrases that most people would not think of). For instance, if ten students wrote a paragraph on Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls' great basketball player, and one student described Jordan as "a whirling dervish in gym shorts," that student would be using striking or catchy language. Striking or catchy language, then, is a group of words that is original and imaginative. Again, think about your everyday conversations. Just joking around, you often hear people use striking or catchy phrases. Often you repeat them in your own conversation. That's okay because conversation is not published writing. But remember when you paraphrase, do not to use the author's striking or catchy phrases. If you want to use them, you will need to put quotation marks around them.

Exercise 6: Rewrite the sentences below so that you eliminate the striking or catchy language.

1. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

2. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

3. Jim awoke to a frog-drowning rain.

4. When want is mistaken for need, we fall the victim of greed.

5. I am having a Big Mac attack.

Exercise 7

Below is a passage from an essay on the astronomy of the Mayans, a tribe of Indians living in Mexico from approximately 400 A.D. until the 1500's when they were conquered by Spanish explorers. Following it are three student paraphrases. Read the original source and then the student paraphrases. One of the student passages is a good paraphrase. Mark it correct. The other two violate some of the rules of paraphrasing. If the paraphrase is not satisfactory, list list the phrases below it, and next to each phrase, put the letter(s) or number(s) of the rule that is violated.

Original Source:

We know that Mayan astronomers of Mexico and Guatemala recorded and predicted eclipses long before European contact. One of three priceless Mayan manuscripts left after the Spanish conquest is a record of observed and predicted solar eclipses as well as other astronomical information, such as the motion of Venus. Tragically, because the Spaniards burned 27 other Mayan manuscripts in 1562, we may never know the extent of Mayan knowledge. --from "Eclipses: Occasions for Awe," (p. 4) by William K. Hartmann

Student Paraphrase 1

We know that Mayan Astronomers, who lived in Mexico and Guatemala, recorded and predicted eclipses before Europeans came to explore South America. One of three Mayan manuscripts left after the Spanish conquest of the Mayans shows that they predicted and observed solar eclipses as well as other astronomical knowledge. Unfortunately, because the Spanish destroyed 27 other Mayan manuscripts, we may never know the knowledge of these early astronomers. Correct?____________ Problem wordings and rules violated ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________

Student Paraphrase 2

Hartmann explains that before the European exploration of South America, Mayan Astronomers living in Mexico and Guatemala, kept records of eclipses and even predicted them. This information comes from a Mayan manuscript that tells not only about eclipses but about other aspects of Mayan astronomy such as the movements of Venus. The Mayas probably knew a lot more about astronomy, but we can not tell because in 1562 the Spanish, who conquered the Mayans, burned 27 other manuscripts that might have told us more about Mayan knowledge (4). Correct?____________ Problem wordings and rules violated? ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________

Student Paraphrase 3

According to Hartmann, the Mayan astronomers of Mexico and Guatemala could record and predict eclipses before Europeans discovered the new world. A priceless manuscript that the Mayans left after the Spaniards conquered them tells of observing solar eclipses as well as other astronomical data. Unfortunately, the Spaniards burned 27 other Mayan manuscripts, so we will never know the extent of the depth of Mayan knowledge (4). Correct? Problem wordings and Rules Violated? ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________

Exercise 8: Here is another student paraphrase of Hartmann's source on Mayan astronomy. It uses tags and is in the students own words, but there is a major problem. Identify and explain why this is not a good paraphrase:

Hartmann shows that the Mayans, who lived in Mexico and Guatemala, were pretty good astronomers even before the Europeans came to the new world. An old manuscript from the time after the Mayans were conquered by the Spanish shows that the Mayans kept records of eclipses and were able to predict them. But we can't know how much the Mayans knew because of the Spanish. Hartmann says that the Spanish were too dumb to know that the Mayans were geniuses, so they burned the rest of the Mayans manuscripts because they could not understand them.

Exercise 9: Paraphrase each source below. Follow these steps: 1) Read and take notes from the source; 2) jot down notes from your annotations; 3) cover the source; write the paraphrase from the notes you jotted down.

1. Despite the technological sophistication and excellence evident in today's stereo records, many aspects of records have remained constant since 1894. Their color, for instance. The earliest discs were made of hard rubber, which was naturally black. Modern vinyl, naturally colorless, is dyed black because people have always expected records to be black. --adapted from "Record Innovations Over the Years Recalled," by Dr. Demento

2. The weight lifter, or those who emphasize isometrics or calisthenics, represent muscular fitness. These types who have the right motives but wrong approach, are stuck with the myth that muscular fitness means physical fitness. This is one of the great misconceptions in the field of exercise. The muscles that show--the skeletal muscles--are just one system in the body and by no means most important. If your exercise program is directed only at the skeletal muscles, you'll never achieve real fitness. --from "How Fit Are You?" by Kenneth Cooper

3. In my opinion, there is only one legitimate handgun sport and that is target shooting. It is practiced at target ranges which are properly supervised and usually quite safe. Only certain handguns are true "sporting weapons" recognized as such by the sport's adherents. On the other hand, "plinking"--shooting at tin cans and other small targets--in one's backyard is not and should not be considered a serious sport. When uncontrolled and unsupervised, it can be a very dangerous practice. --from "Why Do People Own Handguns?" by Pete Sheilds


When you write a paraphrase, you present everything the author says in his or her paragraph. Paraphrasing can come in handy when all the specific examples are important to show the idea of the source or when you want to show how the author is using the specific examples. But when you write a research paper, you may not need to paraphrase all of the material from a whole source. Imagine trying to paraphrase a whole book or even one chapter! Your essay would be as long as the source, you would not have room for your own ideas, and your reader could just as easily read the original source rather than your paper.

Unlike a paraphrase, a summary is a short version of the source. A summary still must be in your words and be marked with a tag. However, a summary presents only the author's main idea. Because a summary is short, it is also general. As a short version of the source, the summary does not present all the specific examples as a paraphrase does.

If you think of your everyday conversations again, you will see that you use summaries all the time. For instance, suppose you have taken a major examination. After class, you meet a friend and she asks about the exam. Because you don't have time to stop and tell her all about it, you say. "It was tough, but I think I did okay." Your answer here is a summary. It gives your friend only a general idea of the exam. Compare this short summarized answer to the longer detailed answer you would give if you were having lunch with a friend who asked to hear all about your exam. Then you would probably tell how long the exam was, what the questions were like, how many questions there were, how long it took you to complete them, and so on. A summary leaves out these specific details.

The purpose of summaries is to give just the general idea or ideas of a source so that you can respond in your writing. A summary of Whetmore's paragraph on TV and presidential elections might read like this:

According to Whetmore, because television influences the way we perceive presidential candidates, those who look good on television usually win; those who look bad often lose (63).

Here you can see that we have the general idea without the examples about candidates such as Nixon, Stevenson, Carter, Kennedy and so on.

When you summarize a short part of a source (2 or 3 paragraphs) you pick out the main idea, and using your own words, you state it in one or two sentences, as I did above in the summary of Whetmore's paragraphs. When you summarize a whole essay or a chapter from a book, you begin by stating its thesis (the overall idea), and then you state the main ideas from sections or paragraphs that support and develop the thesis. A summary of a whole essay or chapter in a book would probably be about one paragraph. Again, all of this is done in your words.

Exercise 10 Summarize the three paragraphs in exercise 7.


I. Quote a small piece of the original in your own sentence.

Many people get cheated on repairs, and one "gold mine for crooked repairmen" is air-conditioner repair (Purdy, p. 9).

The average person pays his check after eating in a restaurant, but columnist Robert Greene says, "it would be remarkably easy to wander away from a meal without paying" (14).

Note make sure the quote is integrated grammatically.

The average person pays his check after eating Greene says "it would be remarkably easy to wander away from a meal without paying" (14).

What is the problem here?

II. Quote a whole and complete sentence from the original, introducing it with a colon.

The punishment a man absorbs in a boxing ring is not always evident while the fight is taking place: "A prizefighter may be able to survive even repeated brain concussions, but the damage to his brain may be permanent" (Smith, p. 11).

III. Introduce a quote by using the word that

Ken Purdy argues that "most customers being deliberately cheated are helpless" (p. 11).

IV. You can also quote a longer piece (more than 50 words of the original.

Ken Purdy shows that dishonest repairmen will prey on women very often:

An Ellenville, N.Y., woman, Mrs. Marian Talken, had trouble with her clothes dryer. The repairman told her it needed a new drive-shaft and bearings. The bill was $72m and when the original trouble recurred, he wouldn't come back (14).

Mrs. Talken's experience is unfortunate and is one of many examples of woman being victimized because repairmen believe women don't know much about machinery.

NOTE: Do not put quotation marks around longer quotes. Indent them about 1 1/2 inches from the margin and single space them. The indenting and single-spacing shows that the passage is a quotation.

V. Ellipsis points (three dots)

Suppose you only want to quote part of a sentence. If you cut something from the beginning or end of the sentence there is no problem. However, suppose you want to cut something in the middle because you don't need the whole quote. Then use ellipsis points.

Original phrase: "sizzling like Cornish hens in a pit at a Memorial Day barbecue."

Quoted with ellipsis points: Kraemer compares sunbathers to "Cornish hens . . . at a Memorial Day barbecue" (p. 3).

VI. Using Square Brackets to change a word in a quote.

Sometimes a quote fitted into your sentence will not make sense unless you change a word to fit the context of your paper.

No sense: Ken Purdy says that "now it seems to me that it hasn't been done at all." Seems to you or to Purdy? And what hasn't been done?

Clear: Ken Purdy says that "now it seems to [him] that [repair work] hasn't been done at all."

Exercise 11: Use this passage about W.E.B. DuBois to illustrate each of the six means of integrating quotations. You will have to come up with your own ideas that you want the quotations to support.

To understand the revolution in DuBois' thinking, one must understand what had happened to the hopes of the American Negro. The Emancipation and the period of the Reconstruction following the Civil War--the period of DuBois' childhood--had brought dreams of equality and, for a time, some actual power to the Negro. But then the reaction had set in, and what DuBois saw around him was the steady--and apparently accelerating--deterioration of the position of the Negro in American life. --Saunders Redding, Introduction to The Souls of Black Folk, p. 8.

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