Paraphrasing Structure

As noted on the previous page, when you paraphrase, you have to do more than change the words from the original passage.  You have to also change the sentence structure. Sometimes, students will struggle with paraphrasing because they have an urge to simply use the same basic sentence or sentences and replace the original words with synomyms. This is not a method that works for effective paraphrasing.

Let’s see what that looks like. Here’s an original quote from an article about a new video game based on Thoreau’s famous work, Walden.

Original Quote

“The digital Walden Pond will showcase a first-person point-of-view where you can wander through the lush New England foliage, stop to examine a bush and pick some fruit, cast a fishing rod, return to a spartan cabin modeled after Thoreau’s and just roam around the woods, grappling with life’s unknowable questions.”

Incorrect Paraphrasing

According to Hayden (2012), the Walden Pond game will offer a first-person view in which the play can meander within the New England trees and wilderness, pause to study foliage or grab some food, go fishing, return home to a small cabin based on Thoreau’s cabin, and just venture around in the woods, pondering important questions of life (para. 3).


Here, you can see that the “paraphrase” follows the exact same structure as the orignal passage. Even though the wording has been changed, this would be considered a form of plagiarism by some because the sentence structure has been copied, taking this beyond just sharing the ideas of the passage. Let’s take a look at a better paraphrase of the passage.

Correct Paraphrasing

According to Hayden (2012), the upcoming video game Walden Pond is a first-person game that simulates the life and experiences of Thoreau when he lived at Walden Pond. Based upon Thoreau’s famous work, Walden, the game allows players to experience life in the New England woods, providing opportunities for players to fish, gather food, live in a cabin, and contemplate life, all within a digital world (para. 3).


In this paraphrase, the student has captured the main idea of the passage but changed the sentence structure and the wording. The student has added some context, which is often helpful in a paraphrase, by providing some background for the game.

You will now have the chance to practice your ability to recognize an effective paraphrase in the Paraphrasing Activity on the following page.

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