How to Paraphrase, Quote, and Summarize Properly in Academic Papers

Updated on July 5, 2016
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

What is the Difference?

Quoting is using the actual words that someone else said or wrote.

Paraphrasing is putting what someone wrote into your own words.

Summarizing is telling the main ideas that someone wrote, but not all the details.

Use Quotes for Famous People

Nixon and Mao in China.  Use quotes when they are said: by important people, during memorable historical moments, or in a unique way.
Nixon and Mao in China. Use quotes when they are said: by important people, during memorable historical moments, or in a unique way. | Source

When to Use

  • Quote when something is said in a unique way or the person saying it has authority.
  • Paraphrase when you want to say all the details but there is nothing special about the person you are quoting or the way they said it.
  • Summarize when you want to give the general outline, or an overview of a lot of material.

Why Use?

Using the ideas from other people can help you show people that your ideas are valid. Quotes, paraphrases, and summaries can give you evidence, reasons and examples to prove your own points. Remember that your ideas need to be in your own words and that you use research as support. Topic sentences and thesis sentences should always be in your own words and not ideas borrowed from someone else.

How do I cite a source?

Internet Writing: When you are writing on the web, you can mention the name of the source at the beginning of your quote, paraphrase or summary and then provide a link.

School Writing: In academic writing for school, you will do three things:

1. Title and Author: Inside the sentence when you first start using a source, you can mention the title and author and/or use a parenthetical citation (MLA style) or footnote (APA style) at the end of the sentence:

Example: According to Brice Tyson in his book, Dogs Have More Fun, the important thing to know is..... (Tyson 32).

2.Author Tags: If you use more than one sentence to explain the ideas from that source, you can use author tags to let the reader know where those ideas come from.

Example(author tags in bold): Tyson disagrees with people who think that dogs do everything for the pleasure of their owners. Instead, his book states, the dog gets gratification by....This fervent dog lover insists that...

3. Source List: You will also need a Works Cited or Bibliography list at the end of your paper.

Author Name Substitutes

the author
the article
the writer
the reporter
the research
the researcher
the journalist
the evidence
the scientist
the essayist
the source

Using Author Tags

Author Tags: An "author tag" is how you identify who said what you are quoting, summarizing or paraphrasing. To make your writing more interesting, you want to give the author name in different ways and this article has a chart for how to do that. It is also possible to add a comment about what the author is saying by using my "Other Words for Said" chart. For example, if you say "the author exaggerates..." you give a negative evaluation of what the author is saying which can help the reader to see the information from your point of view.

Other Words for Said

questioning words
said substitutes

Best Ways to Mention Source in Sentences

When you mention a source, you need to at least tell the name of the writer. Usually, it is also good to tell the title of what you are quoting from too. Additionally, you can strengthen your writing if you explain how that source is going to support your idea. You can do this by including the claim you are trying to support in the sentence, and also by explaining the authority of the person you are citing. Here are some examples:

Good: According to John Miller, “Many mentors feel lost when they encounter children with problems impossible for them to understand” (Miller 23).

Better (includes claim with quote): John Miller explains that it is important for mentors to be trained because, without training, “Many mentors feel lost when they encounter children with problems impossible for them to understand” (Miller 23).

Best (includes claim and reason for quoting this authority): Mentors need to be well trained to be effective. John Miller, international director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, says that mentor training is essential because “Many mentors feel lost when they encounter children with problems impossible for them to understand” (Miller 23).

When to Summarize?

The Liberator abolitionist newspaper.  Summarize when you want to convey the main point of a large amount of text.
The Liberator abolitionist newspaper. Summarize when you want to convey the main point of a large amount of text. | Source

How to Summarize Correctly

It is very important to give your reader clues that you are doing a long summary.

  • You can do that by mentioning the author’s name at the start of the summary (first and last).
  • Then as you continue, you can use author tags like “Jones says” or “she mentions” or “he explains” as you write (see author tags chart).
  • You can also use the name of the book or article instead of the author to break up the monotony of your writing.Example:

John Miller, in his article, “How to Mentor,” suggests many ideas for effective mentoring programs. One idea he promotes is xxxxx. Miller also says xxxxx. A final suggestion in the article is that xxxxxx (Miller 34).

Quoting Rules

  1. Don't Quote a Lot. When should you use it? When the author says something in a unique way which would lose impact if you paraphrased or summarized, or when the author is a unique authority on the subject and quoting them makes your argument stronger. In general, I wouldn’t use more than one quote per page or per about 250 words, or 3-4 times in the average Hub page or college essay.
  2. Short, Not Long Quotes. Most quotes should be only one or two lines of type. If it is longer than that, you should generally paraphrase or summarize.
  3. Use Quotation Marks Correctly! I have to include this one because so many of my college students do this incorrectly: quotes must be included INSIDE your own sentence and not as a sentence with quotation marks around it. Look this up if you aren't sure.

Incorrect: “Training is important for mentors” (Miller 23).

Correct : According to John Miller, “Training is important for mentors” (Miller 23).

Paraphrasing Correctly

Paraphrasing is tricky because you don’t want to plagiarize the source by coming too close to it in your re-write.You must keep the original meaning but use different vocabulary and a different sentence structure. The best way to do a paraphrase is:

  1. Read Several Times: Read the passage carefully several times until you feel you understand what it is saying.
  2. Write Without Looking: Without looking at the passage, write your own version of it, using your own vocabulary and way of phrasing.
  3. Compare: Next, look back at the original and tweak your version to make sure it isn’t copying but does say the same thing.
  4. Style: Remember, the paraphrase should sound like your own writing, not the source you are quoting. The paraphrase should have the same tone and style as the rest of your paper.
  5. Use Turnitin Check: If your course uses and your professor allows you to upload and look at your own papers, this is a wonderful way to see if your paper has too many words that are the same as your source.

Hobo in Depression.  Paraphrase when you have 1-3 sentences you need to explain and there is no important reason to quote them.
Hobo in Depression. Paraphrase when you have 1-3 sentences you need to explain and there is no important reason to quote them. | Source

Does Every Word Have to Change?

No, if there are key words or special vocabulary in this subject, you can keep those in your paraphrase.Also, if there is one unique phrase you want to include, just use quotation marks around it.

Questions & Answers

  • How do you paraphrase a paragraph?

    A paraphrase is different from a summary. In a summary, you are just giving the main ideas, but a paraphrase should tell all of the information in the original source. A paraphrase is different from the original because it uses easier, more simple words and phrases. Often the sentences are shorter and written in a more direct style. When you write a paraphrase, the writing should sound like you, not like an author. A paraphrase is often longer than the original because you need more words to explain something. If there is difficult language in the original or some complicated information, the paraphrase should explain that or define the terms. The process of creating a paraphrase is explained above, but briefly, the way to write one is to read the original many times, looking up any words or phrases you don't know until you are sure you understand what the original says. Then put the original aside and write out what that paragraph means in your own words. Finally, you will need to re-read the original alongside your paraphrase to make sure you have included all of the details.

  • How do I paraphrase a claim?

    Paraphrase by stating the claim in the simplest way possible. Eliminate all of the supporting evidence and reasons and just say the main idea.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks its very helpful

    • Shanti Perez profile image

      Shanti Perez 

      7 years ago from Spokane, Washington, U.S.A.


    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      You need to write: According to John Jones in "Helpers are Here" there are..... (page number).

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      If your paraphrasing how do you write that you are

    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks--I hesitated to post this in a community of writers, but I plan to send my students to my hubs for writing tips and to involve them in a community of writers.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      9 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This is a very helpful Hub. I find this subject needs attention here, and indeed, everywhere on the internet.

      Thanks and have a lovely evening.


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