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Guidelines and Examples on How to Cite a Paraphrase in MLA and APA

Intellectual rights and author rights in particular are keenly respected in the US – this is a crucial prerequisite for establishment of normal relationships in various fields: science, education, society, businesses focused on intellectual property (publication of books), mass media, and many industries working with verbal or written communication. It can be argued, that in the information society we witness nowadays, being able to correctly cite and attribute data is of paramount importance.

Referencing written works is not an exception but a must. Each citation style has its own strict rules with regard to citing quotes or paraphrasing. Below we explore in greater detail how to cite a paraphrase correctly in two most popular styles in US academic institutions (APA vs MLA) and provide handy tips for achieving this.

How to Cite a Paraphrase

Definition and Purpose

Definition of paraphrasing as listed by general-purpose English dictionaries is using your own words to express an idea, thought, or piece of information read or heard somewhere else. Alternatively, it can be defined as simply expressing meaning of some written or spoken material by incorporating different words or sequences of words than those found in original piece (reformulating).

In the context of source citing, paraphrasing is defined as a way of using text in your writing without directly quoting it but by still indicating where exactly or who exactly you borrowed this date from.

Direct quoting source material follows much stricter rules and often forces one to carry lots of unnecessary data in order to convey minute detail. Trying to deliver a complex message just quoting can easily turn into a nightmare, hence quoting is reserved for just a few special occasions for added effect.

Paraphrasing is typically more efficient and frequent – purpose is to focus closely on certain aspects and to recombine pieces of information as desired in order to achieve satisfying information density and to convey only carefully selected or processed data. In addition, paraphrasing citations are much easier to integrate in your text compared to quotes. They are very much like summaries, however, they are typically not as concise.

Tips for Effective Paraphrasing and Avoiding Plagiarism

There are a number of useful tips worth considering:

  • to avoid very similar rewordings, try first extracting key points from the text, then expanding these points in your own words and not looking at the original text. Once done, always compare your result with the original to eliminate accidental similarities that could be regarded as plagiarism. Check our free paraphrasing tool and cite with ease.
  • do not use quotation marks – but if you happen to reuse longer sequence of text exactly as it appears in original work direct quotes incorporated in paraphrases, then put quotation marks for delimiting this fragment and provide page numbers.
  • don’t copy an author’s wording or even style – doing so might count as plagiarism even if it’s cited provided. Style of paraphrase citation should match that of paper.
  • simply replacing synonyms or adding or deleting incidental or optional words isn’t an option – this still counts as plagiarism, even if it might not be picked by plagiarism detection tool. Hence, more complex reformulation methods should be implemented in combination. Such methods for reformulating phrases include: changing sentence structure, synonyms or similar words, breaking original sentences into multiple ones or merging multiple sentences, starting sentences differently as compared to original ones.
  • never change original meaning in texts you are working with – although this is not plagiarism, it breaks other important academic honesty norms correctly conveying material.
  • cite all sources and materials that are not your own words to avoid plagiarism accusations.

Create citations to avoid plagiarism

Read also: Did I plagiarize? How to understand this?

APA Paraphrase Citation with Correct and Wrong Examples

The format of an associated paraphrase citation differs across various styles. Thus, an APA paraphrase follows author-date format, without indicating page numbers, they are only indicated for direct quotes.

There are two ways of delivering such in-text citations. Parenthetical paraphrasing is one in which information about source, author’s family name followed by publication year, separated by comma, is indicated at the end of sentence, in parentheses. This differs from an in-text citation which incorporates author’s name into sentence itself, the year still goes in parentheses.

Read also: Comma Between Month and Year: Main Features

Below is text treated as an original fragment supposedly written by author Smith in 1992, analyzing philosophy works (page 43):

Aristotle defines a function as the appropriate natural activity of an organism. By analogy with how the function of an acorn is to become an oak tree, Aristotle sees the characteristic/ unique function of human beings represented by reasoning. By contrast, nutrition, growth, or simply living is shared with all other beings including plants, while sensory perception, for instance, is shared with animals, hence, these cannot represent human functions given that they are not unique to humans. Importantly, it is specified that the reasoning must be an active one. Simple possession of reasoning abilities is not enough – these must be applied in practice.

Correct variant:

According to Smith, a function is defined by Aristotle as the natural activity exhibited by living beings (1992). For instance, growth, living, nutrition and sensory perception are shared with other living beings (plants, animals), hence, none can represent the human one. The latter in philosopher’s view is reasoning which is characteristic to humans alone but it can be considered valid/present only when actively applied (Smith, 1992).

Incorrect variant – exact long sequences were reused unaltered without any quotation marks, some sentences are reused after adding, removing, or substituting only few words (this counts as plagiarism):

Aristotle gives a definition of function as an organism’s natural undertaking (Smith, 1992). Similarly, with how purpose of an acorn is to grow into tree, he sees reasoning as characteristic purpose of people. Because growth, nutrition or simply living is common among other beings including plants, while perception is shared with animals, these cannot represent person ones because they are not unique.

How to Cite a Paraphrase in MLA with Correct and Wrong Examples

MLA style citation is more precise than APA in locating information utilized, since page number is indicated not only for direct quotes but also for any paraphrase. Thus, for parenthetical citation, one would have to name the author, in particular, family name, along with a page # (without any comma in-between), while for in-text citations, family names are mentioned inside sentences, while pages – in parentheses as MLA follows an author-page format.

Below are examples of how to cite paraphrasing correctly and incorrectly in MLA with the same original paragraph provided earlier.


A function, in Aristotle’s view, is the natural role performed by an organism (Smith 43). For an acorn, it is becoming an oak tree, while for humans, it is reasoning. Indeed, unlike living, eating, growing, and other, reasoning is uniquely distinguishing humans from all other living creatures.

Incorrect – there are big mistakes here in conveying author’s message:

Aristotle explains function as main undertaking of an organism (Smith 43). Thus, an acorn's purpose is to become tree, while person's one is to reason. Operations like nutrition, growth, living, or perceptions cannot be for people because they are less complex/advanced than reasoning.

We hope that these examples of MLA and APA paraphrase citation will be of a great use for your. In case you need to cite a paraphrase in other formats, check our ASA, APA, Chicago or IEEE format citation generator.

Legit Paraphrasing and Writing Help

Learning how to quote a paraphrase is a skill of paramount importance since it’s chief method through which information from external sources is cited within written works. In fact, following academic honesty standards, one needs to cite virtually all data that cannot be qualified as common knowledge or personal experience/ reflections (research papers contain a minimum of these two).

When contracting our professional writing service, who always answers to your request "write my annotated bibliography", you can rest assured that academic honesty is strictly prioritized and that paraphrasing and citations are done following corresponding rules by conveying information with high fidelity and avoiding plagiarism. Proper attention is given to all other aspects of researching writing.

Note also that with us, you can freely choose your preferred writers transparently judging by their previous performance and bidding prices. You’ll be able to guide writers throughout the process, receive drafts and monitor project progress, but also to revise final submissions as many times as needed for free until satisfied with results. All these are benefits we highly praise and that put us in a good light when compared to our competing services on the US market. Don’t hesitate to convince yourself about it by placing an order!

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