Write It in Your Own Words

Summary: This guide aims to help you become more familiar with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. It compares and contrasts the three terms, offers some suggestions, and includes a short practice extract.

Paraphrasing is one method of using a text in your own writing without directly quoting from the source. When you do this, you must indicate where you obtained your information.

A paraphrase is…

  • Your own version of key information and ideas voiced by someone else.
  • One acceptable way to borrow from a source, if correctly acknowledged.
  • More detailed than a summary, which briefly outlines just the main points.

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because…

  • It is better than quoting from an unremarkable text.
  • It avoids the temptation to quote too much.
  • It helps you to fully understand the original.

6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

1. Study the original passage until you completely understand its meaning.

2. Put away the original, and write your own paraphrase.

3. Make a short note below your paraphrase as a reminder of how you intend to use this material. Write a key word or phrase describing the subject of your paraphrase.

4. Compare your version with the original to ensure you have accurately included the essential information in another form.

5. Insert quotation marks to indicate any characteristic term or phraseology borrowed directly from the source.

6. Reference the source (including the page) in your notes so that you can credit it easily if you use the material in your own work

Some examples to compare

The original passage:

The obvious point to make about quotations is that they act as evidence for the case or argument you are making in an essay. Like evidence in a court of law, they need to be given accurately. The golden rule with quotations is to set the material out exactly as it appears in your source. Peck, J. & Coyle, M. The Student’s Guide to Writing. (1999): 115.

A legitimate paraphrase:

Quotations are important because they help substantiate the points you seek to make in an essay. Make absolutely sure they are set out in precisely the same fashion as the source. (Peck & Coyle, 115).

An acceptable summary:

Quotations support your reasoning in an essay. Therefore they must be accurate and should always use the same format as the source. (Peck & Coyle, 115).

A plagiarized version:

Obviously quotations are used as evidence for the argument put forward in an essay. Just like legal evidence given in a law court, they must be accurate. You must always present the quoted material exactly like the original source.

A note about plagiarism:

The above has been classed as plagiarism, partly because it lacks any citation. Plagiarism is a serious academic offence. However, we accept that plagiarism is hard to define; that its definition may be context-sensitive; and that not all instances of plagiarism are the same.