As I ended the topic about expanding a point considerably to form an effective paragraph with cause/effect relations, it would be good to go on with a variety of expressions to mean the same (similar) thing.
This is highly relevant to the concept of paraphrasing, since our common perception of it is “changing the vocabulary” and “meaning the same thing in your own words”.
Paraphrasing, like summarising, is one of the essential skills students should master for using external references and polishing up their writing.
But is merely using other words “paraphrasing”? What does it mean by “in your own words”?
My advice to student on paraphrasing is: it’s more important to change the sentence and grammatical structures than merely using different vocab. I recommend that they start from making clear the logical relationships among sentences or clauses before moving on.
The main logical relations in English can be summed up quite neatly with the seven coordinating conjunctions — “FANBOYS” — an acronym you can find in many English learning websites, standing for:
These conjunctions are more commonly used to link phrases than clauses in formal writing. So we have to look at meanings similar to those of the conjunctions, and think about how we can convert them into different grammatical forms (e.g. for-because-to cause-the cause). With a change in the grammatical form of the logical meaning, the sentence structure will also change.
After this, we can then consider doing more for paraphrasing the rest of the components of the sentence, such as changing the voice of the verb (active/passive), finding synonyms, etc.
In the following, I start from figuring out the alternative forms of “for”, stating reasons/causes. I tend not to change other things, but you will see that changing the grammatical form of logical meaning will “push” other meanings to change.
Let us first consider the first relation: for that signals reason, commonly in spoken texts:
She got sick for she had eaten spoiled food.
The clause following the conjunction “for” illustrates the reason behind the meaning in the first clause. A more common conjunction to connect clauses in both speaking and writing in this sense is because, since, as:
She got sick since she had eaten spoiled food.
Meanwhile, we can play with the “weight” of the clauses with phrase connectors such as because of, due to, owing to, etc. You can see that after due to I have to change the structure of the second clause into a noun phrase.
Due to her eating spoiled food, she got sick.
Pushing this further is packing everything within one sentence, with a verb that indicates the cause, or “nominalise” it with, obviously, the cause:
1. Her consumption of contaminated food caused her sickness.
2. The cause of her sickness was her consumption of contaminated food.
In theory, all logical relations can be rewritten in at least four ways before one considers “changing the vocab”:
- Independent-(in)dependent clause
- Phrase-independent clause
- Noun phrase-“logical” verb-noun phrase
- “Logical” noun phrase-linking verb-noun phrase
By “in theory” I mean one or two conjunctions don’t have good grammatical alternatives for paraphrasing, or changing them can look awkward. I take out nor in this case. I’ll also comment on some forms that look awkward. Those forms can possibly be used in writing, but for clarity, I’d recommend that you use those I didn’t mark as “awkward”.
Public transportation is convenient, and it is cost-effective.
- Public transportation is convenient; additionally, it is cost-effective.
- In addition to convenience, public transportation is cost-effective.
- Cost-effectiveness adds to the convenience of public transportation.
- Adding to the convenience of public transportation is cost-effectiveness.
(I leave the meaning of “concession” with “yet”)
Power is not determined by technological form but is “mediated by its use” (Matthewman, 2011, p. 88).
- Power is not determined by technological form; instead, it is “mediated by its use” (Matthewman, 2011, p. 88).
- Instead of being determined by technical form, power is “mediated by its use” (Matthewman, 2011, p. 88)
- The idea of power being determined by technical form is replaced by that “mediated by its use” (Matthewman, 2011, p. 88). (A bit awkward)
- Replacing the idea of power being determined by technical form is that “mediated by its use” (Matthewman, 2011, p. 88). (Also awkward)
Guided tours of the Cathedral take place the first Sunday of every month, or visitors can go to the Cathedral with a self-guide booklet that can be picked up inside. (Example taken from IFG4, slightly edited)
- Guided tours of the Cathedral take place the first Sunday of every month; alternatively, visitors can go to the Cathedral with a self-guide booklet that can be picked up inside.
- While guided tours of the Cathedral take place the first Sunday of every month, visitors can go to the Cathedral with a self-guide booklet that can be picked up inside.
- I cannot find a verb that “translates” the meaning of “or” without awkwardness.
- An alternative to joining the Cathedral guided tours on the first Sunday each month is visiting the Cathedral with a self-guide booklet available inside.
The prototype and feasibility study used de-identified data, yet any live version of the PRM would be mining administrative records from the whole population in real time (Ballantyne, 2019, p. 21, bolded word mine).
- Although the prototype and feasibility study used de-identified data, any live version of the PRM would be mining administrative records from the whole population in real time.
- Despite the use of de-identified data in the prototype and feasibility study, administrative records would be mined from the whole population from any live version of the PRM in real time.
- The real-time collection of administrative records from every citizen by any PRM live version contradicts the principle of using de-identified data in the prototype and feasibility study. (Awkward)
- Contradicting the principle of… study is the real-time collection… (Really awkward).
Using the same example from “for”: She ate spoiled food so she got sick.
- She ate spoiled food; therefore, she got sick.
- She got sick as a result of eating spoiled food.
- Her consuming contaminated food results in her sickness.
- The consequence of consuming contaminated food is her getting sick. (Quite awkward, but possible)
Sorting out the logical relations is just the first step of paraphrasing. It is, however, important because re-grammaticalising the logical meaning in the paraphrase causes changes in other parts of the sentence. Particularly, in cases of (1) and (2), involving independent-dependent clauses and phrase-main clauses, we can reprioritise meanings in terms of significance:
What is regarded as the key message of the sentence is put in the main (independent) clause.
Similarly, paraphrasing also allows us to reorganise the message in terms of prominence. In the concept of “theme-rheme” patterning, the information considered to be prominent would be put in the Subject position; the new(sworthy) information would form the rest of the sentence, from the verb to the object/complement.
This is to say, paraphrasing helps us think carefully how meaning is to be linked logically and textually when we cite sources or edit our drafts as one of the ways to maintain coherence (logic) and cohesion (texture).
There’ll be lots to talk about regarding paraphrasing, cohesion and coherence, but I’ll stop here for the time being (and for the sake of your eyes).
[…] changing a few words with synonyms DO NOT count as paraphrasing. (Solution: in an earlier post I mentioned about paraphrasing through changing the grammar/ sentence structure. Do the […]
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