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Understand Citations — Integrating Sources (Quote, Paraphrase, Summarize)

Integrating Sources Into Your Paper

Integrating sources into a paper can be challenging. How much of a source do you use? When should you use quotation marks? It is important to remember that you are the author of a paper, so sources are properly used to back up your own arguments, not state an argument in themselves, so how you use them depends on the structure of your paper and your argument.

Let's use this paragraph from a scholarly article to illustrate examples of quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing a source

These results suggest that morning people, or early chronotypes—as measured on the morningness–eveningness continuum are more proactive than are evening types. Additionally, the misalignment of social and biological time, as assessed by the difference between rise times on weekdays and on free days, correlated with proactivity, suggesting that people with a high misalignment of social and biological time may be less able to act in a proactive manner, probably because of sleep delay. Their biological schedules seem not to fit neatly into social demands (e.g., school, university, work schedules) as do those of less misaligned people.
Randler, C. (2009). Proactive people are morning people. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39(12), 2787-2797.

Quoting

  • Use quotations when you are repeating something from a source exactly word for word.
  • You should use quotation marks even if you are only taking just a few words from a source.
  • Quotes can help lend authority to an initial argument, but should not be relied upon too heavily in a paper. If you find yourself quoting an entire paragraph, a paraphrasing or summary of that content may often be more appropriate.
  • Quotes can and should be used when the original author’s wording is unusual, unique, or memorably states a point.

Examples using the paragraph above:
Randler (2009) states that late risers have “a high misalignment of social and biological time” which results in a mismatch between their natural schedules and the normal workday (p. 2793).
or
“People with a high misalignment of social and biological time may be less able to act in a proactive manner, probably because of sleep delay” (Randler, 2009, p. 2793).

Note that there are two ways to incorporate the source:

  • Single phrase – using the author’s name in your own narrative, and then incorporating their idea or words into a sentence (first example)
  • Direct quotation – Using the words or ideas of the source independently and adding the author’s name in the in-text citation (second example)

Paraphrasing

  • Paraphrasing is taking the idea of a sentence or passage, and putting it into your own words.
  • Paraphrasing is NOT copying the sentence and replacing or changing a few words to be different from the original. (This is called “patchwriting” and may trigger plagiarism-detecting programs.)
  • You should paraphrase when the idea or point is more important than the actual words used.
  • You should paraphrase when the words are complex but the point is simple.
  • Paraphrasing should remain faithful to the original meaning of the material.

Examples using the paragraph above:
Randler (2009) states that people who are naturally morning people often also display traits that are considered proactive. He also suggests that late risers may not show as many proactive traits because they naturally operate on a different sleep schedule (p. 2793).
or
People who are naturally morning people have been shown to also display traits that are considered proactive, and late risers display fewer of these traits because they don’t get enough sleep on days when they have to go to work or school. (Randler, 2009, p. 2793).

Summarizing

  • As with paraphrasing, summarize when the idea or point is more important than the actual words used.
  • Summarizing can condense much more material than paraphrasing – even an entire book or article.
  • Summarizing can often lead into your own points on the material.

Examples using the paragraph above:
Recent research shows that people who are not naturally early risers often have persistent issues adjusting themselves to the morning-oriented schedule of most schools and workplaces, and because of this may be less proactive in their behaviors (Randler, 2009).
or
The natural alignment of sleep schedules to work and school schedules allows early risers to have more energy and display proactive traits, while people who are natural late risers, and thus often combating sleep delay in adhering to regular schedules, display fewer of these traits (Randler, 2009).

Note that when summarizing, you do not always have to include the page number as you are summarizing the findings from the whole study, rather than just a small part of it.

Used with permission from Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library, Fitchburg State University

Paraphrasing : How to Avoid Plagiarism

Quick Tips

In general, it is best to use a quote when: 

  • The exact words of your source are important for the point you are trying to make. This is especially true if you are quoting technical language, terms, or very specific word choices.  
  • You want to highlight your agreement with the author’s words. If you agree with the point the author of the evidence makes and you like their exact words, use them as a quote. 
  • You want to highlight your disagreement with the author’s words. In other words, you may sometimes want to use a direct quote to indicate exactly what it is you disagree about. This might be particularly true when you are considering the antithetical positions in your research writing projects.

In general, it is best to paraphrase when: 

  • There is no good reason to use a quote to refer to your evidence. If the author’s exact words are not especially important to the point you are trying to make, you are usually better off paraphrasing the evidence.
  • You are trying to explain a particular a piece of evidence in order to explain or interpret it in more detail. This might be particularly true in writing projects like critiques.  
  • You need to balance a direct quote in your writing. You need to be careful about directly quoting your research too much because it can sometimes make for awkward and difficult to read prose. So, one of the reasons to use a paraphrase instead of a quote is to create balance within your writing.

Adapted from The Process of Research Writing Chapter 3: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism. Steven D. Krause