Information on how to paraphrase an essay including a list of tips.
An overview of how to paraphrase an essay
The essay paraphrasing process is often misunderstood. Many students consider rewriting a matter of correcting mistakes and changing the order of a few words or sentences. Paraphrasing and paraphrasing an essay is a crucial part of the writing process, and is creative in nature as much as a mechanical function. Ideas and concepts are refined, added or removed depending on what works best. When you paraphrase an essay, you should begin with the paper as a whole and work your way down. Paraphrasing can be broken down into the following stages:
- Revising for substance – Taking a look at the “big picture” is how it is often put. This is the idea or concept of the essay.
- Revising for structure – How the essay is presented such as the sequence of ideas and supporting arguments.
- Revising for style – Basically ensuring the essay reads well and is easily understood.
- Proofreading – Correcting mechanical errors such as mistakes in spelling and grammar.
- Revision is done in this order as each stage can affect all of the following stages. Revising for structure and style can be done without affecting the substance, but if you change the very idea/thesis of an essay then structure and style changes will have to be made.
Paraphrasing essays for substance
Substance is essentially what your essay is about. A stance has been taken in the form of a thesis statement and an argument presented to support the thesis. Essay revisions involving substance are the ones most likely to involve big changes and major rewriting. When paraphrasing for substance you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the thesis clearly stated so that the reader will know exactly your position?
- Does the paper address the intended audience?
- Is there specific evidence provided to support your thesis, and is there enough evidence?
- Is the evidence analyzed and explained?
- Are there gaps in your argument or unanswered questions?
- Have you achieved the purpose you intended?
No matter how well written an essay is stylistically, if it fails to support the thesis then it has not achieved its purpose and has failed at the most basic level.
Paraphrasing essays for structure
Essay structure deals with how the information in the essay is presented. A commonly used method is to make one point supporting the thesis statement in each of the main body paragraphs. The first sentence serves as a topic sentence in support of the thesis statement, and the rest of the paragraph supports the topic sentence. Elements to look at when revising an essay for structure include:
- A clear and logical pattern in the presentation of points or ideas. There should be a logical progression in your argument.
- Check the introduction and make sure that it clearly states what the paper is about.
- Make sure each paragraph has a strong and clear topic sentence, and that the rest of the paragraph supports the topic sentence.
- Each topic sentence should relate to and support the thesis statement.
- Check the transitions between paragraphs. They should be smooth and logical.
- Examine the conclusion. It should be well reasoned, tie everything together and not be to abrupt or leave the reader hanging.
Paraphrasing essays for style
Substance and structure have to do with presenting your ideas and making your points in the best and most logical way. Once you have done that it is time to revise for style to make the essay more readable and easy to understand. Rewriting awkward sentences and making sure ideas are presented clearly and concisely is the general idea. Some of the things to consider are:
- Is the language you used clear and concise? Avoid long rambling sentences and get rid of excess words that don’t serve a purpose.
- Make sure you haven’t used the passive voice too much.
- Check that you have used gender neutral language.
- Look for repetitive language and consider other words and phrases.
Your target is to produce a paper that is easily read and understood without any awkward sentences or confusion as to what you intended to say.
Proofreading is the final stage of the revision process. It is the step where mechanical type errors are corrected. When proofreading things to check for include:
- Spelling mistakes. Don’t depend on a spellchecker to catch everything.
- Grammatical errors. As with spelling, don’t depend on software to find everything.
- Punctuation mistakes
- Correct documentation and bibliography
The importance of proofreading should not be overlooked. Take the time to do a thorough proofreading. Mechanical errors such as mistakes in spelling and punctuation are the easiest to correct. It would be a shame to have put hard work into every other part of the process, only to see that effort wasted because an essay wasn’t thoroughly proofread.
Helpful tips for essay revisions
For many students it is more difficult to paraphrase an essay than it is to write the first draft. The following tips on how to revise an essay may make the process easier:
- Give yourself plenty of time. Underestimating the time needed is one of the most common problems students run into
- Take a break in between writing the first draft and starting the revision. If possible its good to wait a day, but even an hour or so is better than nothing.
- Be objective. Don’t get too attached to anything you have written
- Read your essay out loud. It often highlights errors that might not have been as obvious otherwise.
- Write down the thesis statement and the first sentence in each paragraph to form a paragraph. If the resulting paragraph makes sense then your essay likely has a pretty sound structure. If it is confusing or illogical there will need to be some changes made.
There is no exactly one right way to do essay paraphrase. Every paper will be different, with its own problem areas. Use the information provided here as a general guideline and with practice you will develop a style and system that works best for you.