Referencing, Paraphrasing and Quoting


When writing an academic paper you will frequently want and need to cite other academics’ ideas. However, most of the time you will not want to use their exact words. Perhaps because they have used a lot of words for an idea you want to express in more condensed way, or  just because their wording would not fit easily with your paragraph.  In general, one should avoid bloc quotes unless the wording is particularly elegant, or it is the exact wording of the quote that you are analysing. However, in order to cite work without a direct quotation you will need to paraphrase or summarise.   Paraphrasing in particular is a vital but tricky skill.  Every university student needs to know how to do it, yet it is often misunderstood.

Purdue Online Writing Lab provide an concise explanation of the difference between quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing:

“These three ways of incorporating other writers’ work into your own writing differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing.

Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.”