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Quoting paraphrasing and summarizing in research

Mar 26, 2018

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and when people start getting it confused, that means they need to sit down with some real people. Chuck D

When writing a research paper, you’re going to pull information from various outside sources. Doing this provides examples to support and further your ideas. At times, you’ll find that you need to quote, paraphrase, or summarize information from your sources. Using all three of these methods helps add variety to your writing. However, what is the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing? Here are some things that you should know about each one:


What: When quoting a source, use the author’s words verbatim, or word-for-word. This means you shouldn’t change any grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Put quotations around the words to tell your reader where the quote begins and where it ends.

You also need to acknowledge the author. For example, if using MLA format for your research paper, you should have in-text citations with the author’s name and page number listed at the end of each quote.

When: Use quotations to provide concrete examples to support your claims. Using direct quotations is a great way to build your credibility on the subject. It’s also a good idea to quote your source when the author states things in a powerful way. If you think he or she said it best, then use the exact words to share the ideas.

Example: In the short story “A Jury of Her Peers”, Mrs. Hale compares Mrs. Wright to her caged bird, saying “She—come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself. Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and—fluttery. How—she—did—change” (Glaspell).


What: Paraphrasing differs from quoting because you restate the passage in your own words. Since you don’t use the author’s words, you don’t need to use quotation marks. However, you still need to acknowledge the author for his or her ideas.

When paraphrasing a text, you should communicate the full meaning of the text; don’t change the meaning. It can be a condensed version of the text, or it could end up being longer than the source it’s paraphrasing.

When: You use paraphrasing when you take notes, or explain a chart or diagram to someone. Paraphrasing helps highlight the important parts of a larger text. It also allows you to simplify the ideas for your readers.

Original: “It was no ordinary thing that called her away–it was probably further from ordinary than anything that had ever happened in Dickson County. But what her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for leaving: her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour sifted and half unsifted” (Glaspell).

Paraphrase: As Mrs. Hales walks around Mrs. Wright’s home, she notices that the kitchen is in disarray as if she was in the middle of baking bread (Glaspell).


What: When summarizing, you need to state the main ideas and/or broader themes from the writing in your own words. You may quote or paraphrase portions of the text when creating a summary. However, a summary is typically shorter and more condensed than the product of paraphrasing. Also, since the ideas or themes come from the author, you still need to acknowledge the author for his or her ideas.

When: A summary allows you to take a larger portion of the text, if not the entire document, and discuss the main ideas and themes in a few sentences. It’s helpful to summarize when you want to give your reader background information on a text without needing to give too much detail.

Example: In the short story “A Jury of Her Peers”, Susan Glaspell describes a murder investigation where a man was strangled, and a group of men believe his wife—Mrs. Wright—may be the culprit. As they search for clues, two women uncover clues around the kitchen that shed a light on Mrs. Wright’s lonely living conditions with her husband.
They discover a possible motive but choose to hide it from the men to protect Mrs. Wright. Glaspell used the story to explore gender roles in the early part of the twentieth century where many people believed that a woman’s place was in the kitchen only.

Although there are several differences between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, there is one important similarity: all three of these require you to cite your sources. If you fail to cite your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing, you are plagiarizing. Don’t commit this egregious offense. Make sure to credit the author no matter how you share his or her thoughts, ideas, and words.

Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing are three important skills to master for writing in the academic and business world. These skills will help support claims and add credibility to your work.

Giving Credit to Your Sources

It is crucial to understand how to quote, paraphrase and summarize for writing in the workplace. These skills will help support claims and add credibility to your work. As a college professor, I have come across numerous issues with students quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing their work. Incidents of plagiarism run rampant in the classroom because some students don't seem to grasp how to credit their sources. Plagiarism is stealing someone else's work and portraying the work as your own.

This is a true story. I was reading papers in my office from one of my college writing classes. The research paper on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. began with the expected topic sentence and main points. I then turned the page and found myself reading rap lyrics. It turns out that the student thought I wouldn't read the entire paper and decided to take someone else's words (the rap artist's) and insert them into a five-page paper. He did not source the information, and it was entirely a plagiarized paper. While this is an extreme example, students can be easily confused about how to follow the basic sourcing rules of quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing. Let me offer you some tips in these three areas of research writing.


The first skill to master is the ability to use quotations to support a main idea. This is when a writer uses word-for-word information from a source and gives credit to the original writer. A quotation has to be an exact match and be attributed to the original source author. For example, if you were beginning a paper on Martin Luther King, Jr., it might be impactful to start your paper with a direct quotation of his to help create a mood or set up your main idea.


Paraphrasing is a second skill that allows a writer to legitimately utilize a passage of text from a source. The writer has to restate the original material in their own words while still maintaining the main ideas. In order for paraphrasing to be done correctly, it also has to offer credit to the original writer.

To paraphrase effectively, remember to:

Paraphrasing is different from summarizing because it condenses information but offers more than just a summary of main ideas. It can contain much more detail and is not concerned with length. Let's take a look at an example of paraphrasing a source. Here is an original quote about Dr. King from

'Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, 'I Have a Dream.' '

The next step is to condense the information into a shorter amount of verbiage and put it into your own words. This is the paraphrased example:

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Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech 'I Have a Dream' is a reminder of one of the most respected and admired leaders in history. His actions helped end segregation in the U.S. He was born January 15, 1929, but unfortunately, his life was cut short when he was murdered in 1968.


The last skill to master for using sources effectively in a paper is the art of summarizing. Like paraphrasing, this is also when written information is transferred into a writer's own words in a very short summary. The difference between summarizing and paraphrasing is that a summary just presents the main ideas in a very short overview. But similar to both quoting and paraphrasing, the final summary still has to be attributed to the original source.

Here is an example of summarizing. The original quote reads:

'We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.' - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our summarized sentence might be:

Everyone must learn to forgive because we all have good and bad in us.

Reasons to Source

Many students ask me, 'Why do I have to quote, paraphrase or summarize in papers?' The answer is because sourcing is expected and necessary to write legitimate and accepted papers in work and school because it:

Lesson Summary

Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing are three important skills to master for writing in the academic and business worlds. Quoting takes word-for-word information from a source and gives credit to the original writer. In paraphrasing, the writer has to transfer the original material into their own words, but the paraphrase can still contain multiple main points from the original source. Lastly, summarizing is when the main ideas are transferred into the writer's own words in a very short summary.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the lesson, you should be able to:

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