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Quotation, Summary or Paraphrase?

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On this page: this page is to help you to decide whether to use a quotation, summary or paraphrase. Read the advice and/or answer the questions below to help you choose.
Related pages: Referencing, Reference Machines for in-text citation, a book, an article in a journal, an edited book, a newspaper or magazine article, or an Internet reference.

There are 3 people involved in this decision:

  • the author of the text you are referencing
  • the writer (you)
  • the reader (often your English teacher).

When should I paraphrase?
You should paraphrase for 2 reasons:

  1. The authors' words will be difficult for your reader to understand.
  2. Your reader is your teacher and your teacher wants to know if you understand the author correctly.

    For more information and examples, click here.

When should I quote?
You should use a quotation if:
     1. Everything the author writes is important.
     2. The quotation will not make your text too long.
     3. You haven't used many quotations already.

    For more information and examples, click here.

When should I summarise?
You should summarise if:

  1. Not all of the authors words are necessary; e.g. if the author gives examples or explanations that you don't need to put in your text.
  2. If paraphrasing or quoting will make your text too long.

    For more information and examples, click here.

 

Still not sure? If not, answer the questions below and the computer will help you to decide:

  1. The first question is to help you decide whether to use a paraphrase. Do you think that your reader will understand what the author wrote?
    a. Yes, I think the reader will understand.
    b. No, I'm not sure if the reader will understand.
    c. I'm sure the reader will not understand.



























  2. O.K You think that your reader will understand. The second question to help you to decide whether to use a paraphrase is, 'Do you need to show the reader that you understand the author'?
    a. Yes, my reader wants to check to see if I understand.
    b. No, it's not necessary.
    c. I'm not sure.


























  3. Now you need to choose between a quotation and a summary. Ask yourself, 'Is every word that the author wrote essential'?
    a. Yes, everything is important.
    b. No, there are some things I can miss out, such as examples and explanations.
    c. I'm not sure.


























  4. To help you to decide you need to think about your word limit. Is the text too long to quote?
    a. Yes, I will go over my word limit.
    b. No, it's not too long.


























  5. The text is not too long. The next question to help you decide is, 'Have you already written a summary in your text'?
    a. Yes, I've already done a summary.
    b. No, I haven't done a summary yet.


























  6. You have already done a summary, so now you can choose between a quotation and a paraphrase. Ask yourself, 'Have I already done a quotation in my text'?
    a. Yes, I have.
    b. No, I haven't.
























 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:

Use a Paraphrase
Use a paraphrase to explain what the author says to your reader. Don't forget to reference it with the author's family name, date of publication and page number. Click here to see how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a Quotation
If the quotation is one or two lines long you can include it inside a paragraph. If it is more than 2 lines you should put it in a separate paragraph and indent it from both sides. Don't forget to reference it with the author's family name, date of publication and page number. Click here to see how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a Summary
A summary should contain the main points from the author's text. Don't forget to reference it with the author's family name, date of publication and page number. Click here to see how.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated on: Tuesday, June 25, 2013