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Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing (Differences, Examples, How To)

It can be confusing to know when to paraphrase and when to summarize. Many people use the terms interchangeably even though the two have different meanings and uses.

Today, let’s understand the basic differences between paraphrasing vs. summarizing and when to use which. We’ll also look at types and examples of paraphrasing and summarizing, as well as how to do both effectively.

Let’s look at paraphrasing first.

A brief, smaller version.Written in your own words, using your own voice and style.Using quotes to support an idea.

What is paraphrasing?

It refers to rewriting someone else’s ideas in your own words. 

It’s important to rewrite the whole idea in your words rather than just replacing a few words with their synonyms. That way, you present an idea in a way that your audience will understand easily and also avoid plagiarism. 

It’s also important to cite your sources when paraphrasing so that the original author of the work gets due credit.

When should you paraphrase?

The main purpose of paraphrasing is often to clarify an existing passage. You should use paraphrasing when you want to show that you understand the concept, like while writing an essay about a specific topic. 

You may also use it when you’re quoting someone but can’t remember their exact words. 

Finally, paraphrasing is a very effective way to rewrite outdated content in a way that’s relevant to your current audience.

How to paraphrase effectively

Follow these steps to paraphrase any piece of text effectively:

  • Read the full text and ensure that you understand it completely. It helps to look up words you don’t fully understand in an online or offline dictionary.
  • Once you understand the text, rewrite it in your own words. Remember to rewrite it instead of just substituting words with their synonyms.
  • Edit the text to ensure it’s easy to understand for your audience.
  • Mix in your own insights while rewriting the text to make it more relevant.
  • Run the text through a plagiarism checker to ensure that it does not have any of the original content.

Example of paraphrasing

Here’s an example of paraphrasing:

  • Original: The national park is full of trees, water bodies, and various species of flora and fauna.
  • Paraphrased: Many animal species thrive in the verdant national park that is served by lakes and rivers flowing through it.

What is summarizing?

Summarizing is also based on someone else’s text but rather than presenting their ideas in your words, you only sum up their main ideas in a smaller piece of text.

It’s important to not use their exact words or phrases when summarizing to avoid plagiarism. It’s best to make your own notes while reading through the text and writing a summary based on your notes.

You must only summarize the most important ideas from a piece of text as summaries are essentially very short compared to the original work. And just like paraphrasing, you should cite the original text as a reference.

When should you summarize?

The main purpose of summarizing is to reduce a passage or other text to fewer words while ensuring that everything important is covered.

Summaries are useful when you want to cut to the chase and lay down the most important points from a piece of text or convey the entire message in fewer words. You should summarize when you have to write a short essay about a larger piece of text, such as writing a book review.

You can also summarize when you want to provide background information about something without taking up too much space.

How to summarize effectively

Follow these steps to summarize any prose effectively:

  • Read the text to fully understand it. It helps to read it a few times instead of just going through it once.
  • Pay attention to the larger theme of the text rather than trying to rewrite it sentence for sentence.
  • Understand how all the main ideas are linked and piece them together to form an overview.
  • Remove all the information that’s not crucial to the main ideas or theme. Remember, summaries must only include the most essential points and information.
  • Edit your overview to ensure that the information is organized logically and follows the correct chronology where applicable.
  • Review and edit the summary again to make it clearer, ensure that it’s accurate, and make it even more concise where you can.
  • Ensure that you cite the original text.

Example of summarization

You can summarize any text into a shorter version. For example, this entire article can be summarized in just a few sentences as follows:

  • Summary: The article discusses paraphrasing vs. summarizing by explaining the two concepts. It specifies when you should use paraphrasing and when you should summarize a piece of text and describes the process of each. It ends with examples of both paraphrasing and summarizing to provide a better understanding to the reader.
Paraphrasing vs summarizing
Paraphrasing vs summarizing


Paraphrasing vs. summarizing has been a long-standing point of confusion for writers of all levels, whether you’re writing a college essay or reviewing a research paper or book. The above tips and examples can help you identify when to use paraphrasing or summarizing and how to go about them effectively.


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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