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Citing Sources: Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing

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

Sample paraphrasing - MLA Fomat 9th edition

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing

Whenever you refer to ideas, information, statistics, images, concepts, facts or anything else that you found from an outside source, you need to let your readers know where you found that information. Typically, this is done by quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing the information, and then citing the authors that produced it. 

What's the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, and when do you do it?

Quoting - take original section or text, word-for-word, and add it to your paper using "quotation marks". You may want to use a quote in the following situations:

  • The quote is from a lead authority on your issue and helps to emphasize the point you want to make.
  • The original author uses unique or memorable language that would be more effective in making a point. 
  • It is difficult to paraphrase or summarize the quote without changing the intent of the author.
  • Your attempts at paraphrasing the quote end up being longer or more confusing.

Paraphrasing - put information into your own words. Paraphrases are generally the same length or slightly shorter than the original text.  Paraphrasing well shows your understanding of the source material.  Paraphrasing may be used instead of a summary because it is more specific.  You may choose to paraphrase when:

  • The wording of the source text is less important than the content of the source text.
  • To reorganize points made to emphasize certain points that support your paper.
  • To clarify points for your audience when original text may be more technical or specialized

Summarizing - take the key points of source text and put them into your own words.  Summaries are generally much shorter than the original text. You may choose to summarize when:

  • The wording of the source text is less important than the content of the source text.
  • To condense long material to highlight only points specific to your paper.
  • To omit excess details not important for your paper.
  • To simplify technical or specialized material for your audience.

In every case, you will need to cite the original source text using in-text or parenthetical citations, and include the citation for the original source on your Works Cited page.

See below for several examples of how to quote or paraphrase text and provide in-text/parenthetical citations.