A student asked me the other day about paraphrasing. Her question was “Should the paraphrase be longer or shorter than the original text?” I would say that it is usual for the paraphrase to be shorter because the paraphrase is also a summary of the text. Students often get into difficulties paraphrasing because they don’t do enough work! Here’s an example original source:
It is reasonable to expect the price of oil to increase steadily over the next few years as reserves continue to shrink but demand remains steady.
Smith, J. (2007) The future of oil, London, Penguin
Option 1: You could use the idea by using a direct quote:
Smith (2007) states that “it is reasonable to expect the price of oil to increase steadily over the next few years as reserves continue to shrink but demand remains steady” (p552).
The problem is that you can’t do many direct quotes! It’s too easy and it doesn’t show what you think about the idea.
Option 2: You could use a poor paraphrase:
Smith (2007) believes that it is sensible to believe the price of oil will rise steadily in the future as reserves continue to get smaller but demand stays the same.
The problem with this is that it is too close to the original and you are in danger of being accused of plagiarism.
Option 3: You use a paraphrase which uses the main idea in fewer words, in a different sentence structure, and makes some comment about the idea:
Smith (2007) offers the popular view that demand for oil and its declining reserves will ensure high prices in the long run.
The paraphrase shows a good understanding of the text and how it fits into the general literature on the subject.
The information from the University of Toronto on paraphrasing here definitely deserves a visit!