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Reference & Citation in Writing
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This resource provides a list of key concepts, words, and phrases that multi-lingual writers may find useful if they are new to writing in the North American educational context. It covers concepts and and key words pertaining to the stages in the writing process, style, citation and reference, and other common expressions in academic writing
When your professors or instructors say you need to give reference to some work that you used in your paper, it means that you should indicate where you got the work or information from. There are a variety of ways to write references such as APA style, MLA style, and Chicago style. Your professors or instructors will want you to use one of these styles to write references at the end of your paper. When readers read your paper, they should be able to know where you the sources have come from.
You will often hear that you need to cite your work from your professors and instructors. This means that you should indicate where the information that you're using came from. For example, when you want to use some words or phrases from some websites or books, you should let the readers know what kind of sources you used, who created the source, and when the source was created. Basically, you are giving credit to the authors of the source that you used in your paper.
Plagiarizing means that you have taken information, ideas, or phrasing from a source and then used them in your own text without mentioning anything about the author who originally created your sources. In a way, you are stealing something from people without telling the people who had created the original source. For more information on plagiarism, click here .
When you summarize, you find the main points of the original text and compose a shorter version of the original text. A summary should be able to tell the readers what the original text is about and who the author is. You may use summaries to review some materials about a topic or support your ideas. For more information on writing summaries, click here .
Paraphrase means that you take some words or sentences from your sources, and put them in your own words. You still need to mention the original author of the words and sentences by appropriate citation style (APA, MLA). You paraphrase words or sentences by changing them to different words, or sentence structures without changing the original meaning. For more information on writing paraphrases, click here .
In-text means in a body of text that you have composed. In-text citation means that you cite the sources that you use in your words, sentences, and paragraphs in the actual body of your essay. Whatever you are using outside information your text, you should cite the sources that you are using in-text. For example
Quote means that you take a word, phrase, or sentence(s) directly or indirectly from the person who originally created that word or phrase or sentences. You then place these inside of quotation marks with an in-text citation.
Direct quote means that you take a word, phrase, sentence directly from the person who created that word, phrase, sentence. You then place this inside of quotation marks with an in-text citation.
Indirect quote means that you take a word, phrase, sentence from the person who created that word and put them in your own words. When you use them in your text, you must use them with an in-text citation. In this case, you do not need quotation marks around the word, phrase, or sentence. You should still put in-text citation.
Block quote means that you take a paragraph or two from the original source and put them in your text with citation. In a block quote, you do not need quotation mark. Usually, if the quote has more than 40 words, you should take it as a block quote.
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There are programs in addition to EndNote that do the same functions and are open source and cross-platform usable. All of the programs can import and export data to each other relatively easily, so find the one that works best for you, but if you find a need to change it will not be a problem.
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The Writing Lab and the Online Writing Lab are excellent resources to assist all students. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) has APA format information, both for document formatting and reference formatting. The Writing Lab is located in Heavilon Hall, Room 226 and is available for one-on-one 30 minute consultations with tutors. The Writing Lab works with graduate and undergraduate students.
- APA Style Online guide to using APA Style from the American Psychological Association. Includes quick answers section along with a getting started tutorial.
- Purdue Global offers a comprehensive guide on the differences between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Included are suggested signal phrases for quoting. Additionally, directions for proper citation for a variety of sources, such as electronic sources and graphics are included. Further reading materials are offered.
Purdue University Libraries support the use of EndNote for citation management. EndNote Basic is the web based product and is free for Purdue students to establish an account and use. Instructions about how to establish an account from off-campus and video tutorials on how to use EndNote are all linked from the EndNote Basic guide . There are librarians which support different areas of research and their use of EndNote, a list of which can be found on the left side of the EndNote Basic guide page .
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Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing
Information adapted from: Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing. UAGC Writing Center (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/quoting-paraphrasing-summarizing.
Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing Resources
- Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Purdue OWL provides guidance on quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
- Paraphrasing- how to write it in your own words Purdue OWL provides resources on how to paraphrase.
- Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism Krause, S. D. (2016). Quoting, paraphrasing, and avoiding plagiarism. Oregon Writes Open Writing Text.
- Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing Explore 3 different ways of including the ideas of others into your assignments. University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center.
OWL Purdue: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
"Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.
Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.
Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material."
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Citation Guide: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
- APA 7th Edition
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- Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
- Tools for Managing Citations
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Samples and Exercises
- Purdue OWL Help This site includes sample passages and exercises to help you see how to quote, paraphrase, and summarize.
Citing, Quoting, Paraphrasing, and summarizing will help you to avoid plagiarism. Any quote, paraphrase, or summary needs to be accompanied by an in-text citation that identifies what work you are referring to.
Quote: (verb) To reproduce or repeat a passage from (a book, author, etc.)
Quotes are exact duplicates of text.
- if there is an error in the text, copy the error and add sic to denote that the error was in the text
- omit words through using ellipsis marks (...)
- emphasize words in quotes using italics
Remember to look at a citation style guide to see how to format block quotes and in-text quotes.
When to Quote:
It is a general rule of thumb to quote sparingly such as:
...when the writing expresses a point extremely well
...when you want to comment on the author's choice of words
Summarize: (verb) To make (or constitute) a summary of; to sum up; to state briefly or succinctly.
When you summarize you do not include detail, but rather you include the main ideas.
When to Summarize:
Summarize when there are long passages that have important main ideas.
Paraphrase: (verb) To express the meaning of (a written or spoken passage, or the words of an author or speaker) using different words
Paraphrazing is used when the detail of a passage is important, but the exact wording is not important.
Be careful not to borrow too many words from the original text. It's helpful to use synonyms.
Make sure to change the sentence structure of the original text.
When to paraphrase:
Paraphrase when the details of a section of text are important.
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Writing & Citing
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Using Sources: Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Quoting
Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting Sources
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A quotation (sometimes called a direct quotation) is when you use the exact language from a source and place that language into your own paper. This is significantly different from both paraphrase and summary, as you do not rephrase any part of the original language into your own words—in fact, it is important when directly quoting a source to be careful to exactly copy the source’s original language word for word.
- To retain the powerful, specialized, or unique language of the original
- To demonstrate authority
- To present an opposing view
If the original text is phrased in a way that is particularly powerful and paraphrasing it would be likely to weaken it, direct quotation is a good option. This is also true when the language of the original source is so special or unique that it can’t be reasonably rephrased.
Direct quotation can demonstrate that existing authoritative sources support a point you are making. It can also present an opposing view to your own for you to then discuss. It can be useful to present opposing views as direct quotes to avoid the risk of personal bias affecting the language of a paraphrase.
Why It’s Important to Limit Quotes
It is generally a good idea to limit quotes—don’t rely too heavily on them in a paper. Remember that most of your paper should be in your own words and in your own voice. It’s also a good rule of thumb to avoid using unnecessarily long quotes. If a quote is longer than a sentence or two, it is a good idea to examine whether the full quote is needed or if a summary, paraphrase, or just part of the quote would do the job you need done.
If you do find you need to use only part of a quote, it is very important to make sure that the part of the quote you are using doesn’t change the meaning of the quote. Be careful to retain the parts of the quote that accurately represent what the author was originally saying.
How Should I Organize a Quote?
Like paraphrase, quotation will only play a supporting role in your written work. Many of the guidelines for incorporating quotation into your written work will look familiar if you have already read the summary and paraphrase sections of this text, but quotation does have some special rules.
Introduce the author and original text (and potentially context), just as you would for a summary or paraphrase. Often this introduction is only an introductory phrase, in which case it would be followed by a comma and the quote would begin immediately after this phrase as part of the same sentence. Example: According to Amelia Smith, a researcher affiliated with Harvard, “[insert quote here].”
After introducing the author and text, you will deliver the quote. This is often as simple as copying and pasting the relevant material from the original text. Direct quotes need to have quotation marks (“”) around them, the first quotation mark just before the first word of the quote and the end quotation mark just after the last word of the quote.
The only exception to the requirement of quotation marks is when using a block quote. A block quote is quoted material that takes up space on four or more consecutive lines of your paper. This kind of quote has a significantly different set of formatting rules, but should also be used very sparingly because it takes up so much valuable space in your paper. If you’re interested in learning more about what block quotes do differently, have a look at the “ MLA Formatting Quotations ” article from the Purdue OWL (at owl.english.purdue.edu); scroll down a bit to find the section titled “Long Quotations”.
Include a parenthetical citation (if appropriate) at the end of the quote. (To learn how to do this correctly, see the discussion of in-text citation in “ Crediting and Citing Your Sources ,” part of the “Using Sources Correctly” section of this text.)
After delivering and citing the quote, reconnect that information to your own topic and point.
Check Your Understanding: Work with Quotation
What the reconnection component of using a quote looks like is going to vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing, your intended audience, and how you’re presenting the information to that audience. Introduction, delivery, and citation tend to look pretty similar regardless of those factors, so let’s practice those components here.
Using the same article as in the “ Paraphrasing ” section (see the section just before this one), written by Sarah Boxer and published online in The Atlantic , I’m going to quote just the third sentence of the passage we looked at in the paraphrasing activity: “Because not everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience, these works, even if their intentions and messages are democratic, tend to become exclusive affairs.”
Which of these uses of that sentence would be a correct way to use it as a quote in my own essay? There may be more than one correct answer.
- As Sarah Boxer observes in her article about Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibit, “Because not everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience, these works, even if their intentions and messages are democratic, tend to become exclusive affairs.”
- Because not everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience, these works, even if their intentions and messages are democratic, tend to become exclusive affairs (Boxer).
- Carrying these ideas into the art world, Sarah Boxer notes, “everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience…their intentions and messages are democratic.”
- One article published recently in The Atlantic addresses this directly, stating, “Because not everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience, these works, even if their intentions and messages are democratic, tend to become exclusive affairs” (Boxer).
- “Because not everyone who wants the experience actually gets the experience, these works, even if their intentions and messages are democratic, tend to become exclusive affairs.”
See the Appendix, Results for the “Check Your Understanding” Activities , for answers.
The Word on College Reading and Writing Copyright © by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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3.4: Using Source Text: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
Once you have a collection of credible sources as part of a formal secondary research project, such as a report, your next step is to build that report around those sources, using them as anchors of evidence around your own arguments. If you began with an hypothesis and you’re using the sources as evidence to support it, or if you realize that your hypothesis is wrong because all the credible sources you’ve found poked holes in it, you should at this point be able to draft a thesis—your whole point concisely expressed. From there, you can arrange your sources in an order that follows a logical sequence, such as general to specific or advantages versus disadvantages. We will examine organizational structures in the next chapter ( Ch. 4 ) on drafting, but we are now going to focus on how to incorporate source material into usable evidence.
You essentially have four ways of using source material available to you, three of them involving text and one, media:
- Quoting text: copying the source’s exact words and marking them off with quotation marks
- Paraphrasing text: representing the source’s ideas in your own words (without quotation marks)
- Summarizing text: representing the source’s main ideas in your own words (without quotation marks)
- Reproducing media: embedding pictures, videos, audio, graphic elements, etc. into your document
In each case, acknowledging your source with a citation at the point of use and follow-up bibliographical reference at the end of your document (see §3.5 below) is essential to avoid a charge of plagiarism. Let’s now look at each of these in turn.
3.4.1: Quoting Sources
3.4.2: paraphrasing sources, 3.4.3: summarizing sources.
Quoting is the easiest way to use sources in a research document, but it also requires care in using it properly so that you don’t accidentally plagiarize, misquote, or overquote. At its simplest, quoting takes source text exactly as it is and puts quotation marks (“ ”) around that text to set it off from your own words. The following points represent conventions and best practices when quoting:
- You may have seen single quotation marks and think that they’re also acceptable to use, but that’s only true in the UK and some other Commonwealth countries, not in Canada; some European countries use << >> to set off quotations instead.
- Also use double quotation marks for putting a single word or two in “scare quotes” when you’re drawing attention to how people use certain words and phrases—again, not single quotation marks since there is no such thing as quotation marks “lite.”
- Use single quotation marks only for reported speech when you have a quotation within a quotation, as in, “The minister responded to say, ‘No comment at this time’ regarding the allegations of wrongdoing.”
- If no parenthetical citation follows immediately after the closing quotation marks, the sentence-ending period falls to the left of those closing quotation marks (between the final letter and the “99”); a common mistake is to place the period to the right of the closing quotation marks ( . . . wrongdoing”.).
- According to researchers Tblisky and Darion (2003), “. . .”
- As Vice President of Operations Rhonda Rendell has noted, “. . .”
- John Rucker, the first responder who pulled Mr. Warren from the wreckage, said that “. . .”
- Spokespersons Gloria and Tom Grady clarified the new regulations: “. . .”
- “. . . ,” confirmed the minister responsible for the initiative.
- “. . . ,” writes Eva Hess, “. . .”
- Quote purposefully: Quote only when the original wording is important. When we quote famous thinkers like Albert Einstein or Marshall McLuhan, we use their exact words because no one could say it better or more interestingly than they did. Also quote when you want your audience to see wording exactly as it appeared in the source text or as it was said in speech so that they can be sure that you’re not distorting the words as you might if you paraphrased instead. But if there’s nothing special about the original wording, then you’re better to paraphrase properly (see §3.4.2 below) than to quote.
- Students frequently overuse direct quotation [when] taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. (Lester, 1976, pp. 46-47)
- Don’t quote excessively: As the above source says, a good rule of thumb is that your completed document should contain no more than 10% quoted material. Much above that will look lazy because it appears that you’re getting quotation to write your document for you. Quote no more than a sentence or two at a time if you quote at all.
- To avoid introducing spelling mistakes or other transcription errors, best practice (if your source is electronic) is to highlight the text you want to quote, copy it (ctrl. + c), and paste it (ctrl. + v) into your document so that it matches the formatting of the rest of your document (i.e., with the same font type, size, etc.). To match the formatting, use the Paste Options drop-down menu that appears beside pasted text as soon as you drop it in and disappears as soon as you perform any operation other than clicking on the drop-down menu.
- Though many people mistakenly refer to parentheses ( ) as “brackets”, brackets are squared [ ] and are used mainly to indicate changes to quoted words, whereas parentheses follow the quotation and mark off the citation. If you were to clarify and streamline the final sentence of the block quotation a few points above, for instance, you could say something like: Lester (1976) recommended “limit[ing] the amount of exact transcribing . . . while taking notes” (p. 47). Here, the verb “limit” in the source text needs to be converted into its participle form (having an -ing ending) to follow the past-tense verb in the sentence framing the quotation grammatically. Sneakily adding the “ing” to “limit” without using brackets would be misquotation because “limiting” appears nowhere in the original.
- Notice that the ellipsis above is three spaced periods (not three stuck together, as in “…”) and that one doesn’t appear at the beginning of the quotation to represent the words in the original prior to “limit” nor at the end to represent source text following the quoted words (“… limit …”). Use the ellipsis only to show that you’re skipping over unnecessary words within a quotation.
- Be careful not to use brackets and ellipses in a way that distorts or obscures the meaning of the original text. For instance, omitting “Probably” and changing “should” to “[can]” in the Lester quotation above will turn his soft guideline into a hard rule, which are not the same.
- When you said in the class discussion forum, “No one cares about grammer, [ sic ] it doesnt [ sic ] really matter,” you tend to undermine your credibility on the topic with poor spelling and a comma splice.
- Capitalize as in the original, even if it seems strange to start a quotation with a capital (because it was the first word in the original) though it’s no longer the first word because it follows a signal phrase in your sentence. See the example in the point above, for instance.
- Quotation is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any writer needing to support a point with evidence. Capturing the source’s words exactly as they were written or spoken is an honest way of presenting research. For more on quotation, consult Purdue OWL ’s series of modules starting with the How to Use Quotation Marks page and ending with their Quotation Mark Exercise and Answers .
Hacker, Diana. (2006). The Bedford handbook (7th ed.) . New York: St. Martin’s. https://department.monm.edu/english/mew/signal_phrases.htm
Lester, J. D. (1976). Writing research papers: A complete guide (2nd ed.). University of Michigan.
Purdue OWL. (n.d.a). How to use quotation marks . https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/quotation_marks/index.html
Purdue OWL. (n.d.b). Quotation mark exercise and answers . https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/punctuation/quotation_marks/quotation_marks_exercise_and_answers.html
Paraphrasing or “indirect quotation” is putting source text in your own words and altering the sentence structure to avoid using the quotation marks required in direct quotation. Paraphrasing is the preferred way of using a source when the original wording isn’t important. This way, you can incorporate the source’s ideas so they’re stylistically consistent with the rest of your document and thus better tailored to the needs of your audience (presuming the original was tailored for a different audience with different needs). Also, paraphrasing a source into your own words proves your advanced understanding of the source text.
A paraphrase must faithfully represent the source text by containing the same ideas as in the original in about the same length. As a matter of good writing, however, you should try to streamline your paraphrase so that it tallies fewer words than the source passage while still preserving the original meaning. An accurate paraphrase of the Lester (1976) passage block-quoted in the section above, for instance, can reduce a five-line passage to three lines without losing or distorting any of the original points:
Lester (1976) advises against exceeding 10% quotation in your written work. Since students writing research reports often quote excessively because of copy-cut-and-paste note-taking, try to minimize using sources word for word (pp. 46-47).
Notice that using a few isolated words from the original (“research,” “students,” “10%”) is fine, but also that this paraphrase doesn’t repeat any two-word sequence from the original because it changes the sentence structure along with most of the words. Properly paraphrasing without distorting, slanting, adding to, or deleting ideas from the source passage takes skill. The stylistic versatility required to paraphrase can be especially challenging to EAL learners and native English users whose general writing skills are still developing.
A common mistake that students make when paraphrasing is to go only part way towards paraphrasing by substituting-out major words (nouns, verbs, and adjectives) here and there while leaving the source passage’s basic sentence structure intact. This inevitably leaves strings of words from the original untouched in the “paraphrased” version, which can be dangerous because including such direct quotation without quotation marks will be caught by the plagiarism-busting software that college instructors use these days. Consider, for instance, the following botched attempt at a paraphrase of the Lester (1976) passage that subs out words selectively (lazily):
Students often overuse quotations when taking notes, and thus overuse them in research reports. About 10% of your final paper should be direct quotation. You should thus attempt to reduce the exact copying of source materials while note taking (pp. 46-47).
Let’s look at the same attempt, but bold the unchanged words to see how unsuccessful the paraphraser was in rephrasing the original in their own words (given in black):
As you can see, several strings of words from the original are left untouched because the writer didn’t adequately change the sentence structure of the original. The Originality Report from plagiarism-catching software such as Turnitin would indicate that the passage is 64% plagiarized because it retains 25 of the original words (out of 39 in this “paraphrase”) but without quotation marks around them. Correcting this by simply adding quotation marks around passages like “when taking notes, and” would be unacceptable because those words aren’t important enough on their own to warrant direct quotation. The fix would just be to paraphrase more thoroughly by altering the words and the sentence structure, as shown in the paraphrase a few paragraphs above. But how do you go about doing this?
Paraphrase easily by breaking down the task into these seven steps:
- Read and re-read the source-text passage so that you thoroughly understand each point it makes. If it’s a long passage, you might want to break it up into digestible chunks. If you’re unsure of the meaning of any of the words, look them up in a dictionary; you can even just type the word into the Google search bar, hit Enter , and a definition will appear, along with results of other online dictionary pages that define the same word.
- Look away and get your mind off the target passage. Process some different information for a while (e.g., a few minutes of gaming or social media—but just a few!)
- Without looking back at the source text, repeat its main points as you understood them—not from memorizing the exact words, but as you would explain the same ideas in different words out loud to a friend.
- Still without looking back at the source text, jot down that spoken wording and tailor the language so that it’s stylistically appropriate for your audience; edit and proofread your written version to make it grammatically correct in a way that perhaps your spoken-word version wasn’t.
- Now compare your written paraphrase version to the original to ensure that:
- Deleting any of the original points
- Adding any points of your own
- Distorting any of the ideas so they mean something substantially different from those in the original, or even take on a different character because you use words that, say, put a positive spin on something neutral or negative in the original
- You haven’t repeated any two identical words from the original in a row
- If any two words from the original remain, go further in changing those expressions by using a thesaurus in combination with a dictionary. When you enter a word into a thesaurus, it gives you a list of synonyms, which are different words that mean the same thing as the word you enter into it.
- For instance, the noun party can mean a group that is involved in something serious (e.g., a third-party software company in a data-collection process), but the verb party means something you do on a wild Saturday night out with friends; it can also function as an adjective related to the verb (e.g., party trick , meaning a trick performed at a party).
- Whenever you see synonymous words listed in a thesaurus and they look like something you want to use but you don’t know what they mean exactly, always look them up to ensure that they mean what you hope they mean; if not, move on to the next synonym until you find one that captures the meaning you intend. Doing this can save your reader the confusion and you the embarrassment of obvious thesaurus-driven diction problems (poor word choices).
- Cite your source. Just because you didn’t put quotation marks around the words doesn’t mean that you don’t have to cite your source. For more on citing, see §3.5.2 below).
For more on paraphrasing, consult the Purdue OWL Paraphrasing learning module, Exercise , and Answer Key .
Purdue OWL (n.d.a). Paraphrase: Write It in Your Own Words . https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/using_research/paraphrase_exercises/index.html
Purdue OWL (n.d.b). Paraphrasing Exercise . https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/using_research/paraphrase_exercises/paraphrasing_exercise.html
Purdue OWL (n.d.c). Paraphrasing Exercise: Possible Answers . https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/using_research/paraphrase_exercises/paraphrasing_exercise_answers.html
Summarizing is one of the most important skills in communications because professionals of every kind must explain to non-expert customers, managers, and even co-workers the complex concepts on which they are experts, but in a way that those non-experts can understand. Adapting the message to such audiences requires brevity but also translating jargon-heavy technical details into plain, accessible language.
Summarizing is thus paraphrasing only the highlights of a source text or speech. Like paraphrasing, a summary is indirect quotation that re-casts the source in your own words; unlike a paraphrase, however, a summary is a fraction of the source length—anywhere from less than 1% to a quarter depending on the source length and length of the summary. A summary can reduce a whole novel or film to a single-sentence blurb, for instance, or it could reduce a 50-word paragraph to a 15-word sentence. It can be as casual as a spoken run-down of a meeting your colleague was absent from and wanted to know what he missed, or an elevator pitch selling a project idea to a manager. It can also be as formal as a memo report on a conference you attended on behalf of your organization so your colleagues there can learn in a few minutes of reading the highlights of what you learned in a few days of attending the conference, saving them time and money.
The procedure for summarizing is much like that of paraphrasing except that it involves the extra step of pulling out highlights from the source. Altogether, this can be done in six steps, one of which includes the seven steps of paraphrasing, making this a twelve-step procedure:
- Determine how big your summary should be (according to your audience’s needs) so that you have a sense of how much material you should collect from the source.
- Read and re-read the source text so that you thoroughly understand it.
- Disregard detail such as supporting evidence and examples.
- If you have an electronic copy of the source, copy and paste the main points into your notes; for a print source that you can mark up, use a highlighter then transcribe those main points into your electronic notes.
- How many points you collect depends on how big your summary should be (according to audience needs).
- Paraphrase those main points following the seven-step procedure for paraphrasing outlined in §3.4.2 above.
- Edit your draft to make it coherent, clear, and especially concise.
- Ensure that your summary meets the needs of your audience and that your source is cited. Again, simply not having quotation marks around words is unacceptable for documenting your source(s).
Once you have a stable of summarized, paraphrased, and quoted passages from research sources, building your document around them requires good organizational skills. We’ll focus more on this next step of the drafting process in the following chapter ( Ch. 4 ), but basically it involves arranging your integrated research material in a coherent fashion, with main points up front and supporting points below proceeding in a logical sequence towards a convincing conclusion. Throughout this chapter, however, we’ve frequently encountered the requirement to document sources by citing and referencing, as in the last steps of both summarizing and paraphrasing indicated above. After reinforcing our quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing skills, we can turn our focus on how to document sources.
- If you’ve already pulled out the main points as part of the previous exercise, practice including them as properly punctuated quotations in your document with smooth signal phrases introducing them.
- Paraphrase those same main-point sentences following the seven-step procedure outlined in §3.4.2 above. In other words, if Exercise 1 above was direct quotation, now try indirect quotation for each passage.
- Following the six-step procedure outlined in §3.4.3 above, summarize the entire source article, webpage, or whatever document you chose by reducing it to a single coherent paragraph of no more than 10 lines on your page.
3.4: Using Source Text: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Copyright © 2022 by John Corr; Grant Coleman; Betti Sheldrick; and Scott Bunyan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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Quoting and Paraphrasing
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College writing often involves integrating information from published sources into your own writing in order to add credibility and authority–this process is essential to research and the production of new knowledge.
However, when building on the work of others, you need to be careful not to plagiarize : “to steal and pass off (the ideas and words of another) as one’s own” or to “present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.”1 The University of Wisconsin–Madison takes this act of “intellectual burglary” very seriously and considers it to be a breach of academic integrity . Penalties are severe.
These materials will help you avoid plagiarism by teaching you how to properly integrate information from published sources into your own writing.
1. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1993), 888.
How to avoid plagiarism
When using sources in your papers, you can avoid plagiarism by knowing what must be documented.
Specific words and phrases
If you use an author’s specific word or words, you must place those words within quotation marks and you must credit the source.
Information and Ideas
Even if you use your own words, if you obtained the information or ideas you are presenting from a source, you must document the source.
Information : If a piece of information isn’t common knowledge (see below), you need to provide a source.
Ideas : An author’s ideas may include not only points made and conclusions drawn, but, for instance, a specific method or theory, the arrangement of material, or a list of steps in a process or characteristics of a medical condition. If a source provided any of these, you need to acknowledge the source.
You do not need to cite a source for material considered common knowledge:
General common knowledge is factual information considered to be in the public domain, such as birth and death dates of well-known figures, and generally accepted dates of military, political, literary, and other historical events. In general, factual information contained in multiple standard reference works can usually be considered to be in the public domain.
Field-specific common knowledge is “common” only within a particular field or specialty. It may include facts, theories, or methods that are familiar to readers within that discipline. For instance, you may not need to cite a reference to Piaget’s developmental stages in a paper for an education class or give a source for your description of a commonly used method in a biology report—but you must be sure that this information is so widely known within that field that it will be shared by your readers.
If in doubt, be cautious and cite the source. And in the case of both general and field-specific common knowledge, if you use the exact words of the reference source, you must use quotation marks and credit the source.
Paraphrasing vs. Quoting — Explanation
Should i paraphrase or quote.
In general, use direct quotations only if you have a good reason. Most of your paper should be in your own words. Also, it’s often conventional to quote more extensively from sources when you’re writing a humanities paper, and to summarize from sources when you’re writing in the social or natural sciences–but there are always exceptions.
In a literary analysis paper , for example, you”ll want to quote from the literary text rather than summarize, because part of your task in this kind of paper is to analyze the specific words and phrases an author uses.
In research papers , you should quote from a source
- to show that an authority supports your point
- to present a position or argument to critique or comment on
- to include especially moving or historically significant language
- to present a particularly well-stated passage whose meaning would be lost or changed if paraphrased or summarized
You should summarize or paraphrase when
- what you want from the source is the idea expressed, and not the specific language used to express it
- you can express in fewer words what the key point of a source is
How to paraphrase a source
- When reading a passage, try first to understand it as a whole, rather than pausing to write down specific ideas or phrases.
- Be selective. Unless your assignment is to do a formal or “literal” paraphrase, you usually don?t need to paraphrase an entire passage; instead, choose and summarize the material that helps you make a point in your paper.
- Think of what “your own words” would be if you were telling someone who’s unfamiliar with your subject (your mother, your brother, a friend) what the original source said.
- Remember that you can use direct quotations of phrases from the original within your paraphrase, and that you don’t need to change or put quotation marks around shared language.
Methods of Paraphrasing
- Look away from the source then write. Read the text you want to paraphrase several times until you feel that you understand it and can use your own words to restate it to someone else. Then, look away from the original and rewrite the text in your own words.
- Take notes. Take abbreviated notes; set the notes aside; then paraphrase from the notes a day or so later, or when you draft.
If you find that you can’t do A or B, this may mean that you don’t understand the passage completely or that you need to use a more structured process until you have more experience in paraphrasing.
The method below is not only a way to create a paraphrase but also a way to understand a difficult text.
Paraphrasing difficult texts
Consider the following passage from Love and Toil (a book on motherhood in London from 1870 to 1918), in which the author, Ellen Ross, puts forth one of her major arguments:
- Love and Toil maintains that family survival was the mother’s main charge among the large majority of London?s population who were poor or working class; the emotional and intellectual nurture of her child or children and even their actual comfort were forced into the background. To mother was to work for and organize household subsistence. (p. 9)
Children of the poor at the turn of the century received little if any emotional or intellectual nurturing from their mothers, whose main charge was family survival. Working for and organizing household subsistence were what defined mothering. Next to this, even the children’s basic comfort was forced into the background (Ross, 1995).
According to Ross (1993), poor children at the turn of the century received little mothering in our sense of the term. Mothering was defined by economic status, and among the poor, a mother’s foremost responsibility was not to stimulate her children’s minds or foster their emotional growth but to provide food and shelter to meet the basic requirements for physical survival. Given the magnitude of this task, children were deprived of even the “actual comfort” (p. 9) we expect mothers to provide today.
You may need to go through this process several times to create a satisfactory paraphrase.
Successful vs. unsuccessful paraphrases
Paraphrasing is often defined as putting a passage from an author into “your own words.” But what are your own words? How different must your paraphrase be from the original?
The paragraphs below provide an example by showing a passage as it appears in the source, two paraphrases that follow the source too closely, and a legitimate paraphrase.
The student’s intention was to incorporate the material in the original passage into a section of a paper on the concept of “experts” that compared the functions of experts and nonexperts in several professions.
The Passage as It Appears in the Source
Critical care nurses function in a hierarchy of roles. In this open heart surgery unit, the nurse manager hires and fires the nursing personnel. The nurse manager does not directly care for patients but follows the progress of unusual or long-term patients. On each shift a nurse assumes the role of resource nurse. This person oversees the hour-by-hour functioning of the unit as a whole, such as considering expected admissions and discharges of patients, ascertaining that beds are available for patients in the operating room, and covering sick calls. Resource nurses also take a patient assignment. They are the most experienced of all the staff nurses. The nurse clinician has a separate job description and provides for quality of care by orienting new staff, developing unit policies, and providing direct support where needed, such as assisting in emergency situations. The clinical nurse specialist in this unit is mostly involved with formal teaching in orienting new staff. The nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist are the designated experts. They do not take patient assignments. The resource nurse is seen as both a caregiver and a resource to other caregivers. . . . Staff nurses have a hierarchy of seniority. . . . Staff nurses are assigned to patients to provide all their nursing care. (Chase, 1995, p. 156)
Critical care nurses have a hierarchy of roles. The nurse manager hires and fires nurses. S/he does not directly care for patients but does follow unusual or long-term cases. On each shift a resource nurse attends to the functioning of the unit as a whole, such as making sure beds are available in the operating room , and also has a patient assignment . The nurse clinician orients new staff, develops policies, and provides support where needed . The clinical nurse specialist also orients new staff, mostly by formal teaching. The nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist , as the designated experts, do not take patient assignments . The resource nurse is not only a caregiver but a resource to the other caregivers . Within the staff nurses there is also a hierarchy of seniority . Their job is to give assigned patients all their nursing care .
Why this is plagiarism
Notice that the writer has not only “borrowed” Chase’s material (the results of her research) with no acknowledgment, but has also largely maintained the author’s method of expression and sentence structure. The phrases in red are directly copied from the source or changed only slightly in form.
Even if the student-writer had acknowledged Chase as the source of the content, the language of the passage would be considered plagiarized because no quotation marks indicate the phrases that come directly from Chase. And if quotation marks did appear around all these phrases, this paragraph would be so cluttered that it would be unreadable.
A Patchwork Paraphrase
Chase (1995) describes how nurses in a critical care unit function in a hierarchy that places designated experts at the top and the least senior staff nurses at the bottom. The experts — the nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist — are not involved directly in patient care. The staff nurses, in contrast, are assigned to patients and provide all their nursing care . Within the staff nurses is a hierarchy of seniority in which the most senior can become resource nurses: they are assigned a patient but also serve as a resource to other caregivers. The experts have administrative and teaching tasks such as selecting and orienting new staff, developing unit policies , and giving hands-on support where needed.
This paraphrase is a patchwork composed of pieces in the original author’s language (in red) and pieces in the student-writer’s words, all rearranged into a new pattern, but with none of the borrowed pieces in quotation marks. Thus, even though the writer acknowledges the source of the material, the underlined phrases are falsely presented as the student’s own.
A Legitimate Paraphrase
In her study of the roles of nurses in a critical care unit, Chase (1995) also found a hierarchy that distinguished the roles of experts and others. Just as the educational experts described above do not directly teach students, the experts in this unit do not directly attend to patients. That is the role of the staff nurses, who, like teachers, have their own “hierarchy of seniority” (p. 156). The roles of the experts include employing unit nurses and overseeing the care of special patients (nurse manager), teaching and otherwise integrating new personnel into the unit (clinical nurse specialist and nurse clinician), and policy-making (nurse clinician). In an intermediate position in the hierarchy is the resource nurse, a staff nurse with more experience than the others, who assumes direct care of patients as the other staff nurses do, but also takes on tasks to ensure the smooth operation of the entire facility.
Why this is a good paraphrase
The writer has documented Chase’s material and specific language (by direct reference to the author and by quotation marks around language taken directly from the source). Notice too that the writer has modified Chase’s language and structure and has added material to fit the new context and purpose — to present the distinctive functions of experts and nonexperts in several professions.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that a number of phrases from the original passage appear in the legitimate paraphrase: critical care, staff nurses, nurse manager, clinical nurse specialist, nurse clinician, resource nurse.
If all these phrases were in red, the paraphrase would look much like the “patchwork” example. The difference is that the phrases in the legitimate paraphrase are all precise, economical, and conventional designations that are part of the shared language within the nursing discipline (in the too-close paraphrases, they’re red only when used within a longer borrowed phrase).
In every discipline and in certain genres (such as the empirical research report), some phrases are so specialized or conventional that you can’t paraphrase them except by wordy and awkward circumlocutions that would be less familiar (and thus less readable) to the audience.
When you repeat such phrases, you’re not stealing the unique phrasing of an individual writer but using a common vocabulary shared by a community of scholars.
Some Examples of Shared Language You Don’t Need to Put in Quotation Marks
- Conventional designations: e.g., physician’s assistant, chronic low-back pain
- Preferred bias-free language: e.g., persons with disabilities
- Technical terms and phrases of a discipline or genre : e.g., reduplication, cognitive domain, material culture, sexual harassment
Chase, S. K. (1995). The social context of critical care clinical judgment. Heart and Lung, 24, 154-162.
How to Quote a Source
Introducing a quotation.
One of your jobs as a writer is to guide your reader through your text. Don’t simply drop quotations into your paper and leave it to the reader to make connections.
Integrating a quotation into your text usually involves two elements:
- A signal that a quotation is coming–generally the author’s name and/or a reference to the work
- An assertion that indicates the relationship of the quotation to your text
Often both the signal and the assertion appear in a single introductory statement, as in the example below. Notice how a transitional phrase also serves to connect the quotation smoothly to the introductory statement.
Ross (1993), in her study of poor and working-class mothers in London from 1870-1918 [signal], makes it clear that economic status to a large extent determined the meaning of motherhood [assertion]. Among this population [connection], “To mother was to work for and organize household subsistence” (p. 9).
The signal can also come after the assertion, again with a connecting word or phrase:
Illness was rarely a routine matter in the nineteenth century [assertion]. As [connection] Ross observes [signal], “Maternal thinking about children’s health revolved around the possibility of a child’s maiming or death” (p. 166).
Short direct prose.
Incorporate short direct prose quotations into the text of your paper and enclose them in double quotation marks:
According to Jonathan Clarke, “Professional diplomats often say that trying to think diplomatically about foreign policy is a waste of time.”
Longer prose quotations
Begin longer quotations (for instance, in the APA system, 40 words or more) on a new line and indent the entire quotation (i.e., put in block form), with no quotation marks at beginning or end, as in the quoted passage from our Successful vs. Unsucessful Paraphrases page.
Rules about the minimum length of block quotations, how many spaces to indent, and whether to single- or double-space extended quotations vary with different documentation systems; check the guidelines for the system you’re using.
Quotation of Up to 3 Lines of Poetry
Quotations of up to 3 lines of poetry should be integrated into your sentence. For example:
In Julius Caesar, Antony begins his famous speech with “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” (III.ii.75-76).
Notice that a slash (/) with a space on either side is used to separate lines.
Quotation of More than 3 Lines of Poetry
More than 3 lines of poetry should be indented. As with any extended (indented) quotation, do not use quotation marks unless you need to indicate a quotation within your quotation.
Punctuating with Quotation Marks
With short quotations, place citations outside of closing quotation marks, followed by sentence punctuation (period, question mark, comma, semi-colon, colon):
Menand (2002) characterizes language as “a social weapon” (p. 115).
With block quotations, check the guidelines for the documentation system you are using.
Commas and periods
Place inside closing quotation marks when no parenthetical citation follows:
Hertzberg (2002) notes that “treating the Constitution as imperfect is not new,” but because of Dahl’s credentials, his “apostasy merits attention” (p. 85).
Semicolons and colons
Place outside of closing quotation marks (or after a parenthetical citation).
Question marks and exclamation points
Place inside closing quotation marks if the quotation is a question/exclamation:
Menand (2001) acknowledges that H. W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage is “a classic of the language,” but he asks, “Is it a dead classic?” (p. 114).
[Note that a period still follows the closing parenthesis.]
Place outside of closing quotation marks if the entire sentence containing the quotation is a question or exclamation:
How many students actually read the guide to find out what is meant by “academic misconduct”?
Quotation within a quotation
Use single quotation marks for the embedded quotation:
According to Hertzberg (2002), Dahl gives the U. S. Constitution “bad marks in ‘democratic fairness’ and ‘encouraging consensus'” (p. 90).
[The phrases “democratic fairness” and “encouraging consensus” are already in quotation marks in Dahl’s sentence.]
Indicating Changes in Quotations
Quoting only a portion of the whole.
Use ellipsis points (. . .) to indicate an omission within a quotation–but not at the beginning or end unless it’s not obvious that you’re quoting only a portion of the whole.
Adding Clarification, Comment, or Correction
Within quotations, use square brackets [ ] (not parentheses) to add your own clarification, comment, or correction.
Use [sic] (meaning “so” or “thus”) to indicate that a mistake is in the source you’re quoting and is not your own.
Information on summarizing and paraphrasing sources.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). (2000). Retrieved January 7, 2002, from http://www.bartleby.com/61/ Bazerman, C. (1995). The informed writer: Using sources in the disciplines (5th ed). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Leki, I. (1995). Academic writing: Exploring processes and strategies (2nd ed.) New York: St. Martin?s Press, pp. 185-211.
Leki describes the basic method presented in C, pp. 4-5.
Spatt, B. (1999). Writing from sources (5th ed.) New York: St. Martin?s Press, pp. 98-119; 364-371.
Information about specific documentation systems
The Writing Center has handouts explaining how to use many of the standard documentation systems. You may look at our general Web page on Documentation Systems, or you may check out any of the following specific Web pages.
If you’re not sure which documentation system to use, ask the course instructor who assigned your paper.
- American Psychological Assoicaion (APA)
- Modern Language Association (MLA)
- Chicago/Turabian (A Footnote or Endnote System)
- American Political Science Association (APSA)
- Council of Science Editors (CBE)
- Numbered References
You may also consult the following guides:
- American Medical Association, Manual for Authors and Editors
- Council of Science Editors, CBE style Manual
- The Chicago Manual of Style
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
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