Quotation, Paraphrasing, and Summary

Integrating sources into a paper can be challenging. How much of a source do you use? When should you use quotation marks? It is important to remember that you are the author of a paper, so sources are properly used to back up your own arguments, not state an argument in themselves, so how you use them depends on the structure of your paper and your argument.

Here is a paragraph from a scholarly article:
These results suggest that morning people, or early chronotypes—as measured on the morningness–eveningness continuum are more proactive than are evening types. Additionally, the misalignment of social and biological time, as assessed by the difference between rise times on weekdays and on free days, correlated with proactivity, suggesting that people with a high misalignment of social and biological time may be less able to act in a proactive manner, probably because of sleep delay. Their biological schedules seem not to fit neatly into social demands (e.g., school, university, work schedules) as do those of less misaligned people.
Randler, C. (2009). Proactive people are morning people. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39(12), 2787-2797.


Quotation

  • Use Quotation when you are repeating something from a source exactly word for word.

  • You should use quotation marks even if you are only taking just a few words from a source.

  • Quotes can help lend authority to an initial argument, but should not be relied upon too heavily in a paper. If you find yourself quoting an entire paragraph, a paraphrase or summary of that content may often be more appropriate.

  • Quotes can and should be used when the original author’s wording is unusual, unique, or memorably states a point.

Examples using the paragraph above:
Randler (2009) states that late risers have “a high misalignment of social and biological time” which results in a mismatch between their natural schedules and the normal workday (p. 2793).
or
“People with a high misalignment of social and biological time may be less able to act in a proactive manner, probably because of sleep delay” (Randler, 2009, p. 2793).

Notice that there are two ways to incorporate a source:

  • Signal phrase – using the author’s name in your own narrative, and then incorporating their idea or words into a sentence, like the first example above.
  • Direct quotation – Using the words or ideas of the source independently and adding the author’s name in the in-text citation, like in the second example.

Paraphrase

  • Paraphrasing is taking the idea of a sentence or passage, and putting it into your own words.

  • Paraphrasing is NOT copying the sentence and replacing or changing a few words to be different from the original. (This is called “patchwriting” and may trigger plagiarism-detecting programs.)

  • You should paraphrase when the idea or point is more important than the actual words used.

  • You should paraphrase when the words are complex but the point is simple.

  • Paraphrasing should remain faithful to the original meaning of the material.

Examples using the paragraph above:
Randler (2009) states that people who are naturally morning people often also display traits that are considered proactive. He also suggests that late risers may not show as many proactive traits because they naturally operate on a different sleep schedule (p. 2793).
or
People who are naturally morning people have been shown to also display traits that are considered proactive, and late risers display fewer of these traits because they don’t get enough sleep on days when they have to go to work or school. (Randler, 2009, p. 2793).


Summary

  • As with paraphrasing, summarize when the idea or point is more important than the actual words used.
  • However, summary can also condense much more material – even an entire book or article.
  • Summary can often lead into your own points on the material.

Examples using the paragraph above:
Recent research shows that people who are not naturally early risers often have persistent issues adjusting themselves to the morning-oriented schedule of most schools and workplaces, and because of this may be less proactive in their behaviors (Randler, 2009).
or
The natural alignment of sleep schedules to work and school schedules allows early risers to have more energy and display proactive traits, while people who are natural late risers, and thus often combating sleep delay in adhering to regular schedules, display fewer of these traits (Randler, 2009).

Notice that with a Summary we do not always have to include the page number as we are summarizing the findings from the whole study, rather than just a small part of it.


To learn more, visit our guide on Quotation, Paraphrasing, and Summary.