Summarising/Paraphrasing involves expressing the original text in your own words

Paraphrasing is a complex reading and writing process. It involves different steps. These can be simplified as follows:

  • Have a clear purpose or question for reading: what do I want to find out?
  • Read to identify main point(s)/idea(s) in the section of text:concentrate on highlighting key words only that help you understand the author’s meaning; score out words that you think are less important to her meaning
  • Use a dictionary, not a thesaurus, to define words you may not understand; don’t just substitute with words from a list of synonyms – very few words mean exactly the same as another word. Another problem with using a word substitution strategy to paraphrase is that you break up recognised word combinations and create clumsy or meaningless words combinations
  • Re-read text several times to narrow down to the specific point it makes: re-read introductory and final sentences of a paragraph or section to identify if these summarise the main point/idea
  • Write a short paraphrase of what you have identified: try to use your own words, though you don’t need to
  • Do not try and change every word from the source text: some words and word combinations cannot be changed e.g. 'change management' cannot become 'alteration management'
  • Always add the reference for the source from which you have paraphrased.
  • This format is used to emphasise the source of information e.g. you want to refer to a specific study that provides evidence for a point of view.

Extract of text from published source: journal article

Du Toit, A. (2007). Making sense through coaching, Journal of Management Development, 26 (3), 282-291


Despite the growth in popularity, a succinct definition of coaching remains an enigma. Some practitioners and theorists use the term interchangeably with “mentoring”. It is not consultancy and it is not counselling either. However, there is a distinct overlap and sharing of techniques in the practice of coaching. Empirical research of the benefits of organisational coaching to both the individual and the organisation has been limited to date. Nevertheless, there are many claims that organisations perceive coaching as being the most effective tool available in the development of their managers. In essence coaching acts as the catalyst through which an individual or group makes sense of the ever changing environment of their organisations.

Key ideas identified through this process (see underlined text):

  • No single definition of coaching
  • Coaching has benefits for development of managers
  • Coaching helps make sense of constant change in organisations

These 3 ideas express in the reader’s own words the ideas in the original text. Word substitution, where you substitute individual words without changing the sentence structure is not an effective paraphrasing technique, because if you change one word and leave other words unchanged around it, you create word combinations that don’t make sense.

Examples of writers’ paraphrasing of this material in their essays:

... Du Toit (2007) has even suggested that coaching is an essential tool for making sense of the dynamic and fluctuating environment that organisations are faced with. ...

While coaching remains difficult to define concisely, it is essentially the tool individuals or groups use to understand constantly changing workplaces (Du Toit 2007).

Du Toit (2007) explains that the terms coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably, but she argues that coaching is essentially linked to sensemaking.

Coaching is widely seen by companies as being very beneficial to managers’ development (Du Toit 2007). However Du Toit (2007) highlights that primary research on its benefits remains limited.