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The Research Process: How to Paraphrase

This guide will walk you through the steps necessary to complete any research assignment and help you avoid the stress associated with waiting until the last minute to get started.

Getting Started


1. Consult more than one source. You're much more likely to copy words if you only have one set of words to copy from. Look the answer up on three or four websites, or in several encyclopedias or reference books. Think about the different ways these sources express the same ideas. Does each one bring a new idea or approach? Which one do you find easiest to understand? If you're not able to understand it at all, keep looking for more helpful sources, or ask a teacher or parent for help.                   

Step Two

2. Jot down a few ideas. Picking from all your sources, jot down some key words and ideas that have to do with the question you're trying to answer or the subject you're researching. Don't use complete sentences or phrases, just individual words or groups of no more than three words. You want just enough to jog your memory of what you learned and understood about the material. Names and dates and places are fine, but not opinions or fancy language. If you can't understand it, don't include it in your notes.

Step Three

             3. Close down your sources. Hide your browser window, or close your books. Get that original material out of your sight. You're on your own now, working from your notes and your brain. You may want to keep the sites or the pages marked if you need to refer to them for further clarification, but don't keep them open when you're writing, and NEVER cut and paste unless you're using NoodleBib.                        

Step Four



4. Talk about what you have learned with a parent, advisor, friend or teacher. Using your notes and what you have learned from the original material, discuss the information you've found with an adult, including any opinions you may have formed for yourself. If you've really understood the material, you should be able to do this -- maybe not in as much detail or fancy words as the original, but in your own language and understanding. If you can't, or are still confused by the material, ask for help. Then close the material down again and start the writing process.


Step Five

                  5. Write down what you've just said. When you have an understanding of the material you've read and have formulated ideas that sound right to you and sound original to the adult who's helping you, write it out on paper. You should have something that draws its facts from research material you've found, but filters it through your own thoughts and understanding and language abilities. Your teacher will be far happier with this than with a more knowledgeable passage you copied directly from somebody else. Your ideas, directly from you, are what's important.                        

article adapted and used with permission ~ Terri Mauro



  1. Never cut and paste and think you're done. It's worth saying again and again. You may feel you can drop something onto your paper and then rewrite it, but shuffling words around is not the same thing as paraphrasing. Only do this if you are using NoodleBib and are cutting and pasting into your notecards so you can paraphrase in the next section of the card.

  2. Ditto copying directly from a book. Take notes of facts and basic information, but don't write sentences down word for word. If your hand's getting sore, that's a good sign that you're copying too much.

  3. Don't leave researching to the last minute. The more time you can put between looking at the original material and writing about it, the less likely you are to remember exact words and phrases -- or to be so desperate that copying seems like the only option.

  4. The very first thing to do before you write a word is to understand what you're writing about. If you can't do that, ask an adult for help. Learning to advocate for yourself is a skill that will come in handy whether you're in high school, college, or beyond.


What You Need

What You Need:

  • Three or more resources on the subject you're researching
  • Index cards, paper for jotting notes, or NoodleBib
  • Your brain, to process that material and create something that's yours
  • A parent, advisor, friend or teacher to help you think things through
  • Enough time, so don't procrastinate!