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Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

What does it mean “to cite”?

Most academic writing requires research.  Quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing are important techniques used by academic writers to include information from outside sources in their papers.  Outside sources (i e., facts, figures, statistics that are not common knowledge) must be cited: that is, you must show that you have used another's words, arguments, or concepts.

Where do I cite?

1. Within the body of your text, (in-text citation)

2. At the back of your paper (References/Works Cited).

What format should I use?

Academic papers must be written in a particular style. Ask your professors which style they want you to use. If they have no preference, follow the guidelines below. See Writing and Style Guides for details on formatting:  

  • APA (American Psychological Association): psychology, education, and other social sciences.
  • MLA (Modern Languages Association): literature, arts, and humanities.
  • AMA (The American Medical Association Manual of Style): medicine, health, and biological sciences.
  • Chicago/ Turabian: mainly for history papers, but is sometimes used in other disciplines.

What if I don’t cite my sources or if I forget to cite?

Failure to cite appropriately (intentionally or unintentionally) is plagiarism, a form of academic dishonestly that can lead to a failing grade in the course and even to suspension from the University.


How do I cite?


When you quote, you copy others’ ideas exactly and put quotation marks around the words. You also include in-text citations (the author’s last name, year of publication, and page/paragraph number of original quote).

In his article, Sinnott (2004) declared, “There are diseases we cannot know that are incubating, ready to break out. I worry not just that we will see more, but that their severity will increase” (p. 15).

How much should I quote?

One important convention of academic writing is to paraphrase more frequently than quoting.  Although you can occasionally use a direct quotation in your writing, an essay should express your understanding of the topic.

When should I quote?

According to Jerry Plotnick (2002, Director of the University College Writing Workshop), using a quotation is appropriate in the following situations:

  1. The language of the passage is particularly elegant or powerful or memorable.
  2. You wish to confirm the credibility of your argument by enlisting the support of an authority on your topic.
  3. The passage is worthy of further analysis. 
  4. You wish to argue with someone else’s position in considerable detail.


A summary is similar to a paraphrase, but it is much shorter than the original.  You express the author’s main idea(s) in your own words and cite the original source.  Include only the essential point(s).

That the future may bring an increase in the number and severity of new diseases is a grave concern (Sinnott, 2005).


When you paraphrase, you restate others’ ideas in your own words.  That is, you write the meaning of the author’s ideas.  You use some of the author’s key terms, but you use many of your own words and sentence structures.  You include in-text citation, including the author’s last name and year of publication.

Sinnott (2005) expressed his concern that the future may bring diseases that are even more severe than we have experienced to date.

Steps for writing an effective paraphrase

  1. Select a short passage (about one to four sentences) that supports an idea in your paper.
  2. Read the passage carefully to fully understand it.
  3. Take notes about the main idea and supporting points you think you should include in the paraphrase.  Include key words and terms used by the author.
  4. Using only your notes, write a paraphrase. Your paraphrase should be about the same length as the original source.
  5. Reread the original source. Is there important information that you have forgotten or written inaccurately?  Is your paraphrase to similar to the original source? I f so, revise your paragraph.
  6. Add in-text citation (check the required formatting style).


Adapted from BYRD. College Writing 4, 1E. © 2006 Heinle/ELT, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.