Direct quote, summary, paraphrase

Citing your sources

Reference sources strengthen your writing by:

  • Demonstrating that you have effectively located, read and analyzed relevant sources of information and integrated them in a thoughtful and coherent reflection.
  • Establishing the credibility and authority of your ideas and arguments.

When you need to cite reference sources

  • When taking a direct quote from a source.
  • When paraphrasing someone else’s idea (putting it in your own words).
  • When summarizing another person’s idea.
  • When using someone else’s data.
  • When using visual elements such as graphs and tables.
  • When translating a text.

What sources you need to cite

  • Journal articles
  • Books
  • Images
  • Websites
  • Statistical tables and graphs
  • Presentation slides
  • Conference proceedings
  • Multimedia (sound, video, animation)

Three ways of using sources

Direct quote

When to quote directly

When you want to support an idea in your argument. Quotations serve as a second voice confirming your point. They have a sense of immediacy lacking in paraphrases and summaries.

When you just can’t say it better than the author. In some instances the author’s exact words are essential. For example, quote the original text when the author’s exact words are unique or difficult to rephrase without changing the meaning or emphasis.
When you need an example to illustrate your point. A source may supply anecdotes which by their nature are very difficult if not impossible to summarize or paraphrase without losing their meaning.

When you are citing laws, official documents or mathematical, scientific and other formulas.

  • Introduce quotes with signal words to announce to your reader that you are about to quote an author's words.
  • Use direct quotes sparingly. Too many direct quotes will dilute the strength of your own analysis.
  • Use quotes like exclamation points. They focus the attention of the reader. They underline the importance of an idea.

A summary is a shortened version of an author’s main ideas in your own words. A summary excludes details and offers a brief, broad overview of the original text. Be careful not to change the meaning. You must provide a reference for summarized ideas.

When to summarize

When you need to simply the source. An author can take several paragraphs or pages to make a point. A summary extracts the key ideas and condenses the argument.

When you need to eliminate details, such as unneeded examples, digressions and explanations. Keep only the main point.

When you want to bring up a minor point. You may have identified an idea that has a minor influence on your argument and only needs to be referred to briefly.

  • A summary is shorter than the original. Decide how long it needs to be. A paragraph? One sentence? Go for approximately one quarter of the original source text.
  • Check your text to ensure that you have not altered the original meaning with your own thoughts.

Paraphrasing is the expression of someone else's idea in your own words. You must take care not to change the original meaning and must cite and reference your source.

When to paraphrase

To show that you understand someone else’s ideas enough to put them in your own words. You can also paraphrase to simplify or clarify a complex idea.

  • Take notes in your own words about the author’s ideas rather than writing down the original words. Think of your notes as the first draft of your paraphrase.
  • Add the source of your information to your notes right away so that later on you can go back and make sure you’ve conveyed the idea of the author properly while still using your own words.
  • Make the paraphrase roughly the same length as the original passage.
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