Skip to main content

Citing Sources: Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing

A guide to citing sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago format.

Introduction

Whenever you refer to things from an outside source (e.g., ideas, information, statistics, images, concepts, or facts), you must cite the source of this information. Additionally, you need to quote, paraphrase, or summarize material clearly and accurately.

In every case, cite the source in-text and include the full citation on your References page.

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing

To Quote - Copy text from the original, word-for-word, and add it to your paper using "quotation marks." For any changes from the original text (additions or omissions) follow rules in the Publication Manual (p. 170-73).

  • Don't fill your paper with quotes. Most of the time you should paraphrase or summarize for your readers.
  • Good reasons to quote:
    • when the words come from a credible expert using memorable language--and it supports your argument.
    • when it is hard to paraphrase or summarize the text without changing the author's meaning.
  • Block quotes: If a quotation is forty words or longer, put it in an indented block. Introduce the quote, usually with a colon. Indent the block a half inch. Double space everything. Any parenthetical citation goes at the end, after the terminal punctuation of the quote. Don't add any quotation marks to the block. If the quotation contains a new paragraph, indent its first line another half inch. Here is an example:

Berger (2007) has said:

Evolutionary social scientists note that if mothers were the exclusive caregivers of each child until children were adults, able to provide for themselves and their own children, a given woman could rear only one or two offspring-not enough for the species to survive (p. 157).

To Paraphrase - translate a short passage of the original text into your own words. Paraphrases are about the same length as the original text. When you paraphrase material well, it shows that you understand the source's ideas. Make sure that your version differs in wording from the original.

  • Paraphrase a passage when its ideas are more important than the author's actual words.
  • Paraphrase a passage to give your paper a consistent "voice." It should sound like you, not like your sources.
  • Paraphrase a passage to smoothly integrate the source's ideas into your own argument.

To Summarize - condense the main ideas of a source, in your own words.

  • Summarize in order to focus on the main ideas of a source.
  • Summarize in order to omit needless details for your reader.
  • Summarize in order to simplify technical material for your audience.