After over 20 years of teaching college English, VirginiaLynne loves to share tips, teaching plans, and information about the profession.
Research Writing Exercise Explained
Learning the difference between summary, paraphrase, and quotation is challenging for students. Even harder is learning to use them correctly in a paper. As a college writing instructor for over 20 years, I designed these lessons as a fun way to teach students how to correctly use their research when writing their papers. This exercise teaches:
- The difference between summary, paraphrase, and quotation.
- How to use a source to write correct summaries, paraphrases, and quotations correctly.
- How to cite correctly in a paper (I use MLA style in my exercise but you could adapt for Chicago or APA style).
- How to create a bibliography or works cited page.
By doing this exercise with your class, you will have a chance to re-teach anything students don't know before they start on their paper. Moreover, the students can learn from one another during the process. To do the whole exercise well, you probably need 2 or more class periods. For a shorter version, use my sample student essays below rather than having your class generate their own essays.
Writing Exercise Steps
1. Create a "source" article.
2. "Publish" the article and write a bibliographical citation.
3. Use each other's source articles to write a summary, a paraphrase, and a quotation.
4. Use this summary, paraphrase, and quotation to write a short essay and "Works Cited" page.
5. Students peer edit each other's papers to reinforce what they have learned.
Step 1: Define Summary, Paraphrase & Quotation
On your paper write a definition for each of these:
Share your definitions with your group and/or the whole class. Next check your definitions by looking at my article Summary, Paraphrase, Quotation. You might want to watch the video to get a clearer idea.
Step 2: Write an "Original" Source Paragraph on Assigned Topic
In this second step of the exercise, everyone in the class will write a short original document and then create made-up publication information about it. To make this exercise more fun, use one of the topics below. Students can write what they really think, or write pretending to be someone else. Many students enjoy taking an extreme view and making their papers satirical or funny. The whole class should write on the same topic. Here are some ideas:
- How are men and women different?
- What makes a perfect boyfriend/girlfriend?
- What is the best sport?
- What makes a happy family?
- What is the best pet? A cat or a dog? Something else?
- How could schools better evaluate a student's work and achievement?
- Are standardized tests an accurate way to evaluate achievement?
Instructions: Write for 10 minutes. This does not have to be your own opinion. Make it funny or show some extreme views if you want.
Step 3: Write a Citation
Next, students will create imaginary publication information for their article. I encourage them to be creative and have fun. Here are the instructions:
- Write a title for your essay.
- Write the name of the journal, book, newspaper or magazine this article appears in (real or imagined).
- Write a date and any other bibliographical information that would be needed for that type of publication (see examples below or look at How to Do MLA Citations), including an imaginary page number.
- Your citation can be for an article, a book, or any of the examples below:
MLA Citation Examples:
Book: Author. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Type of Material.
Article: Author. "Title of Article." Title of Magazine Date: Page(s). Type of Material.
Scholarly Journal: Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume number.Issue number (Year): Pages. Type of Material.
Newspaper: "Title of Article." Title of Newspaper Date, edition: Page(s). Type of Material.
Step 4: Write a Summary
Next, students will use each other's articles to write a research paper on the question. They will start by writing a summary of one peer's paper (next they will write a paraphrase of a second paper, and then a quotation of a third paper, so I often put them in groups of 3-4 while working on this part of the exercise).
- Each person takes out another paper, or starts another document and writes a title using the question the class has written about. On another sheet, write "Works Cited."
- Exchange your original articles with another student. On your "Works Cited" page, write a correct bibliographical entry for that article.
- Read the article and write a 1-2 sentence summary underneath your bibliographical citation. Your summary should include an author tag and a parenthetical citation.
- Give your summary to the person who wrote the original article. Check each other’s summaries and discuss.
- Is the biographical citation correct?
- Is the author tag correct?
- Is it accurate?
- Does it say the main point the author intended?
- Is it short and to the point?
Manly, I.M. "Guys are Better than Girls." Attitudes of Men about Women. 15.4 (2013):21-27. Print.
In "Guys are Better than Girls," I.M. Manly contends that feminists have got it all wrong. He says that men are not only stronger and smarter but also better at figuring out how to manage practical life situations. For example, he remarks that men are able to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and be out the door in fifteen minutes when girls are still trying to decide what to wear that day (Manly 24).
Step 5: Paraphrase
Next, students will write a paraphrase of a part of a different article.
- Exchange original articles with a different person.
- Write a bibliographical citation of this new article underneath your previous one.
- This time, you will be making a paraphrase rather than a summary. Use 1-3 sentences from the original to paraphrase.
- Remember that a correct paraphrase needs to use:
- Different words.
- Different sentence construction.
- Different word order.
- Author tag and parenthetical citation.
- No quotation
- Don't forget to put the author's name, title, and a parenthetical citation.
Paraphrase tip: if there is a technical term that can’t be said any other way, then you can keep it in your paraphrase. For example, you could change “doctor” to “physician” but you probably would want to keep "anesthesiologist" or "radiologist" if that was important for the meaning of the sentence.
Gurley, Emma. Women's Views on the Masculine Race. Berkeley: U of California P, 2012. Print.
According to feminist Emma Gurley, in her authoritative work, Women's Views on the Masculine Race, the main problem with men is that they are not as hygienic as females. She says that their overproduction of certain hormones means they really need to wash more than once a day. In fact, she proposes that public schools require males to shower as part of their daily curriculum (Gurley 45).
Step 6: Quotation
Finally, you will do the same process with a third article, but this time students will quote the article directly.
- Exchange articles with at third person.
- Write the bibliographical citation on your "Works Cited" sheet.
- This time you are going to read the article and look for a good quote you can use. The quote should be:
- Short, less than 1-2 lines or no more than 1 sentence or part of a sentence.
- Something which the author says which is unique and said in an interesting way.
4. Write out a sentence which includes the quote.
5. Don’t forget to:
- Make the quotation a part of your sentence, not a sentence on its own.
- Make sure that your sentence(s) explain what this quote means and how this proves your point.
- Include an author tag and parenthetical citation.
- Use quotation marks around the exact words the author says.
- Double check to see that you quoted accurately.
Beefs, Anne. "Ending Bias in the Human Rights System." Editorial. New York Times 13 Jan. 2012. natl. ed. :15-16. Print.
Another way of looking at the differences between men and women comes from Anne Beefs, who sees the battle between the sexes as part of a discussion on human rights, stating, "Men and women would be better off if they stopped thinking about differences and instead worked on solving problems together" (Beefs 15).
Step 7: Write a Research Essay Using Summary, Paraphrase & Quotation
Now, students can practice the hardest part of research paper writing, putting all of their sources together smoothly in a way that makes sense and supports their main argument. This final step helps students learn this process by having them put all of their previous sentences together into a paragraph or short paper with a thesis.
Write down the original question for the topic question of your paper. Your thesis will be your answer to that question. To decide what sort of thesis you have evidence for, look at the three sources you've gotten. Decide:
- What is the main point you can make with the evidence you have?
- Does your evidence show different views? You can write a contrast and comparison thesis.
- Does your evidence tend to prove the same point of view? Write a thesis sentence which summarizes that view.
- Next, write a short essay or paragraph that introduces the question, tells your thesis and then uses all three of your previous exercises. You will probably have to adjust the sentences and add some transition ideas.
- Be sure to include author tags and parenthetical citations.
- You can also include evidence from your own original article, or re-write your article to include this evidence.
Sample Final Essay
"Men and Women: What's the Right Difference?"
In the 1950s, men went to work and women stayed home to take care of the kids and bake cookies. Sixty years later, many things have changed. Both men and women work inside and outside the home. Yet the sexes are still not entirely the same and those differences can cause contention. What are the differences between men and women? According to feminist Emma Gurley, in her authoritative feminist work, Women's Views on the Masculine Race, the main problem with men is that they are not as hygienic as females. She says that their overproduction of certain hormones means they really need to wash more than once a day. In fact, she proposes that public schools require males to shower as part of their daily curriculum (Gurley 45).
In a contrary view, I.M Manly suggests in his article, "Guys are Better than Girls," that feminists have got it all wrong. He says that men are not only stronger and smarter but also better at figuring out how to manage practical life situations. For example, he remarks that men are able to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and be out the door in fifteen minutes when girls are still trying to decide what to wear that day (Manly 24). Another way of looking at the differences between men and women comes from Anne Beefs, who sees the battle between the sexes as part of a discussion on human rights, stating, "Men and women would be better off if they stopped thinking about differences and instead worked on solving problems together" (Beefs 15). Perhaps a better question to ask is how men and women can use their differences to help each other.
Step 8: Peer Edit
This final step is really important because it helps students to learn from one another. Besides, it can be fun for students to see how other people have used their writing. Have students:
- Exchange papers and read them. Tell each other about what they liked about their ideas, or have them write comments to one another.
- Look at the papers and mark where summary, paraphrase, and quotation have been used.
- Check to see that everything has been done correctly.
Not sure everyone understands how to use research correctly? Here are some follow-up lesson plans:
- You can have students do the same activity with other sets of the 3 original student papers.
- You can have all of the original papers typed up and added to a document that everyone can access and let the class write a longer paper using all of their original documents.
- Do the whole exercise again using a different question.
- You can slow down and have everyone do several summaries, then several paraphrases, and finally several quotations.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on September 18, 2018:
Terrific, Alison--I'd be interested in knowing how this works out for your class.
Alison C on September 18, 2018:
Sounds fun! I'm going to try it with my Chinese 12th graders!
Joan Whetzel on February 26, 2013:
Great ideas for teaching paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting.