Summary vs. Paraphrase
|A brief restatement, in your own words, of the content of a passage, focusing on the central idea(s). (The central idea of a passage is often found in the topic sentence of a paragraph or in the thesis statement of an essay.)||A precise restatement, in your own words, of the written or spoken words of someone else. A paraphrase can also be thought of as a "clarification" of a "translation" of a complex or difficult passage.|
|A summary is in your own words, but some key words may not be able to be changed. However, a summary can contain brief quotations of significant language.||A paraphrase is in your own words, but you must change both the words and the sentence structures of the original passage. In addition, a paraphrase can contain brief quotations of significant language.|
|A summary does not distort the meaning of the original passage.||A paraphrase does not distort the meaning of the original passage.|
|A summary can be selective. You can omit ideas that do not pertain to your purpose for summarizing as long as the omission is not a distortion of the meaning.||A paraphrase is specific and should not be selective. Since a paraphrase normally deals with a very specific portion of a text, the paraphrase should include all the elements of that portion.|
|A summary is much shorter than the original passage.||A paraphrase is roughly the same length, and even sometimes a bit longer, than the original passage.|
A (Poor) Example
The cowbird, as well as other species of birds, lays its eggs in another bird's nest and thus avoids hatching and raising its own young.
Cowbirds do not hatch or raise their own young.
Certain birds, including the cowbird, do not hatch and raise their own offspring but rather pass on these responsibilities by laying their eggs in other birds' nests.