Dissertation Writing Tips: How to Paraphrase
September 6, 2018
Avoiding plagiarism is a central focus when you’re writing your dissertation, and part of that involves paraphrasing the research you read. You don’t want to rely too heavily on direct quotes, because then you’d simply be copying things other people have written without adding your own interpretation or thoughts, and it gets clunky (visually and intellectually) to cite every single sentence. Paraphrasing also shows the readers that you understand the material you’ve read and can think critically about it, as well as discuss it.
Don’t forget, though, you still have to provide an in-text citation for things you paraphrase, which is important to remember in order to avoid plagiarizing.
Make sure you understand what you are paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing isn’t merely changing a few words or the order of ideas. It’s reading material, sometimes from a variety of sources, critically thinking about it, and expressing those ideas in your own way, while also citing the material as needed. If you don’t fully understand the material you’re going to paraphrase, you might write new material that resembles the original too closely – or you could incorrectly paraphrase information. Think of it this way: the point of paraphrasing is to distill the information so that you could easily tell it to a friend. (But remember, it’s still academic writing!).
Do the Work.
Paraphrasing isn’t easy, and it’s a multi-step process, NOT a shortcut. It involves reading the original material several times, taking notes on it, and making sure you fully understand the material. Once you have the notes and have thought about the material, then paraphrase those notes. If you’re finding it hard to do this, it might be that you don’t understand the material as well as you think you do.
In addition to using your own ideas, style, and synthesis of the research, don’t forget that you should mix up sentence structure, use longer or shorter sentences, and make passive voice into active voice. True paraphrasing involves making changes to the syntax of the original material. If you’ve thought about the material critically and understand it well, this will be easier.
If you’re concerned about whether you’ve paraphrased correctly, contact us today! Our line editing service provides comprehensive editing and feedback, and our coaching and consultation services can provide you with expert coaching and guidance to help take your work to the next level.