Quote vs Paraphrase vs Summary

Most written projects will require you to present information from your sources. However, the information should not be just recited on your paper or pasted without context; rather, you must determine the best way to feature information. The three most common methods of presenting information are quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. So what are the differences between a summary, a direct quote, and a paraphrase? In this post, we provide a brief description of the three.

Reasons for Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

There are various reasons why papers quote, paraphrase, and summarize information. These include the following:

  1. Provide Background Details. Information is sometimes presented to provide background details. While writing a paper, you may sometimes feel the need to provide some details for a better context. For example, if you are writing a research paper on a specific event in World War II, you may have to recount some relevant facts so that your reader will know exactly what you are discussing.
  2. Provide Evidence for Support. Another reason for presenting information from sources is to support your claims with evidence. Claims cannot stand on their own. Instead, you need to include concrete proof to show that your claims are valid. This is especially important for analytical and argumentative papers. For example, if your paper argues that the climate crisis is accelerating, you need to cite data as proof.
  3. Introduce a Different Viewpoint. While information is often presented to support your position, it can also be used to introduce a different perspective or opinion. This type of information is often featured when you are responding to it. For instance, you may feature an opposing opinion from a source as a counterargument that you will later refute. 
  4. Enrich the Discussion. Information can also be presented to enrich the discussion. Suppose that your paper already has its main elements, you can add a few more details to make your paper richer and elevate its quality. For example, comparing statistical data from different sources allows you to paint the bigger picture rather than focus on a single source. However, remember to include information only when it is relevant.

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Quoting

Quoting information is pretty much self-explanatory. It involves the presentation of the information verbatim—that is, using the exact words that appear in the source. Quoting is done by taking the quote word for word and enclosing it in quotation marks. The quotation marks indicate that the words are not your own.

While adding a direct quote is a convenient way of presenting information, you should be careful not to overdo it. Good writing encourages you to express ideas in your own words. Including too many quotes may also decrease the quality of your paper since it prevents you from building your own analysis. The rule of thumb is to include a quote only if it presents the message in a particularly remarkable or illuminating way. In other words, a quote should be included if the author has worded it in such an effective way that there’s really no other way to express it.

Some points to remember when quoting are the following:

  • Introduce the quote. Include a short introduction of the quote to avoid confusing or distracting your reader. Use signal words and phrases to indicate that a quote is being presented.
  • Use block format for longer quotes. Short quotations of three lines or fewer should be enclosed in quotation marks. For quotes that are four lines or longer, use the block format by starting the quote in a new line, removing the quotation marks, and indenting the entire quote by half an inch.
  • Give due credit. Include an in-text citation to indicate the source of the quote. Make sure that the in-text citation follows the prescribed citation style.

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing involves restating information from a source in your own words. As stated earlier, good writing encourages you to reword content from your sources than simply rely on the quotation. Paraphrasing is often used if the information you are presenting is quite extensive, such as when the content is a few sentences to a paragraph long. Paraphrasing also involves condensing the information so that the paraphrased content is shorter than the source material. However, there may be instances when you the paraphrased content is longer than the source, such as when you have to express a complex idea in terms that a person unfamiliar with the topic can understand. Remember that paraphrasing is not just a matter of changing a few words here and there or using synonyms; rather, effective paraphrasing should express the content in a new way while retaining meaning.

Similar to a quoting, you should include an in-text citation when you paraphrase information. Just because the content is now in your own words does not mean that the idea is yours. Hence, include a citation to ensure that you are not committing plagiarism.

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Summarizing

Summarizing is a lot like paraphrasing in that it also involves the restating of content from a source in your own words. However, the main difference is that summarizing involves extended works. Whereas paraphrasing is usually done for short excerpts such as a few sentences to a paragraph or so, summarizing is done for longer materials such as a few pages of content or an entire article. Summarizing also focuses on expressing the main ideas or main points. For example, if you are using a journal article as a source, you should not paraphrase the entire article; instead, state only the most important details such as the main findings of the study. To effectively summarize content, read the entire content first and then identify the most important ideals and points. This will help you be more concise in your summarization of the information, which in turn enhances the clarity, coherence, and flow of your discussion. Like in paraphrasing, the summarized content will be far shorter than the source. 

Like the first two methods discussed, summaries in your paper should always include in-text citations to ensure that you are giving credit to sources and avoiding plagiarism.

In the end, quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are three different approaches to integrating content from your sources into your paper. Quoting refers to including a direct quote. On the other hand, paraphrasing and summarizing both involve putting the content of your sources in your own words. Whereas paraphrasing is done for shorter passages, summarizing is done for longer works. All three require in-text citations that indicate the sources of information.

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