Academic Writing for International Students of Science - Jane Bottomley 2015
7.3 Strategies for paraphrase and summary
7 Referring to sources: paraphrase, refer-encing, criticality and the issue of plagiarism
If you attempt to paraphrase or summarise with the text in front of you all the time, it can lead to the problematic ’word changing’ approach discussed in 7.1.2. Instead, use some of the methods outlined in the study box.
Study Box: Strategies for paraphrase and summary
Take notes, but make sure you are expressing them and arranging them in a way that reflects your own thought processes.
Use the notes to flesh out your own outline/argument, rather than just listing the thoughts of others. 2.1.1 on planning
2) ’Free writing’
Read a whole section on an idea, theory, method etc., then sit at your computer and attempt to summarise the main points ’freestyle’, i.e. quickly, without stopping or consulting the literature.
This will allow you to work through your own understanding of what you have read.
When you have finished, you can go back to the original to check both your general understanding, and particular facts and figures.
3) Synthesis ( 7.4)
Create a diagram or table with headings representing the main points you expect to be covered in the literature, and add the different facts, comments, points of view or evidence from each source as you read (with references), in your own words as far as possible.
Use the diagram/table to synthesise what you have read (i.e. note which sources contain the same information, ideas or opinions, or in which respects the sources differ). This provides a general, rounded view of the literature with the focus on different points and issues rather than on individual studies or writers (though the latter may also sometimes be appropriate).
This approach can help you to organise your work in an interesting way.
Practice (i): Paraphrasing scientific facts
1) Read the text and complete the student’s notes which follow.
Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modelling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.
At the nanoscale, the physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials differ in fundamental and valuable ways from the properties of individual atoms or molecules, or bulk matter. Nanotechnology R&D (research and development) is directed toward understanding and creating improved materials, devices, and systems that exploit these new properties.
One area of nanotechnology R&D is medicine. Medical researchers work at micro- and nanoscales to develop new drug delivery methods, therapeutics and pharmaceuticals. To provide some perspective, the diameter of DNA, our genetic material, is in the 2.5 nanometer range, while red blood cells are approximately 2.5 micrometers.
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
(Adapted from Nanotechnology Initiative, What is nanotechnology?)
Nanotechnology — notes (Nanotechnology Initiative, What is nanotechnology? http://www.nano.gov/html/facts/whatIsNano.html)
Definition of nanotechnology:
✵ ’understanding and 1) ___________’ of materials at the nanoscale, i.e. at approximately 2)___________ nanometres
✵ 1 nanometre = one billionth of a 3)___________
✵ sheer scale understood if we consider the dimensions of a sheet of paper -approximately 100,000 nanometres in 4)___________
Properties of nanomaterials:
✵ scale determines 5)___________ of materials — at the nanoscale, physical, 6)___________ and biological properties of materials differ from those of atoms, molecules and materials in 7)___________
Applications of nanomaterials:
✵ goal of nanotechnology — exploit these properties and enable 8)___________ applications
✵ e.g. medicine; new developments at the nanoscale, at the level of 9)___________, diameter of which = approximately 2.5 nanometres — e.g. medicine — researchers working at micro- and nano-scales to develop new drug delivery methods, therapeutics and pharmaceuticals.
2) Now use the notes to write a concise paraphrase.
Model Text 7, Appendix 4
Practice (ii): Reporting Research
1) Paraphrase the text below using some of the reporting verbs and expressions given: acknowledge; draw attention to the fact that; according to; conclude that; note
Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions for that year slowed down to 1.1%, which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade. This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving.
(PBL Netherlands Environmental Agency, Trends in global CO2 emissions, 2013)
Model Text 8, Appendix 4
2) Paraphrase the information without direct reference to the authors.
Model Text 8, Appendix 4
Practice (iii): Conveying argument
Paraphrase the text below using some of the reporting verbs and expressions given:
argue that; emphasise; explain; according to; attach great importance to; make the connection between; underline the significance of
The principle instrument of the transition from alchemy to chemistry was the balance. The ability to weigh things precisely put into humanity’s hands the potential to attach numbers to matter. The significance of the achievement should not go by unremarked, for it is in fact quite extraordinary that meaningful numbers can be attached to air, water, gold, and every other kind of matter. Thus, through the attachment of numbers, the study of matter and the transformations that it can undergo (the current scope of chemistry) was brought into the domain of the physical sciences, where qualitative concepts can be rendered quantitatively and tested rigorously against the theories that surround and illuminate them.
(Atkins, 2013: 2)
Model Text 9, Appendix 4