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Word-level paraphrasing

Word-level paraphrasing

This level of paraphrasing results in a paraphrase that resembles the source text very closely. It is a form of paraphrasing that many EAL learners employ when they are unfamiliar with the key words or ideas about which they are writing. It has been described in the literature as 'patchwriting'. Howard (1993) defines patchwriting as "copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures or plugging in one-for-one synonym-substitutes" (p. 233).

Therefore, word-level paraphrasing alone will NOT make your paraphrase acceptable. However, paraphrasing requires a vocabulary base in order to exchange words for others with a similar meaning, so it is useful to practise rephrasing at this level to get into the habit of looking for, and using, new and different words.

But, how many words can be retained and how many words must be changed? Here is a useful guideline:

"[Using] more than three key words [consecutively in the same sentence] is plagiarism."


We will practise three word-level rephrasing techniques:

  • using synonyms (substituting the original words with other words or phrases with similar meaning)
  • using word families (changing verbs to nouns and nouns to adjectives).
  • thinking about collocations or 'word partners' (looking at how a word co-occurs frequently with other words)

Consult a thesaurus often, but also check in a dictionary to see how the word is used in a sentence. Simply taking out a word and putting another one in its place will NOT do. In English, words have to be correctly used with other words in the sentence.

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