Using Sources in Your Paper: Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting

In college-level work, it is usually better to paraphrase or summarize your sources than to quote them directly. When you paraphrase or summarize a source, you are demonstrating to your reader that you’ve mastered the material you’ve researched and that you understand it well enough to explain it in your own words. Quote only in exceptional circumstances, such as when something essential would be lost in a paraphrase or there is just no other way to state the idea.

NOTE: Do not begin or end a body paragraph with a quotation, a paraphrase, or a summary. Instead, begin with your point. The source should then be used to support your point and help you develop your idea. And, end with a concluding and transitioning sentence that moves you smoothly to the next idea.

Quoting Sources
Place quotations at the beginning and end of the actual, exact words you take from a source. Use an ellipsis mark (three periods with a space before and after each) to indicate the omission of words from the middle of a quote. There is no need for ellipsis marks when you omit part of the beginning or ending of a quote.

YES: Smith (2012) argues that students need a “well-rounded education . . . in order to best contribute to society” (p. 12).

NO: Smith (2012) argues that students need a “. . . well-rounded education, one which includes instruction in literature, history, science, mathematics, and rhetoric, in order to best contribute to society” (p. 12)

NO: Smith (2012) argues that students need a “well-rounded education . . . ” (p. 12).

To integrate a quotation into your essay, use one of the following methods:

  1. Work the quoted passage into your sentence grammatically. For example:Historian Tracy Borman (2009) points out that Queen Elizabeth I of England faced “deep-seated prejudices against female rulers that had existed for centuries” (p. 191).
  2. Introduce the quoted passage with a complete sentence and a colon. For example:Historian Tracy Borman (2009) notes a significant problem Queen Elizabeth I of England faced: “The vast majority of Elizabeth’s subjects firmly believed that the proper role of women in society was to be subservient to fathers, husbands, and brothers” (p. 191).
  3. Long quote format. Set off the quoted passage with an introductory sentence followed by a colon. This method is used only for long quotes (40 words or more). Double space the quotation, and indent it one inch from the left margin. Because this special placement identifies the passage as a quotation, don’t put quotation marks around it. The final period goes before the citation (this is different from all other internal citations which put the period after the citation). For example:Historian Tracy Borman (2009) notes a significant problem Queen Elizabeth I of England faced:

The vast majority of Elizabeth’s subjects firmly believed that the proper role of women in society was to be subservient to fathers, husbands, and brothers. They had neither the intelligence nor the strength of character to make their own way in the world. If they could barely manage a household, then how on earth could they rule over a kingdom? (p. 191)

Summarizing and Paraphrasing Sources
A summary or paraphrase is meant as a complete and objective presentation of an author’s ideas, so be careful not to distort the original passage by omitting major points or by adding your own opinion. Because the words of a summary or paraphrase are yours, they are not enclosed by quotation marks. But because the ideas you are restating came from someone else, you must cite the source through in-text citations and in your References page.

  1. Paraphrase of a long passage: Often, the best way to proceed is to name the author of a source in your sentence and place the year of publication after the author name in parentheses. This procedure informs your reader that you are about to quote or paraphrase. It also gives you an opportunity to mention the journal or the authority you are citing. Paraphrases do not require page or paragraph numbers. For example:Dr. Jennifer Shu (2013) emphasizes the need for workers who are ill to stay home to avoid spreading the illness and prolonging recovery time, further noting that productivity is negatively affected when one is ill.
  2. Summary of a short passage: You may simply present the information from your source and place the author’s last name and the page number parenthetically at the end of the sentence. This method is useful if you’ve already established the identity of your source in a previous sentence and now want to develop the author’s ideas in some detail without having to clutter your sentences with repeated references to his or her name. For example:Workers should stay home when ill to avoid spreading the illness and prolonging recovery time (Shu, 2013).

Need More Help?
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