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Integrating Technical Writing

Paraphrasing Technical Writing

Quotes utilize the words and sentence structure of the original author, and it is likely to differ from the words or style of writing that you use. Inserting quotations then takes away from the writing style and flow of your written work; hence, we often try to use limited quotations. Paraphrasing allows you to incorporate the original material while keeping the integrity of your style of writing.

Paraphrasing is an important aspect to writing ; however, it can also present some challenges when you are required to paraphrase sources that utilize highly technical language and writing.

Some issues students face with technical writing include:

  1. unfamiliar concepts,
  2. unique or unconventional written styles,
  3. language barriers, and
  4. differences in level of expertise.

Roig (2015) states as a guideline to paraphrasing in technical writing that

[i]n order to be able to make the types of substantial modifications to the original text that result in a proper paraphrase, one must have a thorough command of the language and a good understanding of the ideas and terminology being used. (para. 4)

To begin paraphrasing technical writing, you need to understand what the original source is telling you. If you are not familiar with what the source is telling you, it will be extremely difficult to paraphrase and include the relevant information. Moreover, you will find it challenging to create a new sentence written in your own words that expresses the original message.

Because of the issues understanding technical writing, it is important to be cautious of how you paraphrase. One aspect to paraphrasing is using synonyms of the source materials’ terminology. However, the synonyms you choose can change the meaning of your text, resulting in you no longer conveying the same information as the original source. This is a common issue when paraphrasing technical writing pieces within various disciplines (i.e., medical, engineering, humanities, etc.).

In many cases, you will not be able change phrases or terms because it will change the original meaning of the source. These phrases and terms are known as shared language for the discipline or genre you are writing in. Examples of shared language include:

  1. Conventional designations
  2. Preferred bias-free language, and
  3. Technical terms and phrases of a discipline or genre (University of Wisconsin – Madison, n.d.).

In these situations, using the shared language does not constitute as plagiarism. Finally, your paraphrases that use the shared language need to have a different sentence structure than the source material. When the sentence structure is similar to the source either word-for-word or borrow patches of their work, it is plagiarism.

How to Paraphrase Effectively

In order to make paraphrasing easier, use these steps to help change your research notes into paraphrases of the source material:

Take notes from the source material, but do not copy the passage word-for-word. Only copy verbatim if you plan to directly quote this information.

  1. Your notes should summarize the ideas of the author’s work in your own words.
  2. Bullet point the main ideas in a way that make sense to you while capturing the author’s main idea.
  3. Record any of the main terms that you can not change from the source material, such as chemical names, acronyms, coined terms, programs, and so on.
  4. Take the time to understand the source material and what it is discussing.
  5. Provide references in your notes that direct you to where you got the information, such as author names and page numbers. This will be helpful for creating your in-text citation and reference page.
  6. Use your notes as the basis for your paraphrases. This can be done by changing your personal bullet point notes into full sentences.
  7. Give the necessary reference behind any paraphrased sentence.
  8. Refer back to the original source after you have written your paraphrase to ensure you have correctly portrayed the information, changed the sentence structure, and used your own words.

 When you are writing your paraphrases, you should also remember:

  1. To reference the original source.
  2. Not to just use synonyms, but examine the information.
  3. To include the necessary details from the source material, but you do not need it all.
  4. To keep the necessary terminology of the field.
  5. Not to rely on software to paraphrase for you. The software will not know the original ideas that are necessary to keep.

When to Quote Technical Language and Not Paraphrase

When writing, you will have to determine when it is better to quote the technical writing over paraphrasing it. Examples include:

  1. Exact statistics or data
  2. Technical or specific definitions


Plotnick, J. (n.d.). Paraphrase and Summary. University of Toronto: Writing Advice.

Roig, M. (2015). Paraphrasing highly-technical language. In Avoiding plagiarism, Self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing. Office of Research Integrity.

The University of Arizona, Global Campus. (n.d.). Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing. Writing Centre. Retrieved on July 29, 2022 from

University of Wisconsin – Madison. (n.d.) Quoting and Paraphrasing. The Writing Centre.