Try this simple four-step process to write a paraphrase:


1. Translate the passage into your own words. Do not simply use a thesaurus. State the idea the way you would state it.


“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” the beginning of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, can be stated differently:


Eighty-seven years ago, our ancestors created the United States of America founded on the ideals of freedom and equality.


2. Flip the sentence. Move the beginning to the end and the end to the beginning, creating a whole new sentence structure:


Freedom and equality are the ideals on which the United States of America was founded by our ancestors eighty-seven years ago.


3. Add a signal phrase, which introduces the source before the paraphrase (or quote or summary). A signal phrase lets the reader know that you are introducing a source and may even contain some information from or about the source. You may also make some changes in verb tense or structure so that the paraphrase makes more sense in its new context.


When Abraham Lincoln spoke at the 1863 dedication of a cemetery for Union soldiers at Gettysburg, he began by saying that freedom and equality are the ideals on which the United States of America had been founded by the listeners’ ancestors eighty-seven years before.


4. Use a citation afterward. (We’ll use MLA parenthetical citation in the following example.) Then you can switch back to your own voice to comment on what the source has said.


When Abraham Lincoln spoke at the 1863 dedication of a cemetery for Union soldiers at Gettysburg, he began by saying that freedom and equality are the ideals on which the United States of America had been founded by the listeners’ ancestors eighty-seven years before (par. 1). Lincoln may have been right about our country’s noble beginnings, but it is clear that the ideals of freedom and equality have not yet come to fruition in the United States.


The sentence after the paraphrase is clearly not part of what Lincoln said, and it is not part of what the source said. It is the student’s opinion, possibly the point of the paper.