Summarizing and Paraphrasing

 

When you are incorporating outside material into your own work (such as for a research paper) you will need to know how to summarize and how to paraphrase. In both instances, you are restating someone else's ideas in your own words. What's the difference? When you summarize, you condense the original material--you use less words to cover the same idea. When you paraphrase, you use roughly the same number of words to restate the original idea. The most important thing to remember, whether you are summarizing or paraphrasing, is that you must not borrow too much from your original source. You must use your own words and your own phrasing. If you do not change enough of the vocabulary and sentence structure of the original passage, you have plagiarized.


Summarizing

Here's an example of a summary of a paragraph from Marjorie Garber's essay, "As They Like It." Read the summary and then answer the questions that follow.

ORIGINAL

The success of a film called Shakespeare n Love may owe a great deal to its witty script by playwright Tom Stoppard and screenwriter Marc Norman, as well as to its personable stars, but not a little of the film's appeal lies in its title. Who among us would not want a front-row seat or a voyeuristic peephole for the spectacle of Shakespeare in love, especially if that love is seen to be the "cause" of his genius?

--Marjorie Garber, "As They Like It," Harper's Magazine

SUMMARY

In her essay "As They Like It," Marjorie Garber suggests that the appeal of the film Shakespeare in Love may have something to do with our desire to see romantic love as the inspiration for a genius like Shakespeare's.


1 A summary is always shorter than the original passage.
True
False

2 You should include all details from the original passage in your summary.
True
False

3 A summary should provide the author and title of the original work.
True
False

 

Paraphrasing

A common mistake writers make when paraphrasing is to simply substitute synonyms into the orignal work. Remember that you must alter sentence structure as well. The following examples will help you to distinguish an acceptable paraphrase from one that borrows too heavily from the original source. Identify whether each paraphrase is "OK" or whether it is "Too Close to the Original."

ORIGINAL

Left partially deaf by a childhood inflammation of the mastoid bones, Thomas Edison throughout his life embraced the world of silence, reveled in its space, allowed it to empower him; as much as any man, perhaps, he recognized silence as the territory of inspiration and cultivated its gifts.

--Mark Slouka, "Listening for Silence," Harper's Magazine


1 Mark Slouka, in his article "Listening for Silence," informs us that Thomas Edison was left partially deaf by a childhood inflammation of the mastoid bones. Because of this, Slouka says, Edison embraced the world of silence and reveled in its space. Edison recognized silence as the source of inspiration and cultivated it.
OK
Too Close to Original

2 Left hard of hearing by an early problem with the mastoid bones, Thomas Edison his whole life accepted the realm of silence, enjoyed its isolation, let it empower him. Mark Slouka, in his article "Listening for Silence," claims that as much as anyone, Edison understood silence as the place of revelation and cultivated its rewards.
OK
Too Close to Original

3 Mark Slouka, in his article "Listening for Silence," cites Thomas Edison as an example of a man enriched by his isolation from sound. A childhood problem had damaged Edison’s hearing; instead of feeling crippled, Edison appreciated the value of quiet. Silence, Slouka explains, was a necessary source of inspiration for Edison.
OK
Too Close to Original