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Citing and Documenting Sources: Quoting, Summarizing, and Paraphrasing

In a Nutshell

Three common techniques used to work other people's words and ideas into your writing are quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing.

  What is it?
Quoting Using the author's exact words. Always cite it and use "quotation marks."
Summarizing Condensing the author's words or ideas without altering the meaning or providing interpretation—you use your own words for this. Basically, presenting the original information in a nutshell. Always cite it.
Paraphrasing Restating, in your own words, the author's words or ideas without altering the meaning or providing interpretation. Paraphrases are about the same length as the original. Always cite it.

Tips on Quoting

 Some good reasons to include a quote are:

  • You want to support or add credibility to your arguments
  • The original is difficult to rephrase
  • The original is soooo good that you want to preserve the language

 

Quoting is good, but stringing a bunch of quotes together without analysis and well-crafted transitions is bad. Also, random quotes and a lot of fluff will appear to be just that.

 Always include a citation and use "quotation marks" to signal that you are using someone else's words when you quote.

Here's an example of what a quote would look like in your paper if you were using MLA:

Original Quote in a Paper Using MLA
Buffy, a small, delicate-looking blonde of superhuman strength, relies on Giles not only for adult support and coaching, but also for the research necessary to do that for which the Vampire Slayer has been chosen. According to DeCandido, Buffy "relies on Giles not only for adult support and coaching, but also for the research necessary to do that for which the Vampire Slayer has been chosen" (44).

And this complete citation would go in your "Works Cited" list.

DeCandido, Graceanne A. "Bibliographic Good vs. Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer." American Libraries Sept. 1999: 44-47.

Tips on Summarizing

In academic writing, there are a few things to keep in mind when summarizing outside sources:

  • Use your own words
  • Include the main points of the original and keep it brief—you're just going for the original's essence
  • Do not include your interpretation/analysis within the summary—make a clear distinction between your thoughts and someone else's
  • Vary how you introduce or attribute your sources, like "according to…," or "so-and-so concludes that..." so your readers don't get bored
  • Always include a citation
 

Here's an example of what a summary would look like in your paper if you were using MLA:

Original Summary in a Paper Using MLA
Buffy, a small, delicate-looking blonde of superhuman strength, relies on Giles not only for adult support and coaching, but also for the research necessary to do that for which the Vampire Slayer has been chosen. In the third season, Giles was officially relieved from his Watcher duties, but he ignores that and continues as Buffy's trainer, confidant, and father-figure. To help her fulfill her Slayer duties, Buffy can always turn to Giles (DeCandido 44).

And this complete citation would go in your "Works Cited" list.

DeCandido, Graceanne A. "Bibliographic Good vs. Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer." American Libraries Sept. 1999: 44-47.

Tips on Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is similar to summarizing in that you: Paraphrasing differs from summarizing in that you:
  • Do not include your interpretation/analysis within the paraphrase—make a clear distinction between your thoughts and someone else's
  • Should vary how you introduce or attribute your sources, like "according to…," or "so-and-so concludes that..."
  • Always include a citation
  • Usually write about the same length as the original
  • Use your own words, but you may occasionally want to include a sequence of words or a brief quote from the original (Remember to use "quotation marks" if you decide to include any sequence of words from the original.)

Here's an example of what a paraphrase would look like in your paper if you were using MLA:

Original Paraphrase in a Paper Using MLA
In the third season, Giles was officially relieved from his Watcher duties, but he ignores that and continues as Buffy's trainer, confidant, and father-figure. Despite his termination by the Watcher's Council in season three, Giles persists to teach and counsel Buffy while playing a "father-figure" role (DeCandido 44).

And this complete citation would go in your "Works Cited" list.

 

DeCandido, Graceanne A. "Bibliographic Good vs. Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer." American Libraries Sept. 1999: 44-47.