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Take notes and collect information from a variety of sources before you begin working on your final project. This is important for two reasons:

  1. You will gain a better understanding on your topic
  2. You will avoid unintentional plagiarism


Paraphrasing is your way of explaining the key information you have learned, whether from something you read, a documentary video, a teacher's lecture, or another source. Paraphrasing is more detailed than summarizing.


Paraphrasing is often described as putting important information "in your own words." 

  • "In your own words" does not mean copying someone else's work and trading out a few words with synonyms.
  • "In your own words" does mean how you might explain a new idea to a classmate or teacher when they ask about what you have read.

(Tip: if you discover that you have difficulty explaining what you have read, you probably need to either re-read the information or find another source that explains the information more clearly.)

More information on paraphrasing from Purdue OWL.


Summarizing is restating the main ideas in as few words as possible.

A good strategy for summarizing, as opposed to paraphrasing or restating is Somebody Wanted But So:

  • SOMEBODY: Write down an important person or group.
  • WANTED: State a problem they faced or their motivation.
  • BUT: Explain some forces that worked against them.
  • SO: Explain the result.

For example, here is an excerpt from the Britannica article on Alexander Hamilton:


"John Adams was elected president in 1796, and in the election of 1800 Thomas Jefferson ran against him, with Aaron Burr as Jefferson’s vice presidential running mate. Jefferson and Burr won, but the two received an equal number of electoral votes; under the electoral procedures of the time, the electors had cast their votes for the pair without indicating which should be president and which vice president. The House of Representatives had to break the tie. Hamilton distrusted Burr. He also knew that the voters wanted Jefferson to be president. Therefore, he temporarily abandoned his feud with Jefferson and swung the Federalist majority in Jefferson’s favor. Then, in 1804, Hamilton further alienated Burr by using his influence to prevent Burr from being elected governor of New York.


Burr, infuriated, challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton reluctantly accepted. Early in the morning of July 11, 1804, Hamilton and Burr faced each other at Weehawken on the New Jersey shore of the Hudson River, opposite New York City. The first shot mortally wounded Hamilton, and he died the next day."


Somebody: Aaron Burr

Wanted: To become president, then governor

But: Alexander Hamilton used his influence to prevent this.

So: They dueled, and Burr killed Hamilton.


Or, alternatively:


Somebody: Alexander Hamilton

Wanted: To prevent Aaron Burr from gaining political office.

But: This infuriated Burr.

So: Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel and Hamilton died from his injuries.

How Note-Taking Helps You Learn and Organize

Write It Down

Ms. Elizabeth Gartley | Daniel F. Mahoney Middle School | 240 Ocean Street | South Portland, Maine | 04106 | Tel: 207-799-7386