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Common feedback comments and what they mean: Writing an effective paraphrase

This guide lists some common feedback comments and explains what they mean.

Writing an effective paraphrase

An effective paraphrase involves putting information from a source into your own words, without changing the meaning of the source you used. It has the following features:

  • keeps the same meaning as the original source
  • has a different structure to the original source
  • has different vocabulary where possible. Some phrases from the original source are common and do not need to be changed or do not have an appropriate substitute. For example: ‘the Renaissance, ‘diabetes mellitus’ and ‘economy’.

A useful method to writing an effective paraphrase is to:

  • Read the original carefully to make sure you know it means the write it again in your own words without looking at the original source.
  • Check your writing with the original to see if it has different vocabulary and structure but keeps the original meaning.
  • Make sure you cite the author according to the referencing style that you have been asked to use for your assessment (e.g. APA6th, Chicago).


You can use grammar techniques to help you when checking your own words with the original source to help get you started:


Technique 1: Changing the words by using synonyms:

analyse -> examine                                                 process -> procedure

theory -> concept                                                    twentieth century ->1900s

Take care when using synonyms as not all synonyms have the same meaning depending on the context (i.e. the sentence) it is being used in.


Technique 2: Changing the word class:

requirement (noun) -> require (verb)                               

consistent (adjective) ->  consistency (noun)

central (adjective) -> centralise (verb)


Technique 3: Changing where the information is in the sentence:


“The best explanation for the location of the Canberra is found by considering the historically antagonistic relationship between Sydney and Melbourne.” Nance, S.L. (2018). The History of Canberra. Newcastle: Poodle.


An understanding of past tensions between Sydney and Melbourne can help explain the origin of Canberra (Nance, 2018).

This is best to do when you think about how all the main ideas in the sentences relate to each other.

It is important to remember that in practice all these grammar techniques are used at the same time.