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Write it Right - A guide to Harvard referencing style

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is using the work of others, keeping the same meaning but writing in your own choice of words.
Paraphrasing is generally more highly valued by academics than direct quoting because by paraphrasing the information, you are demonstrating that thought processing has taken place; in other words, you have thought about the information and have understood what you have read. Paraphrasing allows you to:

  • Demonstrate that you understand what you have read and that you can apply this knowledge.
  • Better maintain your personal style and the smooth flow of your essay.

Examples of Paraphrasing

Which of the following extracts is an example of unacceptable paraphrasing, and which demonstrates acceptable paraphrasing and referencing? In this example (Epigeum 2011), the Harvard system has been used.

Example: The influence of Karl Marx

First, here is the original extract, taken from the book, Marx and Marxism, by Peter Worsley.

Karl Marx has probably affected the course of twentieth-century history more than any other single thinker. Because of this, his ideas have generated a vast output of writings, ranging from texts written by revolutionaries aimed at telling people how to do revolution - how to carry on Marx's work of demolishing capitalism and creating a new socialist society - to the many hundreds of volumes dedicated to proving that Marx was wrong about practically everything.

Here's what two students wrote in their dissertations. Which, if either, is acceptable?

Karl Marx, the inspiration for revolutionary activity in many countries, has probably affected the course of 20C history more than almost any other thinker. Because of this, his ideas have generated a vast output of writings, ranging from books written about revolution - how to demolish capitalism and create a new socialist society - to books dedicated to proving that Marx was wrong about practically everything.

Reference: Worsley, P., 2002. Marx and Marxism. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Worsley (2002) suggests that Karl Marx has had a significant impact on the course of twentieth-century history. He argues that Marx's ideas have led to a great deal of writing, across a spectrum from promoting his call for revolution to trying to show he was wrong in his analysis and predictions.

Reference: Worsley, P., 2002. Marx and Marxism. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Which is acceptable?

Paraphrase or use quotations?

It is preferable that you paraphrase (put ideas in your own words) as too many quotations (using the exact words) can lead to a poorly written assignment. A general rule in academic circles is that no more than 10% of an assignment should be in the form of direct quotations.

No matter whether you use quotations or paraphrase another’s words, you always need to give references — both in the text and in the reference list.

The Library, Limerick Institute of Technology