How to Summarize & Paraphrase in Middle School

Paraphrasing and summarizing to succeed.
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Summarizing and paraphrasing are writing skills that are essential to more advanced forms of writing such as essays and research papers. You will need to use these skills to bring information from other sources into your own writing. In later classes you will use sources frequently to support your writing, so this practice is essential to your future success.

1 Understanding the Source You Are Using

Summarizing and paraphrasing both capture, in your own words, what another source says: a paragraph from a book, for example. However, you cannot just copy from the book, so you first need to understand the meaning of the paragraph. Read through the paragraph closely several times to make sure you understand it completely.

Next, on a piece of paper, make a list of the most important ideas from each sentence of the paragraph, using your own words. You should change the wording, sentence format, and layout in order to write it in your own language. Write in complete sentences, rather than just a couple of words.

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2 Paraphrasing: Same Length

The work you have just completed makes writing a paraphrase easy.To paraphrase, begin by using the list of sentences you created. Right now they are just a list, but move down through each sentence, converting it back into a paragraph that flows and makes sense. The paragraph you end up with has the same ideas as the book, but it is written in your own words. Because a paraphrase captures all of the ideas from the source, your finished paragraph will end up being at least as long as the book's paragraph.

3 Summarizing: Shorten Length

To summarize the original source paragraph, return to your list of main ideas. When you summarize, you shorten the material in your own words, so your writing will be shorter than the original paragraph. Use a pencil to underline the key ideas in the sentences on your list. With each one, ask yourself: "What is the most important idea in this sentence?" You should end up with a list that has one or two parts of each sentence underlined. Finally, write a sentence or two that captures the key ideas you identified.

4 Double Check Your Work for Accuracy

As you review your writing, you should make sure that you have captured the same ideas as the original source. Also, you need to be sure that you do not have more than two words in a row that are identical to the source paragraph. If you find a spot like this, just reword your sentence so that they are different; synonyms are often useful in these cases.

Darin L. Hammond owns and writes for and publishes with Technorati Media, Social Media Today and Broowaha. He holds a Master of Arts in English and has taught advanced college writing for more than 11 years. Hammond has completed graduate-level work in literature, writing, rhetoric and social sciences.