Paraphrasing – keep it simple!

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Whatever your subject you are going to have to read books and articles at university and refer to them in your work.  I’m going to spend the next few posts saying some things about how to paraphrase well and my first piece of advice is to learn a few standard phrases to introduce your paraphrasing, get them right, and keep using them! You don’t win any medals in academic writing for being creative! If you read through academic texts you see the same phrases again and again. For paraphrasing these might be:

As Smith (2007) points out, November is the worst month of the year in the UK.

According to Smith (2007), November is the worst month of the year in the UK.

Smith (2007) claims that November is the worst month of the year in the UK.

As far as Smith (2007) is concerned, November is the worst month of the year in the UK.

In fact, depending on your level of English those four patterns might be enough! Students often get into problems because they have seen so many of these phrases that they start mixing them up and come up with things like:

According to Smith (2007) states that November is the worst month of the year in the UK.

which is not only wrong but horrible too! The student has mixed up two different patterns. If your English is very good then you will know that this is grammatically impossible, however there are plenty of students who produce sentences like this. I know it is natural to make mistakes while you are learning but one thing you can do to cut down on mistakes is to make use of common academic phrases. Learn those four phrases above to introduce your paraphrase. Learn which ones use a comma and which ones don’t and use the same few all the time. If you vary the verb that you use in the same pattern this will not look too repetitive. Keep it simple!

On the theme of simplicity here is a simple list of reporting verbs from Glasgow Caledonian University.

(Did you guess that I’m fed up with the weather??)

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