Paraphrase vs Interpretation: What's the difference!

Paraphrasing and interpreting may seem identical but there are important differences between paraphrasing and interpreting that writers must recognize.

Alen Walker - Published on - 2023-09-12 , Last-Mod: 2023-11-10

Table of Contents

Paraphrase vs Interpretation: Complete Overview

Paraphrasing and interpreting are two fundamental skills in research writing. Paraphrasing and interpreting may seem identical but there are important differences between paraphrasing and interpreting that writers must recognize. 

This article will explain what sets paraphrasing and interpretation apart. 

Introducing Paraphrasing

When you paraphrase, take some text from a source and rewrite it in your words. Your paraphrased version should share the main ideas using your own words and sentences. 

The goal is to summarize the key points briefly and accurately in your own voice.

Paraphrasing Benefits

  • Shows understanding of source material
  • Avoids plagiarism through use of original wording
  • Improves reading comprehension and retention
  • Allows to use ideas from research in your own way
  • Makes information shorter and clear
  • Restates complex ideas in easy language
  • Helps to write in your own style and sound smart

Paraphrasing Examples

1. Original

Working out can help mental health which can reduce stress and make us feel better about ourselves.


According to the passage, working out decreases anxiety, enhances mood, and increases self-confidence.

2. Original

The dog was brown and fuzzy. He liked to play fetch with a ball.


The dog had brown fur and was fuzzy. He enjoyed playing fetch with a toy ball.

Defining Interpretation

Interpretation analyzes,investigates and expands on source material to improve understanding. It gives more than just a simple overview to uncover deeper meanings, implications, and connections in the ideas. 

Interpretation can include new examples, links to research, background information, and your viewpoint. This helps explain why the source is important. 

The goal is to give a more deep examination of the original ideas.

Interpretation Benefits 

  • Shows keen engagement with source ideas
  • Uncovers deeper meanings and implications
  • Makes connections between related concepts
  • Reviews information for enhanced understanding
  • Provides critical assessment of source material
  • Creates opportunities for original analysis and insights
  • Transforms and expands upon source content
  • Creates content that fits what readers want
  • Shows to know the stuff and take learning seriously

Interpretation Examples

1. Original

Working out can help mental health which can reduce stress and make us feel better about ourselves.


This says being physically active can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It also says working out can make people feel more positive emotions and feel better about themselves. 

The author hints the mental health benefits of exercise probably come from changes in the brain and social and physical factors. 

For example, the mood improvement from working out might happen because of brain chemicals released and feeling a sense of achievement.

2. Original 

The dog was brown and fuzzy. He liked to play fetch with a ball.


The story is about a brown, fuzzy dog. When you read that he likes playing fetch, it shows he's an energetic, fun-loving dog who likes chasing a ball and bringing it back.

Differences Between Paraphrasing and Interpretation





Accurately restate source ideas concisely

Expand upon source ideas for deeper understanding

Use of Original Wording

Uses writer's unique wording and style

Retains original wording and style

Analysis Depth

Only restates main ideas from source

Provides richer analysis, context, implications

Reference to Source

Refers to specific excerpt

Refers to source ideas more holistically

Use of Quotations

Generally does not directly quote

May use selective quotations

Critical Assessment

Neutral restatement without critique

May assess strengths/weaknesses of ideas

Original Perspective

Presents source's perspective

Incorporates writer's perspective


Follows structure of original passage

May reorganize discussion of ideas


More concise than original

Tends to be longer than source


Same intended audience as source

May orient ideas to different audience

Paraphrase vs Interpretation

In this whole term we will discuss when we should paraphrase and interpret, what are the difficulties of them and the top ways to paraphrase & interpret.

When to paraphrase vs When to Interpret

When to restate or analyze is key for communication. We will look at when to summarize main points versus interpret deeper meanings.

When to Paraphrase

  1. When you need to concisely summarize the main ideas or key details of a source
  2. When supporting background information is needed without excessive quotation
  3. When you want to adapt complex terminology into accessible language
  4. When the source's perspective does not require detailed analysis
  5. When the source information provides context rather than main discussion

When to Interpret

  1. When you need to provide deep analysis of the source's core concepts
  2. When drawing connections between the source and other research
  3. When explaining theoretical frameworks or academic context for the ideas
  4. When relating the material to current issues or modern examples
  5. When the source requires critique, evaluation, or reflection

8 ways to Paraphrase and Interpret

To paraphrase and interpret well, use these 8 key strategies

8 ways to Paraphrase

  1. Read and fully understand the original text
  2. Put the original away and rewrite the ideas in your own words from memory
  3. Use different words and mix up how sentences are built
  4. Keep the main meaning without adding or leaving stuff out
  5. Credit the source using citations
  6. Blend the paraphrased parts into your own writing voice
  7. Check the paraphrase matches the original for accuracy
  8. Use paraphrasing ethically to avoid copying

8 ways to Interpret

  1. Fully understand what you're reading and the context
  2. Highlight main points and ideas to interpret before writing
  3. Add explanatory background details if needed
  4. Explain deeper meanings not directly stated
  5. Make connections between related ideas
  6. Use examples readers relate to in order to clarify
  7. Think about different views on what you're interpreting
  8. Credit sources properly when adding outside analysis

Difficulties with Paraphrasing and Interpreting

Paraphrasing and interpreting well can be challenging. We will look at common issues that arise when trying to restate and analyze source material accurately.

Difficulties with Paraphrasing 

  • Getting the full meaning of complicated source material correctly
  • Avoiding accidentally copying words or structure from the original
  • Staying objective and neutral, not adding your own views
  • Crediting sources properly with citations
  • Blending paraphrasing smoothly into your voice and writing style
  • Making information more concise without leaving out key details
  • Paraphrasing technical or specialized content you don't know much about

Difficulties with Interpreting

  • Go beyond just summarizing to give deeper analysis
  • Understand the source well enough to interpret it thoughtfully
  • Don't make guesses not backed up by the source
  • Stay focused on the original ideas, don't wander off topic
  • Get the context and background you need to explain meanings
  • Interpret texts even if they show author bias or false information
  • Include different views, disagreements, and debates on the topics
  • Explain interpretations briefly rather than wordily


Paraphrasing and interpreting source material are important skills for research writing, but they have different purposes. This article explained the differences between paraphrasing and interpreting. Paraphrasing is about restating source ideas accurately and briefly using your own words and writing style. 

Interpreting is giving more analysis of those ideas to increase understanding, add insights, and make connections for readers. The main differences are in the goals, depth of analysis, use of original wording, referencing sources, and length.

Writers should paraphrase when they need an efficient summary and interpret when they want to explain deeper aspects. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

When would you paraphrase versus interpret?

You would paraphrase when summarizing or explaining someone else's ideas in the same language. You would interpret when transferring meaning between two different languages. Paraphrasing keeps the language the same but changes the wording. Interpreting changes both the language and wording while preserving the meaning.

What are some examples of paraphrasing versus interpreting?

If you were paraphrasing a passage from a book, you might restate the main points using synonyms and rearranged sentence structures. If you were interpreting between English and Spanish, you would listen to a message in English and convey the same message in Spanish, or vice versa. The language changes from English to Spanish or Spanish to English.

What skills make someone a good interpreter?

Skills for effective interpreting include: fluency in both source and target languages, ability to listen carefully and precisely transfer meaning, cultural understanding of both languages, ability to think quickly and express messages smoothly between languages, and adhering to ethical standards of interpreting.

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