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RE 2721: Religion & Culture



Paraphrasing is the use of another’s ideas to enhance your own work. In a paraphrase, you rewrite in your own words the ideas taken from the source. Paraphrases avoid excessive reliance on quotations and demonstrate that you understand the source author’s argument. A paraphrase always has a different sentence structure and word choice. When done well, it is much more concise than the original.

Good writers signal paraphrases through clauses such as “Werner Sollors, in Beyond Ethnicity, argues that….” These phrases indicate the source of the paraphrase and help integrate the borrowed ideas into your own work. Because a paraphrase is your restatement of a borrowed idea, it is not set within quotation marks. Though the ideas may be borrowed, your writing must be original; simply changing a few words or rearranging words or sentences is not paraphrasing. In fact, it’s plagiarism.

Paraphrasing is one way to use a text in your own writing without directly quoting source material. Anytime you are taking information from a source that is not your own, you need to specify where you got that information.

What are the differences among quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing?

These three ways of incorporating other writers' work into your own writing differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing.

Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.

Why use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries?

Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries serve many purposes. You might use them to:

  • Provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing
  • Refer to work that leads up to the work you are now doing
  • Give examples of several points of view on a subject
  • Call attention to a position that you wish to agree or disagree with
  • Highlight a particularly striking phrase, sentence, or passage by quoting the original
  • Distance yourself from the original by quoting it in order to cue readers that the words are not your own
  • Expand the breadth or depth of your writing 

How to use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries

Practice summarizing the original passage using paraphrases and quotations as you go. It might be helpful to follow these steps:

  • Read the entire text, noting the key points and main ideas.
  • Summarize in your own words what the single main idea of the essay is.
  • Paraphrase important supporting points that come up in the essay.
  • Consider any words, phrases, or brief passages that you believe should be quoted directly.

There are several ways to integrate quotations into your text. Often, a short quotation works well when integrated into a sentence. Longer quotations can stand alone. Remember that quoting should be done only sparingly; be sure that you have a good reason to include a direct quotation when you decide to do so.

An Example

The original passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.

Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed., 1976, pp. 46-47.

A legitimate paraphrase:

In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

A plagiarized version:

Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.


CAMS 3001: Communication Research Methods, Heterick Memorial Library, Ohio Northern University,

Paraphrasing, The University Writing Center, University of Texas at Austin,

Purdue Online Writing Lab,