IATEFL 2015 “EAP writing: teaching strategies for effective paraphrasing” – Tina Kuzic

My first non-plenary talk for the main IATEFL conference (plenty of PCE talks yesterday!) and it’s about EAP. Hopefully it will help me to help my students this summer…

Why paraphrasing?

Because it is such an important part of academic writing. Writing in general is the most challenging thing to teach nowadays, especially with learners who are part of the digital generation, and especially in terms of motivation. For academic integrity, paraphrasing is key.

Tina’s courses

EGAP and ESAP (for psychology) both are in-sessional and obligatory. The average level is B2 when it comes to speaking. However, for writing, the level is a bit lower; especially for formal writing. At secondary school, students only write essays so they don’t get any training in formal writing. The focus of Tina’s courses is study skills, strategies for reading, writing for academic purposes.

Plagiarism, and preventing it, is very important and one of the tasks that we as EAP teachers have to address. Students are often not aware that they have plagiarised, they lack training in this context.

Task 1

For the introductory class, Tina refers to students’ previous knowledge – what they think or know about a given thing. Start with a set of questions.

So, for paraphrasing:

  • what is a paraphrase?
  • what does paraphrasing involve?
  • do we paraphrase in every day life?
  • why is paraphrasing important for students at university?

Extension: defining terms such as quoting, citing, summarising, referencing

Students may not be familiar with all the terminology.

You could also start with a conversation, a paraphrased conversation, a written summary paragraph of it and get them to notice the differences. Or, give them a quote and a paraphrase, get them to identify the differences.


Task 2: Identifying paraphrasing strategies

An original and a paraphrased sentence is given to the students and they are given time to read each. Students asked to find examples of the rewriting and asked what happens in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Once more familiar, they could look at paragraphs, as per the task we were given.

  • The first sentence is a summary of the main idea of the text, used as a topic sentence.
  • Move from paraphrasing details to summarising main ideas.
  • Use different parts of speech
  • Use different structures e.g. active vs passive
  • Synonyms
  • changing the subject
  • moving parts of sentences
  • combining short sentences
  • dividing long sentences
  • synthesising sources

Paraphrasing uses a mixture of these.

Provide students with a list of these strategies, then go back to the sentence/paragraph and look for the strategies not previously identified.

Task 3:

Give them one original paragraph and a few sample paraphrases of the paragraph. Read them and identify whether they are acceptable or not. Why/why not? (Using sample students’ writing – from beginning to end of a semester)



Paraphrase 1

  • Following the same pattern as the paragraph e.g. take the first sentence and change it slightly, then the second etc. is not acceptable
  • The main idea has been lost.
  • Too many identical chunks of language copied from the paragraph. Too much is directly lifted.

Paraphrase 2

  • A key term is ‘psychology’ for example – you can’t paraphrase it. But if it isn’t the keyword, you have to change it somehow. Or e.g. non-verbal behaviour, in this case.
  • Not plagiarised but not accurate either. Original: it may be that… Paraphrase: “it is assumed that…” not the same meaning. Need to keep the original message.
  • This person also follows the same pattern of the paragraph.
  • Parts of this have been paraphrased successfully but not acceptable over all.

Paraphrase 3

  • Acceptable

Paraphrase 4

  • The sentence lengths are too short.
  • Coherence and cohesion are also part of paraphrasing.
  • The language is not hedged enough.
  • Informality can be a problem.

Something to consider: What about where the source is acknowledged? At the end. But where does it start? We need to introduce also reporting verbs.

Task 4

  • Introducing paraphrases and quotes
  • The importance of reporting verbs
  • Tentativeness
  • Tenses

Start with a few sentences always with “write” e.g. the author wrote etc, ask ss to read the sentences, identify the verbs and think of other verbs that could be used instead of “wrote”/”has written”. There are many verbs we can use, some stronger, some more tentative.

Give ss sentences with such verbs used and get them to identify these and the tense. I.e. present simple. -> Present simple for current relevance. -> Referring to specific research may be past simple tense.

Get ss to match reporting verbs with their meaning. E.g. argue isn’t about fighting but about putting forward reasoning for your ideas.

Give ss sentences and get them to identify which reporting verbs could be used with each one. (E.g. no. 3 – Seal presents, Seal describes etc.)

Encourage students to use more tentative verbs e.g. challenges/questions/disagrees vs accuses/attacks/dismisses


Task 5

Get students to write an acceptable paraphrase!

Encourage students to use mind-maps to organise the information visually. For identifying the key terms. From this they think about the who, what, why, make notes. They then use this when they write their paraphrase. So that they are not looking at the original and thus are not tempted to lift too much/pattern it the same way etc.

Great workshop – really useful for ideas for how to work with my ss on their paraphrasing over the summer. A most excellent start to the main conference, for me. 🙂



4 thoughts on “IATEFL 2015 “EAP writing: teaching strategies for effective paraphrasing” – Tina Kuzic

  1. Pingback: IATEFL 2015: All my posts indexed! | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

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