Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Now that you understand how summary works, you will learn about two related strategies: quoting and paraphrasing. Read this tutorial, which explains the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Later, you will learn how quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing can help you avoid plagiarism.

What is the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing?

Quoting is when you copy directly from a text word for word. Short quotes should be enclosed in "quotation marks". Longer quotes should be separated from your text and indented from the left-hand margin. In this case, you do not need to use double quotation marks.

Paraphrasing is when you put the ideas of another author into your own words. To avoid plagiarism when paraphrasing, it is essential that you do not include too many words from the original text.

Summarizing is when you use your own words to draw out the key points or main arguments of the original text, significantly reducing its length.

In all cases, you must provide a citation in the text and a full reference in the format required by your chosen referencing style.

Paraphrasing and summarizing are important skills in academic writing. They enable you to:

  • demonstrate you have read widely on the topic,
  • show that you understand the literature,
  • synthesize, compare and contrast viewpoints and findings from other authors,
  • use examples from a range of sources that support or counter your argument.

Let's use an example to see how paraphrasing is done. As you're reading the article, you come across an idea that you would like to include in your own paper. 

"Physicians thought that most of their patients do not disclose their use or contemplation of the use of complementary therapies."

To use this in your own paper, you may decide to include the exact quote, with proper citation and quotation marks:

O'Beirne et al. (2004, p.886) report in their recent study that "physicians thought that most of their patients do not disclose their use or contemplation of the use of complementary therapies".

When you want to use another person's idea in your own work, paraphrasing is usually the better choice, instead of including exact quotes. Writing containing frequent quotations has a 'choppy' feel and can be difficult for the reader to follow.

Paraphrasing Step 1: Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.

Paraphrasing Step 2: Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase in your notes.

Example: In many cases, physicians believe they are not informed of a patient's intention to self administer alternative therapies. (O'Beirne et al. 2004)

Example: A recent study by O'Beirne and colleagues (2004) indicated that physicians believe they are often not informed of a patient's intention to self administer alternative therapies.

There are many ways you could paraphrase the idea; these are only examples.

Paraphrasing Step 3: Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.

Paraphrasing Step 4: Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.

In our example, we have not borrowed any unique terms or phrases from the original, so we do not need to insert any quotation marks.

Paraphrasing Step 5: Record the source (including the page) so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.

O'Beirne et al. 2004. Complementary therapy use by cancer patients. Physicians' perceptions, attitudes, and ideas. Canadian Family Physician 50(6), pp. 882-888.

Source: Cardiff University,
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Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2021, 1:45 PM