Using Sources Summary

Sophisticated research essays tend to use fewer direct quotations and more summaries and paraphrases. Summaries extract and condense the source’s main ideas, which you re-phrase in your own words. Paraphrases allow you to re-phrase the source’s ideas in your own words (without condensing information as a summary does). Summaries and paraphrases are important techniques for showing that you understand the source’s ideas and for maintaining your own voice in a piece of writing. Note that you need to document summaries and paraphrases as well as direct quotations because they all contain the source’s unique ideas.

Whether you use a direct quotation, a summary, or a paraphrase, it is important to distinguish the original source from your ideas, and to explain how the cited source fits into your argument. You can think of the context for your quote, paraphrase, or summary as a sandwich with multiple parts. You’ll want to: transition into and introduce the source, use a signal phrase to actually move into the material from the source, provide a citation that can be easily connected to the full citation material in your bibliography or works cited list, and explain how this material fits into your argument. Many writing textbooks refer to this as a quotation sandwich, but it can and should also be used to integrate paraphrases and summaries. All material from sources that you use in your own work must be integrated in this way, or you risk readers becoming confused about its importance and purpose.

Table with 5 rows: top row, "Transition and Introduction"; "Signal phrase"; "Quotation, paraphrase, or summary"; "Citation"; "Explanation of the material's relevance to your argument"

View the following video to review the important concepts of summarizing, paraphrasing, quoting – using sources in your research essay.

Note: Some content in the video “Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting: A Guide to Doing It Right!” is presented visually. You may listen to this video with audio description.