Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing are three important skills to master for writing in the academic and business world. These skills will help support claims and add credibility to your work.
Giving Credit to Your Sources
It is crucial to understand how to quote, paraphrase and summarize for writing in the workplace. These skills will help support claims and add credibility to your work. As a college professor, I have come across numerous issues with students quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing their work. Incidents of plagiarism run rampant in the classroom because some students don't seem to grasp how to credit their sources. Plagiarism is stealing someone else's work and portraying the work as your own.
This is a true story. I was reading papers in my office from one of my college writing classes. The research paper on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. began with the expected topic sentence and main points. I then turned the page and found myself reading rap lyrics. It turns out that the student thought I wouldn't read the entire paper and decided to take someone else's words (the rap artist's) and insert them into a five-page paper. He did not source the information, and it was entirely a plagiarized paper. While this is an extreme example, students can be easily confused about how to follow the basic sourcing rules of quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing. Let me offer you some tips in these three areas of research writing.
The first skill to master is the ability to use quotations to support a main idea. This is when a writer uses word-for-word information from a source and gives credit to the original writer. A quotation has to be an exact match and be attributed to the original source author. For example, if you were beginning a paper on Martin Luther King, Jr., it might be impactful to start your paper with a direct quotation of his to help create a mood or set up your main idea.
Paraphrasing is a second skill that allows a writer to legitimately utilize a passage of text from a source. The writer has to restate the original material in their own words while still maintaining the main ideas. In order for paraphrasing to be done correctly, it also has to offer credit to the original writer.
To paraphrase effectively, remember to:
- Put the text into your own words.
- Avoid copying the text.
- Rearrange similar text.
- Ask yourself if you included all important points.
Paraphrasing is different from summarizing because it condenses information but offers more than just a summary of main ideas. It can contain much more detail and is not concerned with length. Let's take a look at an example of paraphrasing a source. Here is an original quote about Dr. King from Biography.com:
'Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, 'I Have a Dream.' '
The next step is to condense the information into a shorter amount of verbiage and put it into your own words. This is the paraphrased example:
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech 'I Have a Dream' is a reminder of one of the most respected and admired leaders in history. His actions helped end segregation in the U.S. He was born January 15, 1929, but unfortunately, his life was cut short when he was murdered in 1968.
The last skill to master for using sources effectively in a paper is the art of summarizing. Like paraphrasing, this is also when written information is transferred into a writer's own words in a very short summary. The difference between summarizing and paraphrasing is that a summary just presents the main ideas in a very short overview. But similar to both quoting and paraphrasing, the final summary still has to be attributed to the original source.
Here is an example of summarizing. The original quote reads:
'We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.' - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our summarized sentence might be:
Everyone must learn to forgive because we all have good and bad in us.
Reasons to Source
Many students ask me, 'Why do I have to quote, paraphrase or summarize in papers?' The answer is because sourcing is expected and necessary to write legitimate and accepted papers in work and school because it:
- Adds credibility and support by incorporating experts and direct quotes.
- Allows the writer to showcase other points of view within a paper.
- Provides the ability to focus and expand upon certain points or explanations.
Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing are three important skills to master for writing in the academic and business worlds. Quoting takes word-for-word information from a source and gives credit to the original writer. In paraphrasing, the writer has to transfer the original material into their own words, but the paraphrase can still contain multiple main points from the original source. Lastly, summarizing is when the main ideas are transferred into the writer's own words in a very short summary.
At the end of the lesson, you should be able to:
- Define plagiarism and explain why it's important to credit your sources in a paper
- Explain quotations and how they're used in academic writing
- Discuss paraphrasing and how to use it properly
- Explain how summarizing works in an academic or business paper