Old Pueblo Academy

Using Paraphrases while Writing College Essays

In a college essay, you share what you know in your written words. Your professor will want you to back up those thoughts with the words of people who are experts. As a writer, you have two ways to share the experts’ words. One is in a direct quote, the other is in a paraphrase. The direct quote shares the exact words. The paraphrase shares the ideas from the expert, but you write them in your own words.

Rely on the Wisdom of the Experts

Essay writing involves sharing your ideas and supporting them with the wisdom of experts. When you use those experts, you should use a variety of direct quotes and paraphrased words. The experts should be sprinkled in your essays, so they do not overwhelm your ideas. You should never include more experts’ words than your own because that will dilute the power of your ideas. The words of the experts should only enhance and support what you are trying to explain in your essays.

Put Expert’s Ideas Into Your Own Words

Any time that you are going to paraphrase an expert’s words, you first need a direct quote to paraphrase. This is a direct quote from Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.” It can be paraphrased this way: Writers need to practice both reading and writing, even though they both take time. When you paraphrase an expert’s words, you do not surround them with quotation marks.

Properly Document Those Sources

Every time you paraphrase an expert’s words, you will need to document where you found those words. Each documentation style from MLA and APA to Chicago Style and AP style, you will need to follow the directions of those style manuals. Professors will notice if you make documentation mistakes. You will need to document properly inside of the essay you are writing and you will also need to properly create a bibliography of the sources that you use.

Like Stephen King says, in order to learn to use paraphrases in your writing, you need to practice. You should read examples in other people’s writing so you can see how to fluidly incorporate those words with flow, style, and correctness.