La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library


La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library


La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library




Paraphrasing means writing something in your own words. This shows that you have understood what you are writing about: lecturers are looking for evidence of your own understanding.

This may seem difficult, especially if the information is complex and hard to understand, but there are good reasons for paraphrasing.  The person who marks your writing will want to see evidence that you have understood the concepts sufficiently to be able to put them in your own words.

Paraphrasing also helps to give your writing a consistent style as you blend your own sentences with paraphrased information from other sources into your own personal style. This means putting the words and ideas of another author(s) into your own words.  Here is some guidance about paraphrasing:

  • A paraphrase is about the same length as the original text. 
  • Discipline specific terminology does not have to be changed. 
  • Change the way the information is presented.
  • Always reference a paraphrase

This is the preferred method of including evidence in most disciplines.

Compare the following two paraphrases with the original text from Health Sciences:

Despite continuing efforts to improve infection control measures, health care workers (HCWs) may unintentionally carry bacteria on their attire, including nurses’ uniforms and physicians’ white coats (Wiener-Well et al., 2011).

Summary 1:  Despite constant efforts to improve infection control measures, hospital staff may unintentionally carry bacteria on their clothing, including nurses’ outfits and doctors’ coats (Wiener-Well et al., 2011).

  • In this example, there is no change in the way the information is presented – a few words only are changed. This is NOT a good paraphrase.

Summary 2:  Health care workers (HCWs) may inadvertently carry bacteria on their uniforms.  This is despite their attempts to implement procedures for infection control (Wiener-Well et al., 2011).

  • In this example the information is presented differently – in fact reversed. Synonyms (or near synonyms) are used (e.g., attire- clothing; unintentionally – inadvertently, improve - implement), but key terminology is kept (e.g., infection control, bacteria, Health care workers). This IS a good paraphrase.


Compare the following paraphrases with the original text.  Check each example of inaccurate paraphrasing and the reasons why the examples might be considered to be plagiarism.

"As higher and higher speeds are used in wireless applications, error correction continues to pose a major design challenge. Recently, a new class of codes, called turbo codes, has emerged as a popular choice for third-generation wireless systems. Turbo codes exhibit performance, in terms of bit error probability, that is very close to the Shannon limit and can be efficiently implemented or high-speed use. A number of different turbo encoders and decoders have been introduced, most of which are based on convolutional encoding."   Stallings, W. (2005) Wireless Communications & Networks 2nd ed. New Jersey. Prentice Hall 2005 p220.

Paraphrase 1A new class of codes, called turbo codes, has become a popular choice for 3G wireless systems.  The performance of turbo codes is very near to the Shannon limit and can be implemented efficiently for high-speed use

  • Paraphrase 1 has no reference to the original author
  • Although some words have been changed, the text is still in the author's voice not the student's voice.

Paraphrase 2A new class of codes, called turbo codes, has become a popular choice for 3G wireless systems.  The performance of turbo codes is very near to the Shannon limit and can be implemented efficiently for high-speed use (Stallings, 2005, p.220) 

  • Although the student has referenced the author here, the text is too close to the original.  If there is no suitable way to paraphrase this information, a full quotation should have been used.
  • It is not clear that the first sentence of the student's work is also based upon the author's text.

Paraphrase 3:  Stallings (2005 , p220) states that turbo codes have become a popular solution to the problem of error correction for high speed wireless applications. This is due to their ability to operate close to the Shannon limit for transfer rate over a noisy channel. (Pop up here) 

  • Although paraphrase 3 is written in the student's own voice and they have made an effort to reference this correctly, it is not clear that the second sentence is also partly based up on the original text.

Paraphrase 4:  Stallings (2005 , p220) states that turbo codes have become a popular solution to the problem of error correction for high speed wireless applications due to their ability to operate close to the Shannon limit for transfer rate over a noisy channel.

  • Paraphrase 4 shows one way in which the original text can be correctly paraphrased. By writing this in their own words and by making a choice as to what information to include, what information to leave out and what extra information to add, the student has demonstrated that they understand the text.
  • This is clearly written in the student's voice rather than the author's.
  • The student has credited the author as the source of the information.
  • It is clear that all of the information has come from the author's original text.

 (Adapted from

8 steps to perfect paraphrasing: 

  1. Read the original text until the full meaning is understood.
  2. Focus on the sentence/s to be paraphrased.
  3. Circle any specialised words that will be included (e.g. important technical terms).
  4. Underline the key words or phrases that can be changed.
  5. Find synonyms for key words or phrases (Synonyms/Thesaurus in Word).
  6. Put the original text away, and using the synonyms and specialised words list, write the paraphrase.  This way you will use your own sentence structure.
  7. Compare your version with the original. Make sure that all words (except technical terms) and sentence structure have changed without losing the original meaning.
  8. Add the referencing details.


A summary is a short and concise representation of the main points, ideas, concepts, facts or statements of an original text, written or spoken in your own words.

Summarising is similar to paraphrasing except that larger text can be compressed into a sentence or two.  To achieve this:

  • Only the main points are covered.
  • Examples are included.
  • It is written in your own words, but is is still referenced.

Original text:

One of the fundamental methods of containing a pandemic (and thereby slowing its spread) is the imposition of restrictions on movement and gatherings (WHO, 2005; Office of Health Protection, 2006). At the local level, many pandemic plans call for school closure along with more general recommendations to avoid crowds (WHO, 2006).  At the national and international level, restrictions will be placed on people’s capacities to move from one region to another.  However, people are motivated to contravene movement restrictions by a strong desire to be with their families and community, to protect their economic wellbeing, or even due to their mistrust in the advice of the government.  The motivation to flee en masse can be driven by anxiety and fear of contracting the disease. 

[Adapted from Hagan, P., Maguire, B., & Bopping, D. (2008). Public behaviour during a pandemic.  The Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 23(3), p. 35.]


One of the ways in which a pandemic can be controlled is by curtailing the movement of uninfected people locally, nationally and internationally.  However, due to a number of factors, sometimes people do not abide by these restrictions (Hagan, Maguire & Bopping, 2008).

  • This is a very short summary.  The first sentence summarises the first paragraph, and the second sentence summarises the second paragraph.  Note that the reference at the end is to the authors of the original article. (Popup)


Time management:

Time management is a critical skill for all students to develop.  Weekly and semester timetables are an excellent way to plan a study program.  Students can use them to manage their most important study, work and social commitments and to set themselves study goals.  Blocks of time can then be set aside for study, reading, researching and writing.  The most urgent tasks can be addressed, whilst work continues on preparing for lectures, tutorials and assessments.  If time has been allocated for specific purposes, it is easier to avoid unexpected demands like phone calls, visitors and invitations.  Assignments can be completed and submitted on time and to a satisfactory standard.


Effective time management using weekly and semester timetables allows students to manager their commitments.  The specific allocation of time helps to avoid interruptions so that assessments can be completed on time.

  • Again the summary has only two sentences.  Keywords and phrases have been retained (time management, weekly and semester timetables), alternative words are used (unexpected demands or interruptions), and details (work and social commitments, calls, visitors invitations) have been omitted.  (Pop up)

8 steps to a successful summary:

  1. Read the original text several times to ensure complete understanding of the main and supporting points.  Note the main ideas, keywords and phrases.
  2. Write notes in point form using keywords and phrases.  Technical or special words must remain.  Make sure you do not lose the meaning of the original.
  3. Set up a two column system: keywords or phrases arranged logically in the left column.
  4. Turn the main ideas represented in the left column into sentences by writing directly from your notes and not re-reading the original text.  Substitute synonyms when required.
  5. Combine the sentences into a short paragraph by writing a topic sentence and using linking words and phrases between sentences.
  6. Refer back to the original to ensure your summary reflects the ideas of the original text.
  7. Proof read for punctuation, spelling and logical flow: Have the author's original ideas, the meaning and intentions remained?  Have the ideas been expressed with the same degree of certainty as the original?  Are the details correct? Is it written in your own style?
  8. Write the final version, adding the referencing details.


One popular way to integrate sources into your writing is to use direct quotes. To use quotes correctly, you must ensure that each of your quotations has a specific purpose, such as:

  • Highlighting a point of view
  • Presenting an opposite perspective
  • Providing a supporting argument
  • Discussing implications

Use direct quotes very sparingly as they do not demonstrate that you have really understood the material:

  • Direct quotes should be integrated grammatically into your sentence
  • Always surround the quote with quotation marks
  • Make sure the words are added exactly as they were written in the original
  • Always include a page number in the reference for a quote
  • Only use direct quotations for:

A particularly effective, powerful or controversial statement; a definition or part of a definition (especially a technical one); or a specific term or expression created by an author.

  • Sample direct quote:

This corresponds with the findings of Lange and Fenwick (2008, p. 52), where small business owner-operators embrace a worldview where they perceive they have responsibilities to the community” (2012, p. 13).  This quote includes a reference to yet other work which should be copied exactly as in the original AND included in your own reference list.

  • Partial direct quote used in a sentence:

Lange and Fenwick also found a strong belief among small business managers that they “have responsibilities to the community” (2012, p. 13).

  • Using a conversational statement in a quote:

Nurses need to be able to communicate well.  It has even been suggested that “all nurses need a master’s degree in English grammar” (Zilm, 2009, p. 34).

  • Using a quote for a definition:

Values are fundamental to social work practice and are defined as “the customs, standard of conduct and principles considered desirable by a culture, a group of people, or an individual” (Barker, 1995, cited in Netting, Kettner, & McMurtry, 1998, p. 329).  Note how the original author (Barker) and secondary source (Netting et al) are referenced.

  • Using a quote because the author liked the expression:

Nursing researchers had argued that intuition uses processes which were “hard-wired through evolution” (Effken, 2001, p. 58).

  • If quoting three lines or more, don’t use quotation marks but block-indent the whole quotation in from the margin:

Miller (1992, p. 86) emphasises the ongoing importance of the Revolution:

The Revolution of 1688-89 was …. of great importance for the history of liberty, in England and elsewhere. Later generations saw it as the cornerstone of their liberties – an MP referred to the Bill of Rights as “our original contract” as early as 1690 (Grey 1769, pp. 75-76) -- and used it to validate their claims for greater liberty.