When to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize

To build everything but the research question, you will need to summarize, paraphrase, and/or directly quote your sources. But how should you choose what technique to use when?

Tip: Citing Sources

Remember to cite your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. See How to Cite Sources for details.

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Choose a direct quote when it is more likely to be accurate than would summarizing or paraphrasing; when what you’re quoting is the text you’re analyzing; when a direct quote is more concise that a summary or paraphrase would be and conciseness matters; when the author is a particular authority whose exact words would lend credence to your argument; and when the author has used particularly effective language that is just too good to pass up.

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Choose to paraphrase or summarize rather than to quote directly when the meaning is more important than the particular language the author used and you don’t need to use the author’s preeminent authority to bolster your argument at the moment.

Choose to paraphrase instead of summarizing when you need details and specificity. Paraphrasing lets you emphasize the ideas in resource materials that are most related to your term paper or essay instead of the exact language the author used. It also lets you simplify complex material, sometimes rewording to use language that is more understandable to your reader.

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Choose to summarize instead of paraphrasing when you need to provide a brief overview of a larger text. Summaries let you condense the resource material to draw out particular points, omit unrelated or unimportant points, and simplify how the author conveyed his or her message.

Activity: Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize?

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