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Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing

Whenever you refer to ideas, information, statistics, images, concepts, facts or anything else that you found from an outside source, you need to let your readers know where you found that information. Typically, this is done by quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing the information, and then citing the authors that produced it. 

What's the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, and when do you do it?

Quoting - taking original section or text, word-for-word, and add it to your paper using "quotation marks." Tips:

  • Don't fill your paper with quotes. Most of the time you should paraphrase or summarize for your readers.
  • Good reasons to quote:
    • when the words come from a credible expert using memorable language--and it supports your argument.
    • when it is hard to paraphrase or summarize the text without changing the author's meaning.

Paraphrasing - translating a passage of text into your own words. Paraphrases are the same length or shorter than the original text. If you paraphrase material well, it shows your understanding of the source's ideas. Tips:

  • Paraphrase a passage when its ideas are more important than the author's actual words.
  • Paraphrase a passage to give your paper a consistent "voice." It should sound like you, not like your sources.
  • Paraphrase a passage to smoothly integrate the source's ideas into your own argument.

Summarizing - Condensing the main ideas of a source, using your own words. Tips:

  • Summarize to focus only on the main ideas of a source.
  • Summarize to omit excess details not important for your paper.
  • Summarize to simplify technical material for your audience.

In every case, cite the source in-text and include the full citation on your References page.

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