How to Paraphrase Statistical Data?

Paraphrasing is one of the most difficult yet equally useful skills you are going to have to learn when writing academic papers. Using statistics in your papers can immensely strengthen your argument. However, many students ask, “how can I paraphrase a bunch of numbers?”

For this reason, students use direct quotations when they want to incorporate statistical data into their papers. But it’s possible to use paraphrasing to include statistics on your paper instead of quotation.

In this article, we will answer the question of how to paraphrase statistical data the best we can to help you to write.

What is Paraphrasing?

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The idea of paraphrasing is to translate someone else’s ideas into your own. Paraphrasing a source requires changing the wording while preserving the original meaning.

The most successful paraphrase is your own explanation or interpretation of another person’s ideas. Paraphrasing is an effective method for restating, condensing, or clarifying another author’s ideas and providing credibility to your own argument.

Successful paraphrasing is critical for strong academic writing, and unintentional plagiarism can result from a failed one. 

Paraphrasing substitutes quoting. Quoting is easier to do; however, paraphrasing is preferred in academic writing because it allows the writer to express opinions in their own words.

Paraphrased material MUST be cited. Paraphrasing means that you are reciting the same information in your own words, but you must give credit to the original source.

Paraphrases should always include both the author and the year. You can do this through parenthetical citation or using footnotes. The citation method you use will change according to the style your instructor asks of you.

It is standard to quote in lower levels of academic writing, but at the college level, quoting directly should be done sparingly. A paper may contain only one or two direct quotes (or even zero) along with paraphrased information.

How to Paraphrase Statistical Data?

Using statistics is often a smart idea since they provide specific evidence to support your ideas, but paraphrasing statistics can present its own challenges.

It might seem difficult to paraphrase something such as “43%” in their papers. After all, the number 43 doesn’t have a synonym, so what would you have to write to paraphrase this data?

When paraphrasing, you combine your own sentence structure with your own vocabulary. Paraphrasing is only about using your own vocabulary, so you can’t use “43%”. 

As long as you use your own sentence structure, you can use the statistic without having to rephrase it.

Let’s look at an example. 

  • 65% of new restaurants close in their first year.

We could paraphrase this like this:

  • Over 60% of newly opened restaurants have to close their doors in the first 12 months.

In this paraphrase, the quote’s statistic is rephrased to reflect the original but given a different frame. When you don’t have sufficient information to rephrase a statistic, this won’t work, so make sure you use this approach judiciously.

If there are multiple statistics in a sentence, think about which statistic is important. What main idea do you intend to present with the statistic? Choose the most important one and paraphrase the statistic that matters.

Finally, you might quote the statistic partially if all else fails. Students usually try the other methods described above before trying this. However, there may be times when quoting a statistic ensures that your writing is accurate and clear.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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