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APA Guide

Basics of Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

Paraphrasing versus Quoting: Why paraphrasing is often the best choice

Writing Tip: Direct quotations should only be used sparingly and when you, the writer, want to bring special attention to a particular point or issue.  Remember that you are the one writing the paper, and the vast majority of the ideas and words in the paper should be your own.  Your instructors and readers want to hear your thoughts and conclusions, and the quotations and paraphrases you use should support what you have written.  Watch the video above "Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Your Resources" to learn more about quoting and paraphrasing.  Keep in mind:

When to use a quotation:

Although paraphrasing information is preferable, there are specific situations when a quotation can be an effective choice.  For example:

  • Famous Quotation
    • Including a famous or familiar quotation can be effective when introducing a topic or in setting the tone of a paper.
  • Words of an Expert
    • Providing the words of an expert can bolster your position or argument.
  • Couldn't Say It Better
    • In rare instances, it may be difficult to paraphrase a short passage without changing the meaning; including a precise quotation may be preferable.
  • Facts and Statistics
    • Sources of facts and statistics--including those presented in tables or charts -- must be documented in your paper using in-text citations and references.
  • Opposite Point of View
    • Including a quotation that opposes your position can be an effective method to prove why your position on the issue is preferable.

What is a Paraphrase?:

  • A detailed restatement of a source's main ideas in your own words.
  • Not your opinions or interpretations of those ideas.

When incorporating a paraphrase into your writing, you will need to provide a citation, just as you would for a direct quotation. Even though you are writing in our own words, you are paraphrasing someone else's ideas. The ideas are not your own. 

Qualities of a good paraphrase:

  • Same length or shorter than the original passage.
  • Written in your own words
  • Includes all of the important details
  • True to the original  (Be careful not to change the author's meaning.)

Paraphrasing Tips

When paraphrasing, you need to be careful to not plagiarize. Here are some helpful tips for paraphrasing: 

  • Read the whole passage first before restating.
  • Make sure you completely understand the passage. 
  • Write down key information from the source.
  • Put the original aside, and then re-write the passage in your own words using the key information. 
  • Follow the rule of 3:
    • Three consecutive words that are identical to the original are considered a quotation and should be cited as a direct quote. It is no longer a paraphrase.

Good Paraphrase vs. Plagiarism

Let's take a look at an example:

Original Passage: 

  • University of Tulsa psychologist Judy Berry studied seventy-three Oklahoma eighth graders who had taken a parenting course.  For ten days, each student had to care for a ten-pound sack of flour as if it were a baby.  Berry’s research on her young subjects suggests the course worked: The teenagers in the study had a sounder sense of parental responsibility than they did before they took the course.

Plagiarized Version: 

  • University of Tulsa psychologist Judy Berry conducted a study of eight graders who had taken a ten day parenting course. Students had to treat a ten-pound sack of flour as if it were a baby. According to Berry’s research, the course worked. After the course, students had a better understanding of parental responsibility than they did before they took the course

(Notice that much of the text is taken directly from the original source. This passage is not in the writer's own words.)

Paraphrased Correctly Versions: 

  • Extended parental role-playing can actually increase an adolescent’s awareness of parental responsibilities as shown by psychologist Judy Berry’s study involving eighth grade students (Harper, 1996).
  • In a study of eighth grade students taking a parenting course involving role-playing, Psychologist Judy Berry determined that students were more parentally responsible after taking the course (Harper, 1996).