The Art of Storytelling: Mastering Paraphrasing -->

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The Art of Storytelling: Mastering Paraphrasing

As an avid reader, I love stories about revolutionaries, abolitionists, orators, or great public speakers. I am particularly drawn to stories pulled from African American history: Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Madam C.J. Walker, and my favorite, Shirley Chisholm, the first African American female to run for President of the United States. 

You might have thought I read an entire book about the life of Ms. Chisholm, based on my mentioning she was the first African American female to run for the presidency. I actually did not read a book about Ms. Chisholm. Instead, I pulled various online resources about the life of the former Congresswoman from the Smithsonian and the U.S. House of Representatives websites, as well as scholarly articles about her life and history as an educator.  

So, is this how paraphrasing works? You pull pieces of information from different resources and articles and put them in a paper? Well, sort of. As you continue reading, you will find this post is intended to help you get comfortable with paraphrasing by providing some encouraging insight on how to tell a story. Crafting your story from your interpretation of course assignment readings and research articles may appear to be a daunting task. Still, your professor will be impressed by your efforts in understanding the content from the course, which ultimately aids in your application of the gained knowledge to your profession and your passion.  

My story is similar to Ms. Chisholm’sI am somewhat of a revolutionary, or as my mom would call me, headstrong. I have New York and Caribbean roots (Dad was Jamaican American), and I love my current full-time career as an assistant professor. Ms. Chisholm’s facts are easy to paraphrase for me because I so easily relate her life to my own story and experiences. We both possess one key element, which is that we both hold a commitment to social change. 

So, when you paraphrase, think of how you can relate the information to your own story. Here are some tips that may be helpful: 

1. Determine your interest: When reviewing your course assignments, find information that is of importance to you. The assignment is much easier to interpret when you have interest, even if it is just a small part of a chapter from a course assignment. 

2. Consider social change: I get it, there may not be any articles directly applicable to you or your background. Therefore, find content that encourages and inspires you to be a change agent. Ask yourself, what could you or what would you do differently from this article that would contribute to social change in your career field? 

3. Use those bright highlighters: Highlight and note parts of articles and chapters that stand out to you the most. Often times, those points will help you to understand the material from the article better. Highlighting also shows your professor that you know the text, which further helps you to understand the assignment with proper execution. 

4. Have no fear, my friend: Do not be fearful of words that you don’t know the definition of. Highlight those words and use the thesaurus tool in Microsoft or look up the meaning of the highlighted word. No harm in looking up the meaning of individual words to get your point across in a scholarly manner without copying something directly from the article.

5. And Again, re-read! There may be areas you may have missed or additional areas you want to highlight.
Plagiarism, Citations, and Quotations: In your reading, you may find out that an author’s description of a topic is clear, concise, and well written; therefore, it may be easy and effortless to just directly copy the content into your course assignment. Before you do, ask yourself, “did I give the author credit for their work?”“did I quote or paraphrase?”, and “is this something I would say in getting my point across about the content?”  

1. Professional Advice: Review your work. Ask yourself, “Is this what I want to say about this article?” “How did this article resonate with me?” “Did I cite facts?” “Did I properly give my interpretation of this article?” and the most critical question, “Did I answer my professor’s question?” 

2. Be confident: Most importantly, be confident! You are the author, so your text, your interpretation, or your story is vital for the learning experiences, not only for yourself but for everyone else who reads your writing.  

As you are crafting your own interpretation of something you read or are paraphrasing, picture it as the most exciting topic one has ever wanted to read. Spare no details and confidently present to the reader, as an author, your interpretation of what you read. Think about who you might be helping as a result of your storytelling.  

Patrese Nesbitt

Patrese Nesbitt is a writing intern at the Walden University Writing Center. She enjoys reading articles that are inspirational, in addition to doing research on how certain physical movement patterns help with mental health. As a doctoral candidate in Walden University’s Public Health Program, she is eager to find ways to intrinsically and extrinsically motivate people to live an improved and upgraded quality of life.

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