When you write a research paper, you’re required to include evidence from scholarly sources in order to prove your thesis. In this post, we discuss the three most common ways to include source material in your research paper: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
What is quoting?
When you quote, you use exact words from a source in between quotation marks. You may want to quote directly from a source when the information is particularly complex or when the quote expresses an idea or point in a way that perfectly captures the situation, concept, or thought.
If you’re using a quote that is more than four lines, you should include the material as a block quote. To learn more about how to quote, take a look at our tips for integrating quotes into a research paper. Always include an in-text citation after the quoted material.
What is paraphrasing?
When you paraphrase, you re-write borrowed material in your own words. Paraphrasing requires you to change the words of the quote without changing their meaning.
Paraphrases are typically shorter than the quotes that they restate and always require an in-text citation that credits the original source material.
What is summarizing?
A summary provides an overview of an idea or topic. You might wish to summarize parts of a source if you’re writing a literature review as part of a longer research paper.
Summarizing requires you to sum up the key points of a text, argument, or idea. A summary will be shorter than the original material. Even if you’re not using any of the source’s exact words in your summary, you still need to include an in-text citation.
How do you know when to quote, paraphrase, or summarize material?
Quotes, paraphrases, and summaries are simply different ways of presenting borrowed information. However, there are definitely situations in which one mode may be better than another.
When to use quotes
While it’s a myth that you should avoid using quotes as much as possible in a research paper, you do need to ensure that you are using them effectively. Turning in a paper full quotes is certainly not a good idea, but quotes can be useful if:
- you are trying to make a particularly complex point
- you intend to analyze or interpret a quote’s language
- you need to provide a definition of something
- a quote perfectly encapsulates an idea that is important to your argument
When to paraphrase
Paraphrasing allows you to confirm that you fully understand a quote’s meaning and to explain that content in your own words. There may be several reasons why you would choose to paraphrase a passage, rather than quote it. You might use paraphrase if:
- the material is relatively easy to describe
- you don’t wish to break up the flow of your writing with quotes
- you don’t intend to provide analysis of the information
- you want to combine material from several sources
When to summarize
Summary allows you to synthesize a larger amount of information from a single source or multiple sources. An effective summary will highlight the key points of a text in a concise manner. In a research paper, you’ll primarily use summary in the literature review or state-of-the-field section.
Examples of quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
When you quote, you should always try to “sandwich” the quote in your own words. You can also break up longer quotes with ellipses, or with snippets like “Smith explains.” For instance, in the example below, the writer uses her own words to lead into, and out of, the quotes.
Jenna Lay claims that “Catholic women resisted any easy demarcation between a Catholic medieval past and a Protestant, reformed present in both their religious practices and their print and manuscript books,” an argument that can be extended to include entire Catholic families (16). However, despite the fact that scholars such as Patton, Lay, and Jennifer Summit have argued that “we stand to learn much when we determine […] whether the early modern collector of a medieval devotional book was a Catholic or Protestant,” few studies have explored in any depth how Catholics used their books in the post-Reformation period.
In the example below, the writer succinctly paraphrases one of the main points of a book chapter. Even though there are no direct quotes, she still includes an in-text, parenthetical citation at the end of the paraphrase.
Elizabeth Patton, in her research on Catholic women’s bookscapes, contends that the staunchest Catholic families maintained textual networks in which they circulated books that were banned in Protestant England, including copies of medieval devotional manuscripts (117).
In the following summary, the writer uses her own words to provide a concise, yet thorough, summary of an article’s purpose and use of evidence. Again, although no direct quotes are included, the writer adds an in-text citation at the end of the example.
To establish the importance of this main point, Raghavan and Pargman firstly explore two related paradigms in sustainable HCI research: sustainable computing and computing for sustainability. The latter, they argue, has been simultaneously under- and overdeveloped and offers little in the way of practical solutions for how computing can lessen humans’ ecological impact. As a result, they focus on computing for sustainability and explore how disintermediation can catalyze solutions across several key categories, including value, class, labor, and social control. Importantly, they note that policy solutions have failed to fully address the relationship between computing and sustainability (1-2).
In-text citations for quotes, paraphrases, and summaries
Whether you’re quoting exact words from a text, paraphrasing a quote in your own words, or summarizing someone else’s work, you’ll need to include in-text citations for any borrowed material.
You can use BibGuru to create in-text citations in MLA, APA, or any major citation style. Most in-text citations are in the form of parenthetical citations. It’s always a good idea to consult your assignment guidelines, or your instructor, to find out which citation style is required for your paper.
Frequently Asked Questions about quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
🎃 What is quotation and paraphrase?
When you quote, you use exact words from a source in between quotation marks. When you paraphrase, you re-write borrowed material in your own words.
🐼 How do you paraphrase?
Paraphrasing requires you to change the words of the quote without changing their meaning.
🍁 How do you summarize from a source?
Summarizing requires you to sum up the key points of a text, argument, or idea. A summary will be shorter than the original material. Even if you’re not using any of the author’s exact words in your summary, you still need to include an in-text citation.
🥣 How do you quote from a source?
When you quote, you should always try to “sandwich” the quote in your own words. You can also break up longer quotes with ellipses or with snippets like “Smith explains.” For instance, in the example below, the writer uses her owd words to lead into, and out of, the quote.
🏐 What is the purpose of paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing allows you to confirm that you fully understand a quote’s meaning and to explain that content in your own words.