Paraphrasing in APA

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Paraphrasing is the art of putting information into your own words while writing a research paper, in order to maintain the academic integrity of your project. This is important because you need to use solid evidence as a researcher, but you need to put information into the proper format to avoid plagiarism. The American Psychological Association (APA) created a writing style in 1929 that calls for uniformity and consistency in giving credit to sources in your research.

How to properly paraphrase

If you do not properly paraphrase your source material following the APA style, you are at the risk of losing credibility as a writer and possibly plagiarizing. Although paraphrasing is not difficult, it does take time and a little forethought to do it correctly. There are several steps you should follow in order to achieve success.

1. Read the original source

The first step in creating an effective paraphrase is to carefully read the original source. Read it the first time to get the overall understanding, and then do a second closer reading in order to gather details and material that will help you formulate your argument.

2. Take notes in your own words

After reading the original source and determining what details can help you formulate your argument, take a minute to jot down some notes. Be careful to put everything into your own words. Change the structure of the sentence as well as the vocabulary.

Also, take a moment to take notes on the context of the source. Why was it written? Who wrote it? When was it written?

3. Construct a paraphrase

In order to construct a paraphrase, you need to include the same information, but with different sentence structure and different vocabulary. APA rules say that a paraphrase should be approximately the same length as the original.

You also need to add contextual text around the paraphrase so it fits within your paper.

4. Double check the original source to avoid duplication

Although an extra step, it is always a good idea to read through the original source one more time to make sure that you have chosen different words and varied the sentence structure. This is a good time to add the APA requirements of author and year of the source so that you have it handy.

5. Include an APA in-text citation

Even though you are putting a paraphrase into your own words, APA requires an in-text citation for paraphrasing. You can create a parenthetical citation or a narrative citation to accomplish this.

Remember: All in-text citations will also need a corresponding APA reference in the APA reference list. For this article, we’re just focusing on in-text citations in paraphrases.

For both types of in-text citation, you will need the following source information:

  • Author’s last name
  • Year published
  • Page number (optional)
    • single page: p. #
    • page range: pp. #-#

Parenthetical citation

For a parenthetical citation, write your paraphrase and then add the author and year in parenthesis at the end. Use a comma between the author and the year inside the parenthesis, and put the period for the end of the sentence outside the parenthesis.

Example 1:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? (Key, 1814).

Example 2:

My parents traveled from Italy to Germany and then France. As the oldest child, I traveled with them after being born in Naples. They were very close, and shared that love they had for each other with me (Shelley, 1818, p. 78).

Narrative citation

In a narrative citation, you introduce the author’s name as part of the sentence, and put the year in parenthesis.

Example:

Francis Scott Key (1814) wrote very special words while overlooking a battle: Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

For further details, visit this guide on APA in-text citations.


Paraphrasing example

Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave an inaugural address in January 1933 during the Great Depression. This is an excerpt taken from an online source:

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper….

1. Read original source text

In order to paraphrase, read through the text once to get the gist of it, and then again for deeper understanding. The context of this passage is also significant. It was given by a U.S. president during the Great Depression. What do you think he was trying to achieve?

2. Take notes in your own words

Next take notes in your own words. Without immediately looking at the text, jot down what you think is the main point or concept of it. Next, take notes on the context of the source (you can look at the source for this).

For this passage, a few example notes could be:

  • Facing truth
  • Harsh current reality
  • Believing that this great nation will endure and eventually prosper again
  • Speech by President Roosevelt in 1933
  • Given during the Great Depression
  • He was addressing his citizens

3. Construct a paraphrase

Now’s the time to construct the paraphrase. Based on the notes above, a paraphrase would look something like this:

With his inaugural speech, Roosevelt was carefully trying to prepare citizens of the Nation to face the harsh reality that the Great Depression had caused, while also reassuring them that the country would endure and eventually prosper again.

4. Double check with the original source

The paraphrase above doesn’t not look too similar to the original, but we could still change a few words that were also in the original phrase (like “Nation,” “endure,” and “prosper). Revised, it looks like this:

With his inaugural speech, Roosevelt was carefully trying to prepare citizens of the United States to face the harsh reality that the Great Depression had caused, while also reassuring them that the country would eventually bounce back.

5. Add an APA in-text citation

An APA in-text citation means including the source’s author, year published, and page numbers (if available). The paraphrase already has the author’s name, but the year published needs to be added in parentheses. This is from an online source so no page number is needed.

With his inaugural speech, Roosevelt (1933) was carefully trying to prepare citizens of the United States to face the harsh reality that the Great Depression had caused, while also reassuring them that the country would eventually bounce back.


Examples of poor paraphrasing

Most people who fail at paraphrasing use the same sentence as the original source, and just change a word or two. If this is the case, the paraphrase would look something like this:

This great country will endure as it has endured, will come back to life and will prosper. So, first of all, let me show my strong belief that the only thing we have to worry about is fear itself…”

Another problem with paraphrasing occurs when you do half the job. Although the first and third sentences change the sentence structure and vocabulary in the sample below, there are some sections that are taken word-for-word from the original.

Original:

“From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at Naples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. I remained for several years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love to bestow them upon me.

Paraphrase:

My parents visited Italy and then Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born at Naples. I traveled with them and was their only child for a few years. They loved each other and they seemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love.

In addition to the word-for-word similarities, this paraphrase doesn’t mention the original source’s author, year published, or page number (Shelley, 1818, p. 78).

Key takeaways

  • In order to avoid plagiarism, APA delineates the way to give credit to sources when you are paraphrasing.
  • In APA style, parenthetical citations demand the author and year of source.
  • In order to create a stellar paraphrase, you need to change the structure and the words, but keep the main idea intact.

Published October 28, 2020.

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