Paraphrasing for academics


All academics, be they professors, researchers, or students, need to write a vast amount of material. Therefore, they often find it useful to ask someone else to review what they have written. However, sometimes simple proofreading or editing is not enough. A paraphrase can be more effective in clarifying a document, and making it easier for the reader to understand.

There are two principal reasons for using paraphrasing in academic writing:

1) Avoiding plagiarism

Whilst it is accepted that students writing an essay, dissertation, or thesis or academics writing a journal article will need to quote from scholars whose work they have researched, it is unacceptable to do so (directly or indirectly) without giving a citation. This is plagiarism. Occasionally, quoting the author directly may have greater impact, in which case quotation marks should be used. However, such quotations should be used infrequently. Often, it is better to use your own words to present an author’s argument (supported by a citation). For example, an academic may wish to cite the following quote by John Smith (2000): ‘Experiments have proved that excessively high levels of temperature and humidity have a detrimental impact on the efficiency of the workers in the office.’ However, a better option would be to paraphrase the quote as follows: ‘According to experiments conducted by John Smith (2000), office staff are less efficient in an atmosphere of high levels of humidity and temperature.’

2) Making your work look more professional

We are aware that academic language is unique, and that when people are writing in a language which is not their mother tongue, they may not have a wide academic vocabulary. In such cases, we make the most appropriate word choice given the topic. We also ensure there is no unnecessary repetition of words, even when we use synonyms to replace the original words.

Some words are not ideal for academic writing, such as ‘get’, ‘like’, and ‘thing’ as well as colloquial and slang words (e.g. ‘kids’, ‘awesome’). Sometimes we encounter unclear text and excessively long and confusing sentences. We therefore rewrite these so that they are clear, unambiguous, and relatively short. Very occasionally, we find that despite our experience, we are unable to suggest a clearer way of expressing the sentence. In this case, we will leave a comment, as we will also do if we are not 100 per cent sure that the word we suggest has retained your intended meaning. Finally, we ensure that our paraphrasing is consistent, as this is essential for any academic document.

Technical words and keywords

Every academic document contains technical terms. Sometimes these are highly complex, such as the names of chemicals or legal terms, and cannot be changed. Documents may also contain frequently occurring ‘keywords’ that are central to the entire document. Moreover, some simple words cannot be changed, such as ‘water’ and ‘air’. Other words that cannot be changed are proper names (names of people and places).

Fact checking

We do not usually check facts in academic documents, especially in highly-complex expressions; neither do we check the calculations in numerical tables. However, if we spot a very obvious factual error, we will draw your attention to this. Examples are ‘Water boils at 100°F’ or ‘World War 2 ended in 1845’.

Verifying statements

Sometimes we come across statements such as, ‘It is evident that..’ or ‘Some scholars claim that…’. It is unwise to make a statement if you cannot verify it with evidence, so we will draw your attention to statements of this kind.

What else does our service provide?

Our paraphrasing will be free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. However, in the English language, spelling and the use of quotation marks can vary according to which version is being used (for instance, American, Australian, British, or Canadian); therefore, we will consistently apply whichever version you wish to use. Some words have equally acceptable spelling; in this case we ensure that one form is used consistently throughout the document. Other variations include whether to use italics or quotation marks for names of publications. Once again, consistency is essential. We advise our clients to abide by the style guide of the university or journal to which they are submitting their work, and to let us know beforehand which of the various alternatives are to be used.

Your requirements

The more we know about your requirements, the more we can help; for example, the referencing style you are using, the style guide of your university/target journal, whether you want us to paraphrase the entire document or only a part.