Paraphrasing vs Summarizing

Paraphrasing and summarizing are important skills for academic writing. Both mean taking information from another source and rewriting it in your own words

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

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Paraphrasing and Summarizing: Complete Overview

Paraphrasing and summarizing are key skills in academic writing. Paraphrasing restates information from a source in your own words without reducing length significantly. 

Summarizing condenses the source down to only the main ideas and key points. The purpose of paraphrasing is to rephrase details and examples in your own writing style. 

The purpose of summarizing is to briefly highlight the core concepts and information. This guide defines paraphrasing and summarizing, provides tips and examples, and shows the main distinctions between the two skills.

Defining Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing means taking a section of text and rewriting it using your own words and style. Paraphrased content should be similar in length and structure to the original source, just using different vocabulary and phrasing. 

Paraphrasing demonstrates a deeper understanding of source material and allows writers to incorporate research while avoiding plagiarism.

Steps for Effective Paraphrasing

Follow these key steps to paraphrase well

  1. Read and fully understand the original passage.
  2. Without looking at the source, rewrite it in your own words and style.
  3. Check that your paraphrased version keeps all of the meaning and facts.
  4. Ensure you have changed the phrasing and sentence structures, not just swapped synonyms.
  5. Cite the original source properly.
  6. Use quotation marks if you must directly copy phrases or terms from the original passage.

Benefits of Paraphrasing

  • Shows close reading and understanding of sources
  • Allows you to smoothly include information from research sources in your writing
  • Expands your academic vocabulary and writing skills
  • Avoids plagiarism through restatement in your own words
  • Provides an alternative explanation of complex concepts
  • Engages readers with accessible wording and phrasing

What is Summarizing?

Summarizing means shortening a long text to highlight just the main ideas. A summary includes only the key points and important details.

 It leaves out examples, extra details, and small specifics. The summary should be much shorter than the original text.

How to Write a Summary

Follow these steps when creating a summary:

  1. Carefully read and take notes on the primary concepts and facts.
  2. Look at how the information is organized and focus only on the main ideas.
  3. Remove all repetitive, irrelevant, or detailed information.
  4. Compose the summary focusing on the main ideas, using your own words.
  5. Keep the summary clear and concise - under 25% the length of the original text.
  6. Include a citation to the original source.

Advantages of Summarizing

  • Provides a brief overview of long or complex material
  • Highlights the key ideas and overall meaning
  • Helps focus on most relevant information
  • Improves ability to recall and retain information
  • Allows assessment of overall structure and flow
  • Develops skill in analyzing the structure of information

Key Differences Between the Two Skills



Restates the same information in different words

Shortens the information by only including the main ideas

Keeps the same level of detail as the original

Removes details and provides a high-level overview

Has a similar length as the original

Is much shorter than the original

Retains the original structure and organization

May restructure or rearrange content

Focuses on rewording phrases and sentences

Focuses on overall ideas and key takeaways

When to Paraphrase vs When to Summarize

Choosing between paraphrasing and summarizing depends on your purpose and goals. Here are some guidelines on when each technique is most appropriate:

Use paraphrasing when you want to

  • Add a specific idea or detail from a source
  • Restate complex information in simpler terms
  • Explain research clearly in your own words
  • Analyze the original text more closely
  • Expand on a key concept or theory

Use summarizing when you want to

  • Give an overview of a long source
  • Highlight the main ideas and themes
  • Provide context or background information briefly
  • Recap key points for others concisely
  • Compare and differentiate between multiple sources

Examples Demonstrating Paraphrasing vs Summarizing


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Paraphrasing and summarizing help writers include research from sources in their work effectively. Paraphrasing restates the details in different words while summarizing gives a short overview of the main ideas. 

Learning when to paraphrase versus summarize is crucial for good academic writing and avoiding plagiarism. Writers can get better with practice at paraphrasing to restate details or summarizing to recap key points briefly.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How are paraphrasing and summarizing similar?

Paraphrasing and summarizing both involve rewriting source information in your own words. Summarizing shortens the text to key points, while paraphrasing focuses on rephrasing details.

Why is summarizing better than paraphrasing?

Summarizing is better than paraphrasing when you need to briefly convey only the key points or main ideas from a long source. Summaries greatly reduce length and focus on the core concepts, while paraphrasing restates ideas more fully in your own words.

How can paraphrasing and summarizing skills help me in my academic writing?

Paraphrasing and summarizing help me use research in my school papers. Paraphrasing shows I can explain ideas in my own words. Summarizing shows I can find the main points and be brief.

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