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What Is the Difference Between Paraphrasing and Summarizing?

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Read Time: 10 min

Many people confuse paraphrasing and summarizing. There's a difference. Knowing the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is an important writing skill. Another important writing skill is knowing what plagiarism is and how to make sure you aren’t plagiarizing.

Writing is an essential skill no matter what career you have.Writing is an essential skill no matter what career you have.Writing is an essential skill no matter what career you have.
Writing is an essential skill no matter what career you have. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

In this article, I’ll answer the questions:

  • What is a paraphrasing?
  • What is summarizing?
  • What is the difference between them?

Plus, I'll share some writing tools and resources that can help you improve your writing. Knowing how to use these writing tools can help you write an effective and efficient assignment or report.

I’ll also tell you how to paraphrase and summarize passages correctly. Then I’ll give you some tips on how to avoid plagiarism.

What Is Paraphrasing?

To know the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing, you must know the answer to the question what is paraphrasing. According to owl.purdue.edu, 

“Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.”

What Is Summarizing?

Now that you know the definition of paraphrasing, let’s answer the question what does summarizing mean? According to owl.purdue.edu,

“Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.”

What Is the Difference Between Paraphrasing and Summarizing?

Paraphrasing is where you understand the passage and understand the meaning well enough to restate the important information in your own words. Summarizing is correctly mirroring the original writer’s message and main ideas.

For both paraphrased passages and summaries, you must attribute the information back to the original source.
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Knowing the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is an important writing skill.Knowing the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is an important writing skill.Knowing the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is an important writing skill.
Knowing the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is an important writing skill. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

There are some similarities in paraphrasing and summarizing:

  • You use your own words to restates the original idea for both. 
  • You cite your sources when both paraphrasing and summarizing.

Using writing tools is important because they allow you to check for plagiarism in your work. Sometimes they can help you identify passages you may need to rephrase. Here's a short list of tools you can use:

Some of these tools will also check your passage for correct grammar or help you to prepare a properly formatted source citation. Be careful, though. Most tools are only able to detect word-for-word copies. 

Here's How to Paraphrase

The right skills are needed to paraphrase successfully. When you paraphrase, you need to match the original text's meaning without using the wording of the original text.

Paraphrasing shows that you understand the original content enough to say it in your own words. You can also use paraphrasing to shorten the original idea. Often paraphrasing is rewording the original text in a precise way. Paraphrasing is common when writing an essay or research paper.

Here are some examples of paraphrasing based on passages I wrote:

Original: Many different jobs use writing whether it's for emails, presentations or more. So, it's important to know how to write.

Paraphrase: Writing is a necessary skill no matter what field you’re in. You need to have good writing skills.

Original: Envato Elements is a subscription service where you pay a low monthly fee for unlimited digital assets.

Paraphrase: If you want unlimited downloads of digital assets, then subscribe to Envato Elements for a low monthly free.

Here's How to Summarize

When you're summarizing a quote, you're summing the main point of the source in your own words. When summarizing the original work, you're creating a shorter version.

The purpose of summarizing is to avoid unneeded details and just cover the main points of the original material. If the reader of your summary has read the original source, then your summary should remind the reader of the original work. If the reader hasn’t read the original material, then your summary should provide an introduction to the original material.

Here are examples of how to summarize based on passages I wrote:

Original: Writing well can be a difficult skill to have. It’s constantly changing if you want to keep up with a causal style and use recently popular words. Writing also requires a lot of practice in order to become a professional at this skill. But there are several ways to improve this skill other than writing. Reading is one of the ways you can improve your writing. Through reading, you’ll be introduced to other writing styles and other perspectives.

Summary: Improving your writing takes a lot of practice. One of the activities you can do to improve your writing skill is reading.

Original: Plagiarism is little more than theft and can have many different consequences. One of the consequences for students is that they can get suspended or expelled and barred from entering another school or university. Professionals have consequences too. When a professional writer commits plagiarism, it can follow the writer for their whole career. They may be fired or demoted, and this can cause them to have difficulty finding another job. There are also legal consequences for plagiarism. There have been cases where someone was found guilty of plagiarism and had to pay a fine.

Summary: Plagiarism is a serious crime. Someone who commits plagiarism can be expelled, barred from jobs or schools, or fined.

Notice how the summaries are much shorter than the original passages.

Ten Tips to Avoid Plagiarism When Writing

When you plagiarize another writer's work, you're basically stealing and trying to benefit from the other writers' work. Plagiarism could stop you from getting academic referrals or career advancement. Here are some tips on how to avoid plagiarism:

1. Understand What Plagiarism Is

Part of being an excellent writer is understanding plagiarism.Part of being an excellent writer is understanding plagiarism.Part of being an excellent writer is understanding plagiarism.
Part of being an excellent writer is understanding plagiarism. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

There are different types of plagiarism. So, to prevent plagiarism, you need to find out and understand the different types of plagiarism. Once you know all the different types of plagiarism and understand it, you can avoid it. YourDictionary.com has a list of the different types of plagiarism. Study the list carefully.

2. Give Yourself Time to Write

Some people may plagiarize due to lack of time. It's always important to give yourself enough time to complete your writing assignments. Make sure that you've got plenty of time to complete any research you may need to do.

If you can, it’s best to give yourself a cushion and complete your writing early if you can. This gives you time to look over your work for mistakes.

3. Use Multiple Sources

Use multiple sources when writing.Use multiple sources when writing.Use multiple sources when writing.
Use multiple sources when writing. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

Don’t use just one source for your work. When you use one source, it's easier to plagiarize. Instead, use a wide variety of sources. This also shows the reader that you did a lot of research and have a broad understanding of the topic.

4. Make a Note of Your Sources

When you're doing your research, it's best to keep track of your sources. If you’re going to use a quote, paraphrase, or summarize keep track of which source each of those came from. This makes it easier to cite your sources. Make sure that your sources are organized and marked in your notes.

5. Cite Your Sources

It's important to cite your sources.It's important to cite your sources.It's important to cite your sources.
It's important to cite your sources. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

Whether you use a quote, paraphrase, or summarize, you need to mention the source. There are established ways to cite your sources. Which one you use depends on your teacher or boss and what method they want you to use.

MLA format is the most common format that you can consider using if you need to cite for personal writing. There are websites such as owl.purdue.edu that have a thorough explanation of how to cite sources in every format. You can also learn more about citing sources from presentations in this article:

6. Add Your Own Insights

Instead of only using source material in your writing, try adding your own insights about the topic. When you add your insights, it shows the reader that you really understand the topic. If you don’t know enough about the topic, then research the topic until you understand and know more about the topic.

7. Edit and Proofread

If you want to avoid mistakes, edit, and proofread your writing several times. Checking your material more than once is best. Often people miss some mistakes the first time editing and proofreading. When proofreading, makes sure that every quote, paraphrase, or summary is cited. You also want to ensure that every citation is done properly and in the right format.

8. Use the Right Tools

Plagiarism tools help you check your writing.Plagiarism tools help you check your writing.Plagiarism tools help you check your writing.
Plagiarism tools help you check your writing. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

If you’re concerned about plagiarism, there are many plagiarism checkers online. This will catch many instances of plagiarism, and you can rewrite it if needed.

Using a plagiarism tool doesn't take a lot of time. So, don't skip this step. A plagiarism tool scans online text and will tell you what percentage of your writing is identical to online articles.

Most schools have a rule about what percentage of the same wording is allowed in assignments. Usually, this percentage is fairly low. Know the percentage your school uses and make sure your assignments are well under.

Some plagiarism checkers can also help you remove badly paraphrased writing that could still be considered theft. You can also print a copy of the plagiarism check and keep it if you're worried about being accused of plagiarism.

9. Reference Page

If you've got many sources, it's beneficial to have a reference page. Reference pages are typically found at the end of your paper. They list the sources you used in your assignment and your research.

It's best to work on this list from the start of your assignment. If you try to hurry up and add a reference page at the end, then you could accidentally forget a source.

10. Get Someone Else to Read Your Work

Ask a friend, teacher, or editor about your sources if you're working on an assignment or projectAsk a friend, teacher, or editor about your sources if you're working on an assignment or projectAsk a friend, teacher, or editor about your sources if you're working on an assignment or project
Ask a friend, teacher, or editor about your sources if you're working on an assignment or project. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

Ask a friend, teacher, or editor about your sources if you're working on an assignment or project. You can ask if you properly cited your sources. It’s best not to take chances about citing sources since plagiarism can have serious consequences. It’s essential to ensure that everything in your work is properly cited.

Learn More About Writing

Do you want to learn even more about good writing practices? Study these tutorials for more information:

The Best Source for Digital Elements (With Unlimited Use)

If you're in a creative field, then Envato elements is the best value. So, what's Envato Elements? It’s a subscription service where you pay a low monthly fee, and you get unlimited access to digital elements. These digital elements include stock images, fonts, premium PowerPoint templates, and much more.

Because you've got unlimited downloads, you can just download a different template if you download a template, and you don’t like it.

Use These Writing Tips for Your Next Assignment or Project Today!

You now know how to summarize and paraphrase, which are essential tools to use in your writing. You know what paraphrasing is and what summarizing is. I just gave you tips on how not to plagiarize.

Paraphrasing and summarizing will take your writing to the next level. Instead of having an assignment or project filled with quotes, you’ll have a well-written and thought-out piece. If you want to use a new font or need a template, use premium templates from Envato Elements.

Now that you know more about these writing tools, you can make a better writing assignment. Go use these writing tools today!

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