Summarizing, Paraphrasing And Quoting: Things To Remember

All genres of writing, especially research papers and dissertations, require us to use several secondary sources as reference. It is extremely inconvenient and impossible to use the entire source in our writings. Therefore we use several methods by which we can incorporate elements of the source into our writings without using the entire material. The most commonly used methods of doing so are summarizing, paraphrasing and quoting.


Summarizing is the act of identifying the prominent points in a certain piece of text and rewriting it on your own. A summary is generally much shorter than the original and is a very effective way of giving the reader the gist of a piece of text without having to read it completely. Below are certain tips which will help you write a proper summary when asked to.

  • Note down the main points in the piece of text to be summarized. The idea of a summary is to be brief and succinct. There is no place for unnecessary details in a good summary.
  • Use your understanding of the piece to present these points in your own words. Ensure that your interpretation of the piece is consistent with the meaning of the original. A good summary stays true to the original and does not attempt to add extra information or offer an opinion. Brevity is the hallmark of a good summary.
  • Ensure that you use a recognized referencing format to cite your source.
  • Make it a point to remind your readers that they are reading a summary of someone else's work. If you decide to use the exact same words used by the author of the original, always remember to use quotation marks.


Paraphrasing involves reading a piece of text and rewriting it in your own words. In this method, writers are expected to understand the text at depth; there is a greater level of detail in paraphrases than in a summary. Typically, you don't paraphrase long paragraphs or sections; it is used only if the text is short. Paraphrasing allows the depth of thought and contemplation over certain ideas, and ensures that the gist of the text is conveyed effectively to the readers. Certain tips to paraphrasing are given below.

  • Read the text to be paraphrased several times until its meaning is clear to you.
  • Identify the prominent points and contemplate over it.
  • Based on your interpretation of these points, rewrite them in your own words.
  • Compare your interpretation of the text with the original and ensure consistency of meaning.
  • Use a recognized referencing format to cite your source.


When the text or a part of it is reproduced in its original form, it is called quoting. This method is used when it is imperative that the readers know exactly what the author has to say about a certain topic. It ensures that there is no deviation in meaning from the original. Since the author's exact words are reproduced, it also eliminates the possibility of misinterpretation. The tips given below ensure proper quoting.

  • Use small quotes wherever possible, as it is easier to interpret a single concept or idea than to evaluate several ideas at once.
  • Always use quotation marks to enclose the quotations.
  • Indent the whole quotation if the length of the quoted text exceeds three lines. Doing this eliminates the need to use quotation marks.
  • When you do not need to use the quotation in its entirety, you should use ellipses to convey to the readers that parts of the quote are missing.

Summary, paraphrase or quotes can be used in a scholarly piece of writing based on what you want to convey and how you want it conveyed. These methods ensure that the message of the original text is conveyed to the readers while maintaining clarity and appropriate length. It also helps avoid inadvertent plagiarism by allowing you to give the authors due credit.

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