Paraphrasing vs. Quoting -- Explanation
Should I paraphrase or quote?
In general, use direct quotations only if you have a good reason. Most of your paper should be in your own words. Also, it's often conventional to quote more extensively from sources when you're writing a humanities paper, and to summarize from sources when you're writing in the social or natural sciences--but there are always exceptions.
In a literary analysis paper, for example, you''ll want to quote from the literary text rather than summarize, because part of your task in this kind of paper is to analyze the specific words and phrases an author uses.
In research papers, you should quote from a source
- to show that an authority supports your point
- to present a position or argument to critique or comment on
- to include especially moving or historically significant language
- to present a particularly well-stated passage whose meaning would be lost or changed if paraphrased or summarized
You should summarize or paraphrase when
- what you want from the source is the idea expressed, and not the specific language used to express it
- you can express in fewer words what the key point of a source is
Good writing takes time. This means that students need to set time aside to brainstorm, pre write, plan, draft, and then revise, revise, and revise. If students leave their essay to the last minute, they tend to become overwhelmed by the writing task and panic by looking for an alternative. This alternative is usually plagiarism. Students must do everything possible to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism, a form of academic misconduct, results in failure. Plagiarism is when students knowingly present another person’s language or ideas (or paper) as if it was their own work. Plagiarism includes using the words, ideas, answers, or works of another writer without providing clear acknowledgement of the original author and accurate citation. If you cut-and-paste various sentences found at a number of different web sites and/or works, and incorporate them into your essay without properly citing them, this is still plagiarism. Plagiarism also includes using academic papers for sale or allowing another person to write any section of the student’s assignment. When researching electronic online sources and/or using information from published or unpublished works, students must fully and clearly acknowledge the original writer and employ correct citation methods. Plagiarism in class results in failure on the plagiarized assignment and may result in failure of the course.
Students should feel comfortable browsing the internet in search of information related to their essay topic. It's always helpful to google a topic and learn what kind of information is being distributed about that topic. It's also an excellent brainstorming tool. Also, using reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias to learn about new ideas is also helpful. However, any time you consult a work, and use their ideas, you need to cite them as well.
1) Print everything! Often times a student will find excellent information on the web site, but he/she will forget to print it. Later, the student might want to use this information, but he/she may not find it again online. This can be frustrating, and students might be tempted to use whatever information they can remember, without citing it. Students can simply avoid this by printing every online document they find useful.
2) Photocopy everything! Students often times make the mistake of photocopying only the pages where they find interesting quotes, and they forget to photocopy the title page of the book/article where the title and author are listed. Be detailed and photocopy all information you will need to later cite the source properly.
Author—Creator or compiler of the information; for web sites this may be the Webmaster or the owning organization.
Title—Title of the document; for web sites this is usually found at the top of the Web page.
Publisher--the person or organization responsible for the material.
Day, month, year—Date published; for web sites this would be the date that the Web page was put online; should be the same as the "last updated" date if available.
Access date—For web sites only, this is the date you viewed the Web page or accessed the information.
Site/path/file—For web sites only, this is the address or URL (uniform resource locator) of the Web site.
Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing:
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.
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 broad segment of the source and condensing it slightly.
involve 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 a paraphrase because summaries take a broader 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,
• 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, and
• expand the breadth or depth of your writing.
Finally, you should rotate use of all three methods to add stylistic variety to your paper.
Some examples to compare…
The original passage (the quote):
Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.
Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.
A legitimate paraphrase:
In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).
An acceptable summary:
Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).
A plagiarized version:
Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So It is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes. NOTE: Why is this passage plagiarized? Because there is no citation given at the end of the passage.
Intertwining all Three in a Body Paragraph...
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 On the Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud argues that dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious” (page) [direct quote], expressing in coded imagery the dreamer’s unfulfilled wishes through a process known as the “dream work” (page) [summary]. According to Freud, actual suppressed 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) [paraphrase with some quoted key terms].
Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words
Paraphrasing can be tricky, and requires some additional practice.
A paraphrase is…
• your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form.
• one legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a source.
• a more detailed restatement than a summary, which focuses concisely on a single main idea.
Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...
• it is better than quoting information from an undistinguished passage..
• it helps control the temptation to quote too much.
• the mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original.
• allows you to continue writing in your own personal tone and writing voice while quoting someone else's material.
8 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing
1. Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
2. Set the original aside, so it is out of sight, and write your paraphrase on a note card.
3. Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you envision using this material in your essay.
4.At the top of the note card, write a key word or phrase to indicate the subject of your paraphrase.
5. Now, take out the original passage, and check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.
6. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.
7. Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that. you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.
8. TIP: Some students like to read, highlight, and annotate the section to make sure that they understand it. Then put the quote away, so it is out of sight, and begin writing the paraphrase.
Sample Note Card:
Summarizing Shorter and/or Longer Pieces of Writing:
- A good way to show your comprehension of what you have read it is to write a summary about the text. When you write a summary, you want to condense the main ideas of an essay, a story, or an article into 100 words or so, using all your own words and not quoting from the text. This sounds easy, but actually, it is challenging to condense a long article or story into 100 words.
What do I need to do to write a summary successfully?
One of the most important things you need to be able to do is identify the major points of the article. If you are summarizing a story, you need to be able to identify the major characters and actions of the plot. You don't want to waste time and space discussing unimportant details. If you are summarizing an article, you want to identify the author's thesis statement (overall main idea or point) of the article.
The next important thing you need to be able to do is restate the major points in your own words. This means you shouldn't copy sentences from the article or story. Try to restate everything in your own words.
Finally, when you summarize, you should not put in your own thoughts about the article or essay, nor should you add any opinions. Think about the news broadcasters you watch on TV. They report the news objectively, meaning they don't give their opinion of an event. In reporting, they summarize news stories for the viewer. This is what you want to do for your reader. (When you write what is called a response, you give your own opinions.)
Remember, when writing a summary you must tell the reader IN YOUR OWN WORDS what the article is about. Any time you use someone else's words or ideas without giving them credit for those words and ideas you are plagiarizing, which is a serious offense. If you want to include a small part of the article into your summary, always put quotation marks (" ") around what you are copying directly. (Avoid copying too much directly from the article. One short quote in a summary is enough.)
How do I Write a Summary?
- (1) Read, Reread, and Annotate the Material.
- Carefully read the material, paying particular attention to the content and structure of the piece. Reread and annotate the material. being sure to note:
the primary assertions, arguments, or findings;
and the primary means of support for each point.
(2) Write One-Sentence Summaries of Each Section of the Text.
- Identify the major sections of the reading, where the writer develops one idea before moving on to the next. In your own words, restate the main point developed in each section of the text and primary means of support the author provides.
- (3) Use Many Author Tags.
- Even after you note the author and title at the beginning of your summary, readers can sometimes lose track of how much of your paper summarizes an article. When this happens, readers don't see the end of your summary and the beginning of your reaction or opinion. The best way to avoid this problem in an extended summary (or even one that includes only four to five sentences) is to repeat the author's name or appropriate pronouns. When you repeat the name, use verbs that underscore the author's purpose in writing the original article. Try using author tags like:
- According to Smith,
- Smith asserts that...
- He goes on to say....
- But Smith also reflects on....
- Consequently, Smith explains, the...
- Smith views such ideas as....
Writer's often feel that they are overusing author tags. However, when I grade essays, I often find that these same students have actually UNDER used their author tags.
- (4) Write the First Draft of Your Summary.
- Introduce (in the first paragraph -- the introduction) the full title of the piece, the author's full name, and the topic of the reading.
- In the body of your summary, elaborate on the one sentence summaries, clearly explaining the important content of the reading.
- (5) Check the Rough Draft of Your Summary against the Source Text.
- As You Review Your Work, Make Sure Your Summary Is:
- Comprehensive: you have included in your summary all of the author’s important ideas, assertions, or findings.
- Accurate: in choosing words and selecting material four your summary, you have not misrepresented the author’s positions or findings.
- Neutral: in choosing words and selecting material for your summary, you have attempted to be objective and fair.
- Independent: your summary will make sense to someone who has not read the source test.
- (6) Rewrite Your Summary.
- Based on your evaluation of your rough draft, make any needed changes in the content,organization, or language of your summary.
If you are writing an explanatory summary, include any transition words you need to guide your reader through your work.
- Sources for "Summarizing a Longer Piece of Work": Wilhoit, Stephen W. A Brief Guide to Writing from Readings. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 1997.
Glazier, Teresa F. The Least You Should Know about English. 4th ed. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston. 1994
There are many documents on the web about writing summaries. Here are three:
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