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Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
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This handout is intended to help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills.
What are the differences among quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing?
These three ways of incorporating other writers' work into your own writing differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing.
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.
Why use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries?
Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries serve many purposes. You might use them to:
- Provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing
- Refer to work that leads up to the work you are now doing
- Give examples of several points of view on a subject
- Call attention to a position that you wish to agree or disagree with
- Highlight a particularly striking phrase, sentence, or passage by quoting the original
- Distance yourself from the original by quoting it in order to cue readers that the words are not your own
- Expand the breadth or depth of your writing
Writers frequently intertwine summaries, paraphrases, and quotations. As part of a summary of an article, a chapter, or a book, a writer might include paraphrases of various key points blended with quotations of striking or suggestive phrases as in the following example:
In his famous and influential work The Interpretation of Dreams , Sigmund Freud argues that dreams are the "royal road to the unconscious" (page #), expressing in coded imagery the dreamer's unfulfilled wishes through a process known as the "dream-work" (page #). According to Freud, actual but unacceptable desires are censored internally and subjected to coding through layers of condensation and displacement before emerging in a kind of rebus puzzle in the dream itself (page #).
How to use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries
Practice summarizing the essay found here , using paraphrases and quotations as you go. It might be helpful to follow these steps:
- Read the entire text, noting the key points and main ideas.
- Summarize in your own words what the single main idea of the essay is.
- Paraphrase important supporting points that come up in the essay.
- Consider any words, phrases, or brief passages that you believe should be quoted directly.
There are several ways to integrate quotations into your text. Often, a short quotation works well when integrated into a sentence. Longer quotations can stand alone. Remember that quoting should be done only sparingly; be sure that you have a good reason to include a direct quotation when you decide to do so. You'll find guidelines for citing sources and punctuating citations at our documentation guide pages.
Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > The Difference Between Summarizing & Paraphrasing
The Difference Between Summarizing & Paraphrasing
Summarizing and paraphrasing are helpful ways to include source material in your work without piling on direct quotes. Understand the differences between these approaches and when to use each.
Summarizing vs. Paraphrasing: The Biggest Differences
Though summarizing and paraphrasing are both tools for conveying information clearly and concisely, they help you achieve this in different ways. In general, the difference is rooted in the scale of the source material: To share an entire source at once, you summarize; to share a specific portion of a source (without quoting directly, of course), you paraphrase.
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What is Summarizing?
Summarizing is simplifying the content of a source to its main points in your own words. You literally sum up something, distill it down to its most essential parts. Summaries cover whole sources rather than a piece or pieces of a source and don’t include direct quotes or extraneous detail.
How to Summarize
- Understand the original thoroughly. You may start by scanning the original material, paying close attention to headers and any in-text summaries, but once you’re sure that this source is something you’re going to use in your research paper , review it more thoroughly to gain appropriate understanding and comprehension.
- Take notes of the main points. A bulleted list is appropriate here-note the main idea of each portion of the source material. Take note of key words or phrases around which you can build your summary list and deepen your understanding.
- Build your summary. Don’t just use the list you’ve already created—this was a first draft . Craft complete sentences and logical progression from item to item. Double check the source material to ensure you’ve not left out any relevant points and trim anything extraneous. You can use a bulleted or numbered list here or write your summary as a paragraph if that’s more appropriate for your use. Make sure to follow the rules of parallelism if you choose to stay in list form.
What is Paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is rephrasing something in your own words; the word comes from the Greek para -, meaning “beside” or “closely resembling”, 1 combined with “phrase,” which we know can mean a string of words or sentences. 2 Paraphrasing isn’t practical for entire sources—just for when you want to highlight a portion of a source.
How to Paraphrase
- Read actively . Take notes, highlight or underline passages, or both if you please-whatever makes it easiest for you to organize the sections of the source you want to include in your work.
- Rewrite and revise. For each area you’d like to paraphrase, take the time to rewrite it in your own words. Retain the meaning of the original text, but don’t copy it too closely; take advantage of a thesaurus to ensure you’re not relying too heavily on the source material.
- Check your work and revise again as needed . Did you retain the meaning of the source material? Did you simplify the language of the source material? Did you differentiate your version enough? If not, try again.
Summarizing and paraphrasing are often used in tandem; you’ll likely find it appropriate to summarize an entire source and then paraphrase specific portions to support your summary. Using either approach for including sources requires appropriate citing, though, so ensure that you follow the correct style guide for your project and cite correctly.
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Article • 12 min read
How to Paraphrase and Summarize Work
Summing up key ideas in your own words.
By the Mind Tools Content Team
Imagine you're preparing a presentation for your CEO. You asked everyone in your team to contribute, and they all had plenty to say!
But now you have a dozen reports, all in different styles, and your CEO says that she can spare only 10 minutes to read the final version. What do you do?
The solution is to paraphrase and summarize the reports, so your boss gets only the key information that she needs, in a form that she can process quickly.
In this article, we explain how to paraphrase and how to summarize, and how to apply these techniques to text and the spoken word. We also explore the differences between the two skills, and point out the pitfalls to avoid.
What Is Paraphrasing?
When you paraphrase, you use your own words to express something that was written or said by another person.
Putting it into your own words can clarify the message, make it more relevant to your audience , or give it greater impact.
You might use paraphrased material to support your own argument or viewpoint. Or, if you're putting together a report , presentation or speech , you can use paraphrasing to maintain a consistent style, and to avoid lengthy quotations from the original text or conversation.
Paraphrased material should keep its original meaning and (approximate) length, but you can use it to pick out a single point from a longer discussion.
What Is Summarizing?
In contrast, a summary is a brief overview of an entire discussion or argument. You might summarize a whole research paper or conversation in a single paragraph, for example, or with a series of bullet points, using your own words and style.
People often summarize when the original material is long, or to emphasize key facts or points. Summaries leave out detail or examples that may distract the reader from the most important information, and they simplify complex arguments, grammar and vocabulary.
Used correctly, summarizing and paraphrasing can save time, increase understanding, and give authority and credibility to your work. Both tools are useful when the precise wording of the original communication is less important than its overall meaning.
How to Paraphrase Text
To paraphrase text, follow these four steps:
1. Read and Make Notes
Carefully read the text that you want to paraphrase. Highlight, underline or note down important terms and phrases that you need to remember.
2. Find Different Terms
Find equivalent words or phrases (synonyms) to use in place of the ones that you've picked out. A dictionary, thesaurus or online search can be useful here, but take care to preserve the meaning of the original text, particularly if you're dealing with technical or scientific terms.
3. Put the Text into Your Own Words
Rewrite the original text, line by line. Simplify the grammar and vocabulary, adjust the order of the words and sentences, and replace "passive" expressions with "active" ones (for example, you could change "The new supplier was contacted by Nusrat" to "Nusrat contacted the new supplier").
Remove complex clauses, and break longer sentences into shorter ones. All of this will make your new version easier to understand .
4. Check Your Work
Check your work by comparing it to the original. Your paraphrase should be clear and simple, and written in your own words. It may be shorter, but it should include all of the necessary detail.
Paraphrasing: an Example
Despite the undoubted fact that everyone's vision of what constitutes success is different, one should spend one's time establishing and finalizing one's personal vision of it. Otherwise, how can you possibly understand what your final destination might be, or whether or not your decisions are assisting you in moving in the direction of the goals which you've set yourself?
The two kinds of statement – mission and vision – can be invaluable to your approach, aiding you, as they do, in focusing on your primary goal, and quickly identifying possibilities that you might wish to exploit and explore.
We all have different ideas about success. What's important is that you spend time defining your version of success. That way, you'll understand what you should be working toward. You'll also know if your decisions are helping you to move toward your goals.
Used as part of your personal approach to goal-setting, mission and vision statements are useful for bringing sharp focus to your most important goal, and for helping you to quickly identify which opportunities you should pursue.
How to Paraphrase Speech
In a conversation – a meeting or coaching session, for example – paraphrasing is a good way to make sure that you have correctly understood what the other person has said.
This requires two additional skills: active listening and asking the right questions .
Useful questions include:
- If I hear you correctly, you're saying that…?
- So you mean that…? Is that right?
- Did I understand you when you said that…?
You can use questions like these to repeat the speaker's words back to them. For instance, if the person says, "We just don't have the funds available for these projects," you could reply: "If I understand you correctly, you're saying that our organization can't afford to pay for my team's projects?"
This may seem repetitive, but it gives the speaker the opportunity to highlight any misunderstandings, or to clarify their position.
When you're paraphrasing conversations in this way, take care not to introduce new ideas or information, and not to make judgments on what the other person has said, or to "spin" their words toward what you want to hear. Instead, simply restate their position as you understand it.
Sometimes, you may need to paraphrase a speech or a presentation. Perhaps you want to report back to your team, or write about it in a company blog, for example.
In these cases it's a good idea to make summary notes as you listen, and to work them up into a paraphrase later. (See How to Summarize Text or Speech, below.)
How to Summarize Text or Speech
Follow steps 1-5 below to summarize text. To summarize spoken material – a speech, a meeting, or a presentation, for example – start at step three.
1. Get a General Idea of the Original
First, speed read the text that you're summarizing to get a general impression of its content. Pay particular attention to the title, introduction, conclusion, and the headings and subheadings.
2. Check Your Understanding
Build your comprehension of the text by reading it again more carefully. Check that your initial interpretation of the content was correct.
3. Make Notes
Take notes on what you're reading or listening to. Use bullet points, and introduce each bullet with a key word or idea. Write down only one point or idea for each bullet.
If you're summarizing spoken material, you may not have much time on each point before the speaker moves on. If you can, obtain a meeting agenda, a copy of the presentation, or a transcript of the speech in advance, so you know what's coming.
Make sure your notes are concise, well-ordered, and include only the points that really matter.
The Cornell Note-Taking System is an effective way to organize your notes as you write them, so that you can easily identify key points and actions later. Our article, Writing Meeting Notes , also contains plenty of useful advice.
4. Write Your Summary
Bullet points or numbered lists are often an acceptable format for summaries – for example, on presentation slides, in the minutes of a meeting, or in Key Points sections like the one at the end of this article.
However, don't just use the bulleted notes that you took in step 3. They'll likely need editing or "polishing" if you want other people to understand them.
Some summaries, such as research paper abstracts, press releases, and marketing copy, require continuous prose. If this is the case, write your summary as a paragraph, turning each bullet point into a full sentence.
Aim to use only your own notes, and refer to original documents or recordings only if you really need to. This helps to ensure that you use your own words.
If you're summarizing speech, do so as soon as possible after the event, while it's still fresh in your mind.
5. Check Your Work
Your summary should be a brief but informative outline of the original. Check that you've expressed all of the most important points in your own words, and that you've left out any unnecessary detail.
Summarizing: an Example
So how do you go about identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and analyzing the opportunities and threats that flow from them? SWOT Analysis is a useful technique that helps you to do this.
What makes SWOT especially powerful is that, with a little thought, it can help you to uncover opportunities that you would not otherwise have spotted. And by understanding your weaknesses, you can manage and eliminate threats that might otherwise hurt your ability to move forward in your role.
If you look at yourself using the SWOT framework, you can start to separate yourself from your peers, and further develop the specialized talents and abilities that you need in order to advance your career and to help you achieve your personal goals.
SWOT Analysis is a technique that helps you identify strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. Understanding and managing these factors helps you to develop the abilities you need to achieve your goals and progress in your career.
Permission and Citations
If you intend to publish or circulate your document, it's important to seek permission from the copyright holder of the material that you've paraphrased or summarized. Failure to do so can leave you open to allegations of plagiarism, or even legal action.
It's good practice to cite your sources with a footnote, or with a reference in the text to a list of sources at the end of your document. There are several standard citation styles – choose one and apply it consistently, or follow your organization's house style guidelines.
As well as acknowledging the original author, citations tell you, the reader, that you're reading paraphrased or summarized material. This enables you to check the original source if you think that someone else's words may have been misused or misinterpreted.
Some writers might use others' ideas to prop up their own, but include only what suits them, for instance. Others may have misunderstood the original arguments, or "twisted" them by adding their own material.
If you're wary, or you find problems with the work, you may prefer to seek more reliable sources of information. (See our article, How to Spot Real and Fake News , for more on this.)
Paraphrasing means rephrasing text or speech in your own words, without changing its meaning. Summarizing means cutting it down to its bare essentials. You can use both techniques to clarify and simplify complex information or ideas.
To paraphrase text:
- Read and make notes.
- Find different terms.
- Put the text into your own words.
- Check your work.
You can also use paraphrasing in a meeting or conversation, by listening carefully to what's being said and repeating it back to the speaker to check that you have understood it correctly.
To summarize text or speech:
- Get a general idea of the original.
- Check your understanding.
- Make notes.
- Write your summary.
Seek permission for any copyrighted material that you use, and cite it appropriately.
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Paraphrase and Summary
Paraphrase and summary are different writing strategies that ask you to put another author’s argument in your own words. This can help you better understand what the writer of the source is saying, so that you can communicate that message to your own reader without relying only on direct quotes. Paraphrases are used for short passages and specific claims in an argument, while summaries are used for entire pieces and focus on capturing the big picture of an argument. Both should be cited using the appropriate format (MLA, APA, etc.). See KU Writing Center guides on APA Formatting , Chicago Formatting , and MLA Formatting for more information.
When you paraphrase, you are using your own words to explain one of the claims of your source's argument, following its line of reasoning and its sequence of ideas. The purpose of a paraphrase is to convey the meaning of the original message and, in doing so, to prove that you understand the passage well enough to restate it. The paraphrase should give the reader an accurate understanding of the author's position on the topic. Your job is to uncover and explain all the facts and arguments involved in your subject. A paraphrase tends to be about the same length or a little shorter than the thing being paraphrased.
- Alter the wording of the passage without changing its meaning. Key words, such as names and field terminology, may stay the same (i.e. you do not need to rename Milwaukee or osteoporosis), but all other words must be rephrased.
- Retain the basic logic of the argument, sequence of ideas, and examples used in the passage.
- Accurately convey the author's meaning and opinion.
- Keep the length approximately the same as the original passage.
- Do not forget to cite where the information came from. Even though it is in your own words, the idea belongs to someone else, and that source must be acknowledged.
A summary covers the main points of the writer’s argument in your own words. Summaries are generally much shorter than the original source, since they do not contain any specific examples or pieces of evidence. The goal of a summary is to give the reader a clear idea of what the source is arguing, without going into any specifics about what they are using to argue their point.
- Identify what reading or speech is being summarized.
- State the author’s thesis and main claims of their argument in your own words. Just like paraphrasing, make sure everything but key terms is reworded.
- Avoid specific details or examples.
- Avoid your personal opinions about the topic.
- Include the conclusion of the original material.
- Cite summarized information as well.
In both the paraphrase and summary, the author's meaning and opinion are retained. However, in the case of the summary, examples and illustrations are omitted. Summaries can be tremendously helpful because they can be used to encapsulate everything from a long narrative passage of an essay, to a chapter in a book, to an entire book.
When to Use Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing
Updated June 2022
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Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting
Depending on the conventions of your discipline, you may have to decide whether to summarize a source, paraphrase a source, or quote from a source.
Scholars in the humanities tend to summarize, paraphrase, and quote texts; social scientists and natural scientists rely primarily on summary and paraphrase.
When and how to summarize
When you summarize, you provide your readers with a condensed version of an author's key points. A summary can be as short as a few sentences or much longer, depending on the complexity of the text and the level of detail you wish to provide to your readers. You will need to summarize a source in your paper when you are going to refer to that source and you want your readers to understand the source's argument, main ideas, or plot (if the source is a novel, film, or play) before you lay out your own argument about it, analysis of it, or response to it.
Before you summarize a source in your paper, you should decide what your reader needs to know about that source in order to understand your argument. For example, if you are making an argument about a novel, you should avoid filling pages of your paper with details from the book that will distract or confuse your reader. Instead, you should add details sparingly, going only into the depth that is necessary for your reader to understand and appreciate your argument. Similarly, if you are writing a paper about a journal article, you will need to highlight the most relevant parts of the argument for your reader, but you should not include all of the background information and examples. When you have to decide how much summary to put in a paper, it's a good idea to consult your instructor about whether you are supposed to assume your reader's knowledge of the sources.
Guidelines for summarizing a source in your paper
- Identify the author and the source.
- Represent the original source accurately.
- Present the source’s central claim clearly.
- Don’t summarize each point in the same order as the original source; focus on giving your reader the most important parts of the source
- Use your own words. Don’t provide a long quotation in the summary unless the actual language from the source is going to be important for your reader to see.
Stanley Milgram (1974) reports that ordinarily compassionate people will be cruel to each other if they are commanded to be by an authority figure. In his experiment, a group of participants were asked to administer electric shocks to people who made errors on a simple test. In spite of signs that those receiving shock were experiencing great physical pain, 25 of 40 subjects continued to administer electric shocks. These results held up for each group of people tested, no matter the demographic. The transcripts of conversations from the experiment reveal that although many of the participants felt increasingly uncomfortable, they continued to obey the experimenter, often showing great deference for the experimenter. Milgram suggests that when people feel responsible for carrying out the wishes of an authority figure, they do not feel responsible for the actual actions they are performing. He concludes that the increasing division of labor in society encourages people to focus on a small task and eschew responsibility for anything they do not directly control.
This summary of Stanley Milgram's 1974 essay, "The Perils of Obedience," provides a brief overview of Milgram's 12-page essay, along with an APA style parenthetical citation. You would write this type of summary if you were discussing Milgram's experiment in a paper in which you were not supposed to assume your reader's knowledge of the sources. Depending on your assignment, your summary might be even shorter.
When you include a summary of a paper in your essay, you must cite the source. If you were using APA style in your paper, you would include a parenthetical citation in the summary, and you would also include a full citation in your reference list at the end of your paper. For the essay by Stanley Milgram, your citation in your references list would include the following information:
Milgram, S. (1974). The perils of obedience. In L.G. Kirszner & S.R. Mandell (Eds.), The Blair reader (pp.725-737).
When and how to paraphrase
When you paraphrase from a source, you restate the source's ideas in your own words. Whereas a summary provides your readers with a condensed overview of a source (or part of a source), a paraphrase of a source offers your readers the same level of detail provided in the original source. Therefore, while a summary will be shorter than the original source material, a paraphrase will generally be about the same length as the original source material.
When you use any part of a source in your paper—as background information, as evidence, as a counterargument to which you plan to respond, or in any other form—you will always need to decide whether to quote directly from the source or to paraphrase it. Unless you have a good reason to quote directly from the source , you should paraphrase the source. Any time you paraphrase an author's words and ideas in your paper, you should make it clear to your reader why you are presenting this particular material from a source at this point in your paper. You should also make sure you have represented the author accurately, that you have used your own words consistently, and that you have cited the source.
This paraphrase below restates one of Milgram's points in the author's own words. When you paraphrase, you should always cite the source. This paraphrase uses the APA in-text citation style. Every source you paraphrase should also be included in your list of references at the end of your paper. For citation format information go to the Citing Sources section of this guide.
The problem of obedience is not wholly psychological. The form and shape of society and the way it is developing have much to do with it. There was a time, perhaps, when people were able to give a fully human response to any situation because they were fully absorbed in it as human beings. But as soon as there was a division of labor things changed.
--Stanley Milgram, "The Perils of Obedience," p.737.
Milgram, S. (1974). The perils of obedience. In L.G. Kirszner & S.R. Mandell (Eds.), The Blair reader (pp.725-737). Prentice Hall.
Milgram (1974) claims that people's willingness to obey authority figures cannot be explained by psychological factors alone. In an earlier era, people may have had the ability to invest in social situations to a greater extent. However, as society has become increasingly structured by a division of labor, people have become more alienated from situations over which they do not have control (p.737).
When and how much to quote
The basic rule in all disciplines is that you should only quote directly from a text when it's important for your reader to see the actual language used by the author of the source. While paraphrase and summary are effective ways to introduce your reader to someone's ideas, quoting directly from a text allows you to introduce your reader to the way those ideas are expressed by showing such details as language, syntax, and cadence.
So, for example, it may be important for a reader to see a passage of text quoted directly from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried if you plan to analyze the language of that passage in order to support your thesis about the book. On the other hand, if you're writing a paper in which you're making a claim about the reading habits of American elementary school students or reviewing the current research on Wilson's disease, the information you’re providing from sources will often be more important than the exact words. In those cases, you should paraphrase rather than quoting directly. Whether you quote from your source or paraphrase it, be sure to provide a citation for your source, using the correct format. (see Citing Sources section)
You should use quotations in the following situations:
- When you plan to discuss the actual language of a text.
- When you are discussing an author's position or theory, and you plan to discuss the wording of a core assertion or kernel of the argument in your paper.
- When you risk losing the essence of the author's ideas in the translation from their words to your own.
- When you want to appeal to the authority of the author and using their words will emphasize that authority.
Once you have decided to quote part of a text, you'll need to decide whether you are going to quote a long passage (a block quotation) or a short passage (a sentence or two within the text of your essay). Unless you are planning to do something substantive with a long quotation—to analyze the language in detail or otherwise break it down—you should not use block quotations in your essay. While long quotations will stretch your page limit, they don't add anything to your argument unless you also spend time discussing them in a way that illuminates a point you're making. Unless you are giving your readers something they need to appreciate your argument, you should use quotations sparingly.
When you quote from a source, you should make sure to cite the source either with an in-text citation or a note, depending on which citation style you are using. The passage below, drawn from O’Brien’s The Things They Carried , uses an MLA-style citation.
On the morning after Ted Lavender died, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross crouched at the bottom of his foxhole and burned Martha's letters. Then he burned the two photographs. There was a steady rain falling, which made it difficult, but he used heat tabs and Sterno to build a small fire, screening it with his body holding the photographs over the tight blue flame with the tip of his fingers.
He realized it was only a gesture. Stupid, he thought. Sentimental, too, but mostly just stupid. (23)
O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried . New York: Broadway Books, 1990.
Even as Jimmy Cross burns Martha's letters, he realizes that "it was only a gesture. Stupid, he thought. Sentimental too, but mostly just stupid" (23).
If you were writing a paper about O'Brien's The Things They Carried in which you analyzed Cross's decision to burn Martha's letters and stop thinking about her, you might want your reader to see the language O'Brien uses to illustrate Cross's inner conflict. If you were planning to analyze the passage in which O'Brien calls Cross's realization stupid, sentimental, and then stupid again, you would want your reader to see the original language.
Module 2: Reading Strategies
Summarizing and paraphrasing, learning objectives.
- Summarize a passage of reading
- Paraphrase a passage of reading
Have you ever heard, “the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else”?
Writing a summary of a source is a very similar process to teaching someone the content—but in this case, the student you’re teaching is yourself.
Summarizing , or condensing someone else’s ideas and putting it into your own shortened form, allows you to be sure that you’ve accurately captured the main idea of the text you’re reading. When reading, summarizing is helpful for checking your understanding of a longer text and remembering the author’s main ideas. When writing, summarizing is critical when reviewing, writing an abstract, preparing notes for a study guide, creating an annotated bibliography, answering essay questions, recording results of an experiment, describing the plot of a fictional work or film, or writing a research paper.
How to Write Summary Statements
Use these processes to help you write summary statements:
- Underline important information and write keywords in the margin.
- Record ideas using a two-column note-taking system. Record questions you have about the text concepts in the left column and answers you find in the reading in the right column.
- Identify how concepts relate to what you already know.
- Add examples and details
For retaining key ideas as you read, write a summary statement at the end of each paragraph or section. For capturing the major ideas of the entire work, write a summary paragraph (or more) that describes the entire text.
Tips for Summary
For longer, overall summary projects that capture an entire reading, consider these guidelines for writing a summary:
- A summary should contain the main thesis or standpoint of the text, restated in your own words. (To do this, first find the thesis statement in the original text.)
- A summary is written in your own words. It contains few or no quotes.
- A summary is always shorter than the original text, often about 1/3 as long as the original. It is the ultimate fat-free writing. An article or paper may be summarized in a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. A book may be summarized in an article or a short paper. A very large book may be summarized in a smaller book.
- A summary should contain all the major points of the original text , and should ignore most of the fine details, examples, illustrations or explanations.
- The backbone of any summary is formed by crucial details (key names, dates, events, words and numbers). A summary must never rely on vague generalities.
- If you quote anything from the original text, even an unusual word or a catchy phrase, you need to put whatever you quote in quotation marks (” “).
- A summary must contain only the ideas of the original text. Do not insert any of your own opinions, interpretations, deductions or comments into a summary.
You can view the transcript for “Summarizing” here (opens in new window) .
Paraphrasing is the act of putting an author’s ideas into your own words. When reading, paraphrasing is helpful for checking your understanding of what you read as well as remembering what you read. When writing, paraphrasing is an important skill to have when constructing a research paper and incorporating the ideas of others alongside your own.
Click to view the transcript for “Paraphrasing” here (opens in new window) .
paraphrasing : rewriting a passage of text in your own words
summarizing : condensing someone else’s ideas and putting it into your own shortened form
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To paraphrase is to communicate the author’s work in your own words and to acknowledge the source:
- Used to rewrite text in your own words
- Used to clarify meaning
- Used to shorten a longer statement, but keep the main ideas
- Giving credit to the original author of the idea
Elements of a good paraphrase:
- Change the structure of the original passage
- Change the words
- Give a citation / reference
To summarise is to describe broadly the findings of a study without directly quoting from it. Summarising involves repeating the main ideas of a passage in your own words. A summary concentrates on the important points rather than the details.
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To help the flow of your writing, it is beneficial to not always quote but instead put the information in your own words. You can paraphrase or summarize the author’s words to better match your tone and desired length. Even if you write the ideas in your own words, it is important to cite them with in-text citations or footnotes (depending on your discipline’s citation style ).
- Paraphrasing allows you to use your own words to restate an author's ideas.
- Summarizing allows you to create a succinct, concise statement of an author’s main points without copying and pasting a lot of text from the original source.
What’s the difference: Paraphrasing v. Summarizing
Explore the rest of the page to see how the same material could be quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. Depending on the length, tone, and argument of your work, you might choose one over the other.
- Bad Paraphrase
- Good Paraphrase
- Reread: Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
- Write on your own: Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.
- Connect: Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you envision using this material.
- Check: Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.
- Quote: Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.
- Cite: Record the source (including the page) on your note card or notes document so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.
Explore the tabs to see the difference between an acceptable and unacceptable paraphrase based on the original text in each example.
“Business communication is increasingly taking place internationally – in all countries, among all peoples, and across all cultures. An awareness of other cultures – of their languages, customs, experiences and perceptions – as well as an awareness of the way in which other people conduct their business, are now essential ingredients of business communication” (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59).
More and more business communication is taking place internationally—across all countries, peoples, and cultures. Awareness of other cultures and the way in which people do business are essential parts of business communication (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59)
Compare the Original and Paraphrase
Too much of the original is quoted directly, with only a few words changed or omitted. The highlighted words are too similar to the original quote:
More and more business communication is taking place internationally —across all countries, peoples, and cultures . Awareness of other cultures and the way in which people do business are essential parts of business communication (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59)
“Business communication is increasingly taking place internationally – in all countries, among all peoples, and across all cultures. An awareness of other cultures – of their languages, customs, experiences and perceptions – as well as an awareness of the way in which other people conduct their business, are now essential ingredients of business communication” (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59).
The importance of understanding the traditions, language, perceptions, and the manner in which people of other cultures conduct their business should not be underestimated, and it is a crucial component of business communication (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p. 59).
The original’s ideas are summarized and expressed in the writer’s own words with minimal overlap with the original text's language:
The importance of understanding the traditions, language, perceptions, and the manner in which people of other cultures conduct their business should not be underestimated, and it is a crucial component of business communication (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p. 59).
- Bad Summary
- Good Summary
- Find the main idea: Ask yourself, “What is the main idea that the author is communicating?”
- Avoid copying: Set the original aside, and write one or two sentences with the main point of the original on a note card or in a notes document.
- Connect: Jot down a few words below your summary to remind you later how you envision using this material.
Business communication is worldwide, and it is essential to build awareness of other cultures and the way in which other people conduct their business. (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59).
Compare the Original and Summary
Too much of the original is quoted directly, with only a few words changed or omitted. The highlighted words are too similar to the original text:
Business communication is worldwide, and it is essential to build awareness of other cultures and the way in which other people conduct their business . (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59).
In a world that is increasingly connected, effective business communication requires us to learn about other cultures, languages, and business norms (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59).
The original’s ideas are summarized and expressed in the writer’s own words with minimal overlap:
In a world that is increasingly connected, effective business communication requires us to learn about other cultures , languages , and business norms (Chase, O’Rourke & Wallace, 2003, p.59).
No matter what the source or style, you need to cite it both in-text and at the end of the paper with a full citation! Write down or record all the needed pieces of information when researching to ensure you avoid plagiarism.
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Paraphrasing and summarising
Writing at university involves integrating ideas from other authors into your own writing.
Paraphrasing and summarising allows you to acknowledge these authors by expressing the information in your own words. Effective paraphrasing also demonstrates your understanding of the information.
How to paraphrase
To paraphrase, you need to:
- change the structure of the sentence
- change the words in the sentence
Changing the structure of a sentence
- Read the original text a number of times and make sure you understand the main ideas.
- Write down the main ideas from memory.
- Check what you have written against the original text – make sure you have retained the original ideas and that your version is different.
Changing the words
It can be easy to spot when someone has copied directly from a textbook. We all have different styles of writing and yours will be different to the authors you are reading.
- Once you understand the main ideas of the original text look for specialised words – these words may be retained in the paraphrased version, as they are key to the meaning of the sentence.
- Look for words or phrases that can be changed.
- Use a thesaurus or dictionary to find substitutes.
Paraphrase Rephrasing or restating information from another source in your own words without changing the meaning. Maybe shorter than the original passage.
Summary A summary includes only the main ideas of someone else’s writing, restated in your own words. Much shorter than the original text.
Always acknowledge the original author when using a paraphrase or summary.
For more information see Citing APA style.
See examples of paraphrasing and summarising below:
In recent years a body of research has revealed another, more nuanced benefit of workplace diversity: nonhomogenous teams are simply smarter. Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.
(from – Rock, D. & Grant, H. (2016). Why diverse teams are smarter. Harvard Business Review
A bad paraphrase
In the last few years, a collection of research has shown another, more nuanced advantage of workplace diversity: diverse teams are simply better . Working with people who are unlike you may encourage your brain to lose its old ways of thinking and improve its performance.
Note this paraphrase has only replaced some words with synonyms and has kept the structure almost identical to the original sentence.
A good paraphrase
Recent research has revealed that working in diverse teams can stimulate your creativity and efficiency, advocating the benefits of workplace diversity (Rock & Grant, 2016).
Note: This paraphrase shows a change in sentence structure and words
Striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan — it is a good business decision. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.
In a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse, organizations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women on the board.
In recent years a body of research has revealed another, more nuanced benefit of workplace diversity: nonhomogenous teams are simply smarter. Working with people who are different from you may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance. Let’s dig into why diverse teams are smarter.
The benefits of workplace diversity has been illustrated in recent studies like the McKinsey report and the Credit Suisse analysis. These studies indicate that diversity in management resulted in higher profits for companies (Rock & Grant, 2016).
You are probably already familiar with spellchecker and grammar checker in Microsoft Word. Another beneficial tool is the thesaurus, which can aid your writing to find the best word to meet your needs.
Using the thesaurus, you can look up synonyms (different words with the same meaning) and antonyms (words with the opposite meaning).
The following screencast demonstrates how to use the thesaurus function in Word.
Steps to effective paraphrasing and summarising:
- Read your text/paragraph and ensure that you understand it.
- Write down your ideas without looking at the original.
- Use synonyms or change the word order of your sentence.
- Compare with the original to see whether you are conveying the same meaning.
- Record the source details so you can easily cite it later.
3 key techniques for paraphrasing
Change vocabulary by using synonyms
- asserts – claims, argues, maintains
- twentieth century – 1900s
- illustrates – explains, emphasises, clarifies
Change word class
- analyse – analysis, analysing
- create – creating, creation
- assume – assumption, assuming, assumed
Change the sentence structure
- …the best explanation for the British location of the industrial revolution is found by studying demand factors.
- A focus on demand may help explain the UK origin of the industrial revolution.
The University of Auckland provides further resources on paraphrasing and summarising as part of the online learning module Referen©ite.
Further paraphrasing tips from Queensland University of Technology.
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Paraphrasing and Summarizing
Putting it in your own words, summarizing and paraphrasing, step one: skim the source, step two: take point-form notes, step three: close or put away the source, step four: turn your point-form notes into sentences.
- Step Five: Test What You Have Written to Ensure You Have Avoided Plagiarism
Step Six: Make Any Necessary Corrections
When writing a research paper, you, the writer, must incorporate into the paper the information and ideas you have learned in the course of your research that come from primary and secondary sources. Occasionally, it is appropriate to quote, but, usually, it is better to either paraphrase or summarize what you have learned. This task may seem simple; how often have we heard a teacher or instructor tell us to put what we have read “into our own words”? Yet, while easy to say, it is not so easy to do.
It is important to be able to summarize and paraphrase correctly in order to effectively integrate your research into your essay without relying on direct quotation or committing plagiarism.
Summarizing – means rewriting something in your own words but shortening it by stating only the main idea and the supporting points you need for your purposes. A summary can be just one sentence or it can be much longer, depending on whether you are presenting a broad overview or a more thorough outline.
Paraphrasing – means rewriting something in your own words, giving the same level of detail as the source and at roughly the same length as the original. You may choose to paraphrase details or particular evidence and/or examples.
The choice between summarizing and paraphrasing depends on how much detail from the source you need for your paper. When you need the source’s main argument and/or supporting points, summarize. Or, you may summarize a section or part of a source, by identifying the section’s main point or idea. When you want all the details from a particular passage or section of a source, paraphrase. (Don’t try to paraphrase an entire source.)
Whether you decide to summarize or paraphrase a source, the process is similar. You just can’t cut and paste a chunk of text into your essay draft and then change a few words here and there. You will remain too close to the source’s organization, sentence structure and phrasing. Instead follow these six steps.
Skim a source to determine what you need from it: its argument, a specific supporting point, and/or particular evidence. Identify exactly what information you want to go into your paper. This decision will help you decide how detailed your notes about this source should be.
For a paraphrase, the notes will be more detailed and extensive. For a summary, the notes will focus on the main points of a reading. Either way, taking notes is an acquired skill and takes practice.
The first stage in the note-taking process is illustrated below. The note-taker has decided to paraphrase the passage as it has lots of detailed information relevant to the paper being written. The note-taker then reads the passage, bolding the important information and ideas he or she wishes to capture for the paper, and then pauses to jot down notes.
In America today, millions of people leave their homes in a protracted and often futile search for healthy food for their families. Many walk out their front doors and see nothing but fast-food outlets and convenience stores selling high-fat, high-sugar processed foods; others see no food vendors of any kind . Without affordable fresh food options, especially fruit and vegetables, adults and children face fundamental challenges to making the healthy food choices that are essential for nutritious, balanced diets. And without grocery stores and other viable fruit and vegetable merchants, neighborhoods lack a critical ingredient of vibrant, livable communities: quality food retailers that create jobs, stimulate foot traffic, and bolster local commerce .
(From: Bell.J. & Standish, M. (2009). Building healthy communities through equitable food access. Community Development Investment Review, 5 (3), 75-87.)
- For millions in the US: looking for healthy food to buy difficult. Why?
- Many neighbourhoods have no grocery stores: only fast-food and convenience stores
- Sell high-fat, high-sugar candy, junk and processed food (anything healthy is more expensive?)
No grocery stores = fund. challenges to healthy eating
Neighbourhoods lack grocery stores, any kind of fruit and vegetable vendors that create jobs
- stimulate foot traffic (how? Usually surrounded by parking lots?)
- bolster local commerce
- Hard to eat in healthy manner (lack of health? obesity?)
- Breakdown of vibrancy and livability of communities
The note-taker first identifies the main point of the passage. The notes are in point-form: the reason for not writing out full sentences is to break the connection with the original’s sentence structure. The note-taker also occasionally inserts questions for further analysis or follow-up. Doing all of these things filters the information and ideas of the source through the note-taker’s own understanding.
If, instead of paraphrasing, you make the decision to summarize the passage, the notes would include only the major points of the passage.
This is a fairly self-explanatory step, but the point is that when you try to write about the information you have learned from this source, you do so without the source in front of you.
How to do this? Keep in mind that both paraphrasing and summarizing are about showing that you have internalized what you have read to the point where you can say it yourself. So, read over your notes two or three times, put those out of sight too, and, perhaps pretending you are explaining what you have just read to a fellow student or your instructor, write either your paraphrase/summary. Remember that, for a summary all you have to do is convey the main point and key supporting points of the passage, not the details.
You need to make clear where the information and arguments come from, so it can be a good idea to start off with the author’s or authors’ name(s). Writing “Bell and Standish argue that...” or “Bell and Standish’s main point is that...” is often a good way to get the words to start to flow. Remember you can rearrange the information, group it differently, or change the sequence slightly to suit your purposes; all of these actions will help you to write the paraphrase or summary in “your own words.”
Step Five: Test What You Have Written To Ensure You Have Avoided Plagiarism
If you followed the first four steps rigorously, you should pass this test. The way to test your writing is to go through your passage and the original passage and underline, highlight or put in bold the words that appear in both passages. There is no way to write a paraphrase or a summary that does not have some of the same words as the original, but doing this test will show you any places where you have lifted whole phrases or sentences and put them in your text.
Words appearing in both passages are in bold:
Bell and Standish (2009) make the point that, for millions of Americans, buying healthy, fresh food such as fruits and vegetables , takes a major effort because many neighbourhoods do not have grocery stores close by but only fast-food outlets and convenience stores . Convenience stores do not sell much healthy food but, instead, sell junk food , candy, and processed food hi gh in fat and sugar . Some neighbourhoods do not have food vendors of any kind . Bell and Standish argue that these kinds of neighbourhoods are not just places in which it is difficult to buy and eat healthy food , they are also less vigorous and energetic, and less comfortable to live in because grocery stores and other healthy food vendors may encourage walking, create jobs , and support the local economy in other ways as well.
The test shows that while the two passages share many common words, there are very few exact copies of phrases in the paraphrase. Phrases such as “grocery store,” “healthy food,” “convenience store,” or “food vendors” are not unique turns of phrase that belong to one writer; they are common terms, so changing these words is not necessary. For example, “convenience store” is the best and most commonly used phrase for that particular kind of retail outlet; changing it would be artificial and less clear. (The same rule applies to technical and scientific terminology. These terms don’t belong to anyone, and there is no reason to try to find synonyms for them.)
Precisely how long can a phrase that is identical to one in the original source be before it becomes a problem? A phrase of three words is usually too long; it should be changed or included as a direct quotation. Based on this criteria, in the paraphrase, there are a couple of problematic phrases that should be changed: “fast-food outlets and convenience stores,” and “food vendors of any kind.”
Words common to the original source and to the paraphrase are in bold:
Bell and Standish (2009) argue that for millions of Americans, healthy eating is a difficult task because many neighbourhoods do not have grocery stores close by, only fast-food restaurants or convenience stores . These neighbourhoods lack the jobs and economic support that grocery stores bring, thus making them less “vibrant” and “livable” (75).
The words in bold show that the summary passes the test. It’s usually a little easier to write a summary in your own words than to write a paraphrase in your own words because condensing and shortening will automatically ensure some change in organization, sentence structure and wording. In this case, the decision was made to quote the two final adjectives, “vibrant” and “livable”, as none of the synonyms were as descriptive in as few words.
You may find a few exact phrases from your test; it is important to change them. In the paraphrase, “fast-food outlets and convenience stores” can be changed to “convenience stores or fast-food restaurants.” Similarly, “food vendors of any kind” can be changed to “any type of food vendor.”
Another technique to keep in mind is to occasionally quote a short phrase in the midst of your summary or paraphrase. For example, in the final sentence of the original passage, the authors used two adjectives, “vibrant” and “livable.” These appear in the paraphrase as “vigorous and energetic” and “comfortable for its residents to live in.” However, the authors are here using a distinctive turn of phrase to describe ideal communities as opposed to using common terms such as “convenience store” or “healthy food”. So, in this instance, another good choice would be to quote the authors:
...Bell and Standish argue that these kinds of neighbourhoods are not just places in which it is difficult to buy and eat healthy food, they are also less “vibrant” and less “livable” (75) because grocery stores and other healthy food vendors may encourage walking, create jobs, and support the local economy in other ways as well.
As you can see, learning how to paraphrase and to summarize your sources takes practice and patience. Following the six steps suggested here should ensure that you are successful in conveying information and ideas learned from your sources “in your own words”.
Academic Writing: Summarising, paraphrasing and quoting
- Academic Writing
- Planning your writing
- Structuring your assignment
- Critical Thinking & Writing
- Building an argument
- Reflective Writing
- Summarising, paraphrasing and quoting
Summarising, Paraphrasing and Quotations
Academic writing requires that you use literature sources in your work to demonstrate the extent of your reading (breadth and depth), your knowledge, understanding and critical thinking. Literature can be used to provide evidence to support arguments and can demonstrate your awareness of the research-base that underpins your subject specialism.
There are three ways to introduce the work of others into your assignments: summarising, paraphrasing and quotations.
When, Why & How to Use
Definition: Using your own words to provide a statement (‘summary’) of the main themes, key points, or overarching ideas of a complete text, such as a book, chapter from a book, or academic article.
When to use:
- Useful for providing an overview or background to a topic
- Useful for describing your knowledge and understanding from a single source
- Useful for expressing your combined knowledge and understanding from several sources (synthesis of sources)
Why to use:
- Demonstrates your understanding of your reading
- Demonstrates your ability to identify the main points from a larger body of text or to draw together the main points from several sources
How to use:
- Should offer a balanced representation of the main points
- Should be expressed in your own words (except for technical terminology or conventional terms that appear in the original)
- Should not include detailed discussion or examples
- Should not include information that is not in the original text
- Should avoid using the same sentence structures as the original text
- Read the original text (more than once if necessary) to make sure you fully understand it
- Note the main points in your own words
- Recheck the original text to ensure you have covered the key content and meaning
- Rewrite using formal, grammatically correct academic writing
- Requires in-text citation and referencing
- No page numbers in in-text citation
Example (using Harvard referencing style, from CiteThemRight online, Cite Them Right - Summarising (Harvard) (citethemrightonline.com) :
'Nevertheless, one important study (Harrison, 2007) looks closely at the historical and linguistic links between European races and cultures over the past five hundred years.'
Definition: Using your own words to express an author’s specific point from a short section of text (one or two sentences, or a paragraph), retaining the original meaning.
- Used where the meaning of the text is more important than the exact words
- Useful for expressing the author’s specific point more concisely and in a way that clarifies its relationship to your work
- Useful for stating factual information such as data and statistics from a source
- Demonstrates that you have understood the content and can express it independently, rather than relying on the author’s words
- Allows you to use your own style of writing and your own ‘voice’ in your work
- Allows you to integrate the ideas to fit more readily with your own work and to improve the flow of the writing
- Must not change the original meaning
- Must go further than just changing a few words or changing the word order as this could amount to plagiarism (you would not be fully expressing the idea in your own words)
- Use different sentence structures from the original source
- Use different vocabulary from the original source to convey the meaning
- Read the original text several times, and identify the key content which is important and relevant to your work to distinguish this from content which is less important
- Identify any specialist terminology or key words which are essential
- Think about your reason for paraphrasing and how it relates to your own work
- Roughly note down your understanding of the relevant content in your own words (don’t copy) without looking at the original text
- Reread the original text and refine your notes to ensure that you are not misrepresenting the author, to determine whether you have captured the important aspects of the piece and to make sure your paraphrasing is not too similar to the original
- Rewrite this in formal, grammatically correct academic writing
- Requires page number/s in the in-text citation to precisely locate the original content on which the paraphrasing is based within the source
Example (using Harvard referencing style, from CiteThemRight online, Cite Them Right - Paraphrasing (Harvard) (citethemrightonline.com) :
'Harrison (2007, p. 48) clearly distinguishes between the historical growth of the larger European nation states and the roots of their languages and linguistic development, particularly during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At this time, imperial goals and outward expansion were paramount for many of the countries, and the effects of spending on these activities often led to internal conflict.'
Definition: Using the author’s exact words to retain the author’s specific form of expression, clearly identifying the quotation as distinct from your own words (for example using quotation marks or indentation).
- Used where the author’s own exact words are important, rather than just the meaning
- Useful where the author’s original choice of words conveys subjective experience, uses persuasive language, or carries emotional force
- Useful where the precise wording is significant, for example in legal texts
- Useful for definitions
- Useful if the author’s own words carry the weight of power and authority that supports your argument
- Useful if you want to critique an author’s point, to ensure you do not misrepresent their meaning
- Useful if you want to disagree with the author as their own words may express their opposition to your argument enabling you to engage with and resist their point of view
- Useful if the author has expressed themselves so concisely, distinctively, and eloquently that paraphrasing would diminish the quality of the statement
- Demonstrates your ability to identify relevant and significant content from a larger body of work
- Demonstrates that you have read and understood the wider context of the quotation and can integrate it into your own work appropriately
- Should be used selectively (over-use of quotations does not demonstrate your own understanding)
- Should not be used just to avoid expressing the meaning in your own words or because you are not confident you have understood the content
- Make sure that the quotation is reproduced accurately, including spelling and punctuation
- Comment on the quotation and its relationship to your point, for example explain its interest and relevance, show how it applies to a particular situation, or discuss its limitations
- Short quotations of no more than three lines should be contained within quotation marks (you can use double or single quotations marks, but be consistent and note that Turnitin only recognises double quotation marks)
- Longer quotations (used sparingly) should be included as a separate paragraph indented from the main text, without quotation marks
- Don’t use quotation marks for technical terminology which is accepted within your specialism, and which is part of the common language of your academic discipline
- Requires page number/s in the in-text citation to precisely locate the quote within the source
Examples (from CiteThemRight online, Cite Them Right - Setting out quotations (Harvard) (citethemrightonline.com) ):
Short quotation (using Harvard referencing style):
'If you need to illustrate the idea of nineteenth-century America as a land of opportunity, you could hardly improve on the life of Albert Michelson’ (Bryson, 2004, p. 156).
Long quotation (using Harvard referencing style):
King describes the intertwining of the fate and memory in many evocative passages, such as:
So the three of them rode towards their end of the Great Road, while summer lay all about them, breathless as a gasp. Roland looked up and saw something that made him forget all about the Wizard’s Rainbow. It was his mother, leaning out of her apartment’s bedroom window: the oval of her face surrounded by the timeless gray stone of the castle’s west wing! (King, 1997, pp. 553-554)
You can omit part of a quotation by using three dots (ellipses). Only do this to omit unnecessary words which do not alter the meaning.
Example (from CiteThemRight online, Cite Them Right - Making changes to quotations (citethemrightonline.com) ).
'Drug prevention ... efforts backed this up' (Gardner, 2007, p. 49).
You can insert your own or different words into a quotation by placing them in square brackets. Only do this to add clarity to the quotation where it does not alter the meaning.
Example (from CiteThemRight online, Cite Them Right - Making changes to quotations (citethemrightonline.com) ):
'In this field [crime prevention], community support officers ...' (Higgins, 2008, p. 17).
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Direct Quotes vs. Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing: Know the Difference
- Written By Lorraine Roberte
- Updated: June 28, 2023
Knowing the differences between direct quotes, paraphrasing, and summarizing is crucial no matter your occupation, from business owner to content marketer.
Why? Because it can prevent you from accidentally plagiarizing in the work you do for yourself and from breeching best practices.
Incorporating a mixture of these elements in your content can also help you tell a better story, so your audience keeps reading.
Direct quotes vs. paraphrasing vs. summarizing — understanding the difference
We’re breaking down the differences between direct quotes vs. paraphrasing and summarizing and how you can use them in your writing.
From press releases for your business to engaging blog posts for your target audience, you can make your writing more interesting by including trustworthy sources.
Direct quotes include the exact words that someone said, with quotation marks and name attribution. They’re especially common when writing about people .
Example: “Elon Musk said in a tweet that Starlink’s satellite broadband service coverage will be available on ‘most of Earth by end of year,’ although he noted that ‘cellular will always have the advantage in dense urban areas.'”
When to use direct quotes
According to the APA style guide , you’ll need to use direct quotes when:
- Copying an exact definition
- The author’s words are memorable and succinct
- Responding or reacting to someone’s exact words
How to use direct quotes
In general, direct quotes are written verbatim. But you can make these small changes without alerting your readers:
- Changing the first letter of the quote to an upper or lowercase so that the quotation matches the context sentence’s syntax. Can also modify the punctuation at the end of the quote.
- Swapping single quotation marks to double quotation marks and vice versa
- Omitting footnote or endnote number references
Paraphrasing is when you restate someone else’s words, but not word for word.
Example (original quote): “It’s risky trusting employees as much as we do. Giving them as much freedom as we do. But it’s essential in creative companies where you have much greater risk from lack of innovation.” — Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO and co-founder .
Example (paraphrase): “Netflix’s CEO and co-founder, Reed Hastings, feels that micromanaging workers can stifle innovation in creative businesses.”
When to paraphrase
It can be helpful to paraphrase if you want to keep your writing more conversational. It’s also useful when breaking up direct quotes or explaining the original source in simpler terms. That way, the information better fits the tone and style of your writing.
How to paraphrase
Paraphrasing involves putting a section of the source information entirely into your own words while staying true to its original meaning. You can link to the source in the place that makes the most sense, such as “report” for an industry report.
You can keep from plagiarizing when paraphrasing by using synonyms for words mentioned in the source. It’s important to restate phrases differently (even if they’re just a few words) to avoid the same sentence structure. If you don’t, you could still be plagiarizing, despite crediting the source.
If you use exact words from the original material while paraphrasing, you must put the word or words in quotes. The exception is generic terms that are difficult to find synonyms for.
When you summarize, you use your own words to describe the critical points of what someone else said or that you heard or read in a source.
Example (original quote): “In a diverse population of older patients who were hospitalized for acute decompensated heart failure, an early, transitional, tailored, progressive rehabilitation intervention that included multiple physical-function domains resulted in greater improvement in physical function than usual care.” — Study in the New England Journal of Medicine
Example (summary): “A recent study shows physical rehabilitation programs to be helpful for older populations with hospitalizations from heart failure.”
When to summarize
Summaries are excellent at giving readers the key insights they need from a longer text when proving your point. They also add context while keeping at a manageable length whatever type of article you’re writing.
How to summarize
You don’t need to include any quotes or attribution when summarizing, just a brief overview that often links back to the original material for more details. It may also introduce essential points from the original text, allowing readers to understand the source without clicking through it.
Now that you know the difference between direct quotes, paraphrasing, and summarizing, you can confidently write content for your business.
Need help creating engaging blog posts for your business? Talk to a content specialist at ClearVoice today about your needs.
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Summary vs Paraphrase – Quality Is Guaranteed Whatever You Choose
Whenever students face new academic assignment types, which require summarizing and paraphrasing, they get confused. These two text-rewriting approaches are different even when each one focuses on text analysis, comprehension, and transformation. For summarizing, authors must read the whole paper, section, paragraph, etc., and define the most valuable information. Next, writers describe every major point briefly.
While looking at paraphrasing vs summarizing, the first one pays close attention to key points, too, but differently. When students want to alter original text, they start with finding and understanding every paragraph. Here, the goal of transformation is to preserve the source meaning by using different words for describing it. Meantime, summarizing method groups information and can use even text very similar to the original.
Another difference between paraphrasing and summarizing is the final size. Every summary is always much shorter than the initial paper. Most requirements for such academic assignments strictly indicate the needed word count. For summarizing, students must explain the paper within limits. Learners often have trouble with larger texts. Such materials present too much valuable information. Thus, to summarize papers correctly, students set priorities.
To accomplish paraphrasing and summarizing assignments successfully, you should focus on fulfilling the following steps:
- Read the original text until you completely understand it.
- Define crucial information sections, passages, and sentences.
- Make notes on every relevant detail that is worth attention.
- Summarize or transform source text into the needed form.
- Check the completed paper, correcting any mistakes you find.
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Difference Between Paraphrasing and Summarizing Is What Experts Know
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Another part of comparing summarizing vs paraphrasing requirements is uniqueness. Sometimes tutors have lower originality limits for summaries as students explain the original text using the same word choice. However, it greatly changes depending on the level of academic writing. While preparing papers for mid-terms and overall discipline scores, content must always be unique.
That is why, when finding summary versus paraphrase, uniqueness requirements on the internet always consider individual instructions from professors. Meanwhile, professional writers keep delivering completely plagiarism-free content to clients. Experts always focus on order quality whenever they have summarizing and paraphrasing texts.
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Table of Contents
What is the difference between summarizing and paraphrasing.
We frequently get confused by the terms summary and paraphrase, as they refer to the same thing. The summary and the paraphrase are two important writing tools that allow us to incorporate the ideas and work of other authors into our own work. Although we should always write our own ideas, there are times when we need the work of another author to back up our arguments or to illustrate a different point of view. In these circumstances, summaries and paraphrases come in handy.
Paraphrasing Vs Summarizing
The difference between paraphrasing and summarising is that paraphrasing entails writing any content in your own words and is similar in size to the original text, whereas summarising entails mentioning only the most important points of any work in your own words and is much shorter than the original.
You are presenting someone else’s ideas in your own words when you paraphrase their writing. Recognizing whose ideas you’re presenting and where they came from is an important part of paraphrasing. It’s impossible for a paraphrased passage to be too similar to the source material. You can’t just change a couple of words and claim to be paraphrasing. Ideally, you should present these ideas in language that is natural and easy to understand for both you and your audience.
A summary is a simplified form of a writing that only includes the most important points. You should indeed use your own words in a summary, however a brief quotation can be used occasionally.
A summary’s main goal is to condense a large text into a manageable size. As a result, a summary is much smaller than the input text. It should clearly and concisely present the central ideas and concepts of the original text. It really is feasible, however, to overlook certain factual information that is unrelated to your text as long as the original text’s meaning is not disrupted.
When is it appropriate to paraphrase?
You demonstrate to the reader that you understand the key concepts when you successfully paraphrase someone else’s ideas. Because you want to demonstrate that you’re competent in something other than copying and pasting, you should paraphrase. Only those who truly comprehend concepts are capable of successfully paraphrasing them. To put it another way, paraphrasing demonstrates your confidence in the thoughts you’re trying to discuss.
Finally, paraphrasing is a good choice when you need to condense a longer passage into a shorter one. When you come across an idea that would seem ancient or difficult to access to a young mind, you can choose to paraphrase it. You can make these ideas meaningful again by simply placing them in your own words.
When should you make a summary?
When you need a little more versatility, summaries come in handy. You can summarise a concept in a few sentences or spend an entire paragraph doing so. Other summaries are written in the form of complete essays.
Summaries also allow you to quickly get to the heart of what the author was attempting to say. When you summarise a piece of writing, you can cut out all of the extraneous details that aren’t really necessary or relevant. Finally, summaries have always been about compacting information so you can correspond to key points inside the original passage.
What are the steps in the summarization process?
- Carefully read and comprehend the text.
- Consider the text’s intended audience. Inquire about the author’s motivation for writing the text.
- Choose the information that is relevant.
- Find the main points – what matters.
- The text’s structure should be changed.
- Rephrase the main points in full sentences.
- Please double-check your work.
What are the paraphrasing rules?
Suggestions for paraphrasing.
- Your first sentence should begin at a different point than the original source.
- Synonyms should be used (words that mean the same thing)
- Change the structure of the sentences (e.g. from active to passive voice)
- Separate the information into sentences.
When is it appropriate to use summaries?
You can use a summary to provide context, set the tone, or illustrate supporting evidence, but keep it short: a few sentences should suffice. The majority of your paper should be devoted to your argument.
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