Article links:

“Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism” by Steven D. Krause

“Summarize & Paraphrase Sources” by Joe Moxley

“When to Quote and When to Paraphrase” by Brianna Jerman

“Tell Your Readers When You Are Citing, Paraphrasing, or Summarizing” by Joe Moxley

“Avoid Dropped Quotations provided” by Writing Commons

“Use Solely Your Own Words to Paraphrase” provided by Writing Commons

“Paraphrase Accurately to Preserve the Source’s Ideas” provided by Writing Commons

“Avoiding Plagiarism” by Jennifer Janechek

“Understand When Citations are Necessary” by Joe Moxley

“Avoiding Plagiarism: A Checklist for Student Writers” by Angela Eward-Mangione

Chapter Preview

Define the reason writers quote and paraphrase from research.

Define plagiarism.

Explain the ways to make a point using evidence.

Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism

by Steven D. Krause

Learning how to effectively quote and paraphrase research can be difficult and it certainly takes practice.  The goal of this chapter is to introduce some basic strategies for summarizing, quoting and paraphrasing research in your writing and to explain how to avoid plagiarizing your research.

How to Summarize:  An Overview

A summary is a brief explanation of a longer text.  Some summaries, such as the ones that accompany annotated bibliographies, are very short, just a sentence or two.  Others are much longer, though summaries are always much shorter than the text being summarized in the first place.

Summaries of different lengths are useful in research writing because you often need to provide your readers with an explanation of the text you are discussing.  This is especially true when you are going to quote or paraphrase from a source.

Of course, the first step in writing a good summary is to do a thorough reading of the text you are going to summarize in the first place.  Beyond that important start, there are a few basic guidelines you should follow when you write summary material:

  • Stay “neutral” in your summarizing.  Summaries provide “just the facts” and are not the place where you offer your opinions about the text you are summarizing.  Save your opinions and evaluation of the evidence you are summarizing for other parts of your writing.
  • Don’t quote from what you are summarizing.  Summaries will be more useful to you and your colleagues if you write them in your own words.
  • Don’t “cut and paste” from database abstracts.  Many of the periodical indexes that are available as part of your library’s computer system include abstracts of articles.  Do no “cut” this abstract material and then “paste” it into your own annotated bibliography.  For one thing, this is plagiarism.  Second, “cutting and pasting” from the abstract defeats one of the purposes of writing summaries and creating an annotated bibliography in the first place, which is to help you understand and explain your research.

How to Quote and Paraphrase:  An Overview

Writers quote and paraphrase from research in order to support their points and to persuade their readers.  A quote or a paraphrase from a piece of evidence in support of a point answers the reader’s question, “says who?”

This is especially true in academic writing since scholarly readers are most persuaded by effective research and evidence.  For example, readers of an article about a new cancer medication published in a medical journal will be most interested in the scholar’s research and statistics that demonstrate the effectiveness of the treatment.  Conversely, they will not be as persuaded by emotional stories from individual patients about how a new cancer medication improved the quality of their lives.  While this appeal to emotion can be effective and is common in popular sources, these individual anecdotes do not carry the same sort of “scholarly” or scientific value as well-reasoned research and evidence.

Of course, your instructor is not expecting you to be an expert on the topic of your research paper.  While you might conduct some primary research, it’s a good bet that you’ll be relying on secondary sources such as books, articles, and Web sites to inform and persuade your readers.  You’ll present this research to your readers in the form of quotes and paraphrases.

 A “quote” is a direct restatement of the exact words from the original source.  The general rule of thumb is any time you use three or more words as they appeared in the original source, you should treat it as a quote.  A “paraphrase” is a restatement of the information or point of the original source in your own words.

While quotes and paraphrases are different and should be used in different ways in your research writing (as the examples in this section suggest), they do have a number of things in common.  Both quotes and paraphrases should:

  • be “introduced” to the reader, particularly the first time you mention a source;
  • include an explanation of the evidence which explains to the reader why you think the evidence is important, especially if it is not apparent from the context of the quote or paraphrase; and
  • include a proper citation of the source.

The method you should follow to properly quote or paraphrase depends on the style guide you are following in your academic writing.  The two most common style guides used in academic writing are the Modern Language Association (MLA), and the American Psychological Association (APA).  I discuss both of these different style guides in some detail in the Appendix of this book.  Your instructor will probably assign one of these styles before you begin working on your project, however, if he/she doesn’t mention this, be sure to ask.

When to Quote, When to Paraphrase

The real “art” to research writing is using quotes and paraphrases from evidence effectively in order to support your point.  There are certain “rules,” dictated by the rules of style you are following, such as the ones presented by the MLA or the ones presented by the APA.  There are certain “guidelines” and suggestions, like the ones I offer in the previous section and the ones you will learn from your teacher and colleagues.

But when all is said and done, the question of when to quote and when to paraphrase depends a great deal on the specific context of the writing and the effect you are trying to achieve.  Learning the best times to quote and paraphrase takes practice and experience.

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. 

Tips for Quoting and Paraphrasing

  • Introduce your quotes and paraphrases to your reader, especially on first reference.
  • Explain the significance of the quote or paraphrase to your reader.
  • Cite your quote or paraphrase properly according to the rules of style you are following in your essay.
  • Quote when the exact words are important, when you want to highlight your agreement or your disagreement.
  • Paraphrase when the exact words aren’t important, when you want to explain the point of your evidence, or when you need to balance the direct quotes in your writing.

Four Examples of Quotes and Paraphrases

Here are four examples of what I mean about properly quoting and paraphrasing evidence in your research essays.  In each case, I begin with a BAD example, or the way NOT to quote or paraphrase.

Quoting in MLA Style

Here’s the first BAD example, where the writer is trying to follow the rules of MLA style:

There are many positive effects for advertising prescription drugs on television.  “African-American physicians regard direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines as one way to educate minority patients about needed treatment and healthcare options” (Wechsler, Internet).

This is a potentially good piece of information to support a research writer’s claim, but the researcher hasn’t done any of the necessary work to explain where this quote comes from or to explain why it is important for supporting her point.  Rather, she has simply “dropped in” the quote, leaving the interpretation of its significance up to the reader.

Now consider this revised GOOD (or at least BETTER) example of how this quote might be better introduced into the essay:

In her Pharmaceutical Executive article available through the Wilson Select Internet database, Jill Wechsler writes about one of the positive effects of advertising prescription drugs on television.  “African-American physicians regard direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines as one way to educate minority patients about needed treatment and healthcare options.”

In this revision, it’s much more clear what point the writer is trying to make with this evidence and where this evidence comes from.

In this particular example, the passage is from a traditional print journal called Pharmaceutical Executive.  However, the writer needs to indicate that she actually found and read this article through Wilson Select, an Internet database which reproduces the “full text” of articles from periodicals without any graphics, charts, or page numbers.

When you use a direct quote in your research, you need to the indicate page number of that direct quote or you need to indicate that the evidence has no specific page numbers. While it can be a bit awkward to indicate within the text how the writer found this information if it’s from the Internet, it’s important to do so on the first reference of a piece of evidence in your writing.  On references to this piece of evidence after the first reference, you can use just the last name of the writer.  For example:

Wechsler also reports on the positive effects of advertising prescription drugs on television.  She writes…

Paraphrasing in MLA Style

In this example, the writer is using MLA style to write a research essay for a Literature class.  Here is a BAD example of a paraphrase:

While Gatsby is deeply in love with Daisy in The Great Gatsby, his love for her is indistinguishable from his love of his possessions (Callahan).

There are two problems with this paraphrase.  First, if this is the first or only reference to this particular piece of evidence in the research essay, the writer should include more information about the source of this paraphrase in order to properly introduce it. Second, this paraphrase is actually not of the entire article but rather of a specific passage.  The writer has neglected to note the page number within the parenthetical citation.

GOOD or at least BETTER revision of this paraphrase might look like this:

John F. Callahan suggests in his article “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Evolving American Dream” that while Gatsby is deeply in love with Daisy in The Great Gatsby, his love for her is indistinguishable from his love of his possessions (381).

By incorporating the name of the author of the evidence the research writer is referring to here, the source of this paraphrase is now clear to the reader.  Furthermore, because there is a page number at the end of this sentence, the reader understands that this passage is a paraphrase of a particular part of Callahan’s essay and not a summary of the entire essay. Again, if the research writer had introduced this source to his readers earlier, he could have started with a phrase like “Callahan suggests…” and then continued on with his paraphrase.

If the research writer were offering a brief summary of the entire essay following MLA style, he wouldn’t include a page number in parentheses.  For example:

John F. Callahan’s article “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Evolving American Dream” examines Fitzgerald’s fascination with the elusiveness of the American Dream in the novels The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon.

Quoting in APA Style

Consider this BAD example in APA style, of what NOT to do when quoting evidence:

“If the U.S. scallop fishery were a business, its management would surely be fired, because its revenues could readily be increased by at least 50 percent while its costs were being reduced by an equal percentage.” (Repetto, 2001, p. 84).

Again, this is a potentially valuable piece of evidence, but it simply isn’t clear what point the research writer is trying to make with it.  Further, it doesn’t follow the preferred method of citation with APA style.

Here is a revision that is a GOOD or at least BETTER example:

Repetto (2001) concludes that in the case of the scallop industry, those running the industry should be held responsible for not considering methods that would curtail the problems of over-fishing.   “If the U.S. scallop fishery were a business, its management would surely be fired, because its revenues could readily be increased by at least 50 percent while its costs were being reduced by an equal percentage” (p. 84).

This revision is improved because the research writer has introduced and explained the point of the evidence with the addition of a clarifying sentence.  It also follows the rules of APA style.  Generally, APA style prefers that the research writer refer to the author only by last name followed immediately by the year of publication.  Whenever possible, you should begin your citation with the author’s last name and the year of publication, and, in the case of a direct quote like this passage, the page number (including the “p.”) in parentheses at the end.

Paraphrasing in MLA Style

Paraphrasing in APA style is slightly different from MLA style as well.  Consider first this BAD example of what NOT to do in paraphrasing from a source in APA style:

Computer criminals have lots of ways to get away with credit card fraud (Cameron, 2002).

The main problem with this paraphrase is there isn’t enough here to adequately explain to the reader what the point of the evidence really is.  Remember:  your readers have no way of automatically knowing why you as a research writer think that a particular piece of evidence is useful in supporting your point.  This is why it is key that you introduce and explain your evidence.

Here is a revision that is GOOD or at least BETTER:

Cameron (2002) points out that computer criminals intent on committing credit card fraud are able to take advantage of the fact that there aren’t enough officials working to enforce computer crimes.  Criminals are also able to use the technology to their advantage by communicating via email and chat rooms with other criminals.

Again, this revision is better because the additional information introduces and explains the point of the evidence.  In this particular example, the author’s name is also incorporated into the explanation of the evidence as well.  In APA, it is preferable to weave in the author’s name into your essay, usually at the beginning of a sentence.  However, it would also have been acceptable to end an improved paraphrase with just the author’s last name and the date of publication in parentheses.

How to Avoid Plagiarism in the Research Process

Plagiarism is the unauthorized or uncredited use of the writings or ideas of another in your writing.  While it might not be as tangible as auto theft or burglary, plagiarism is still a form of theft.

In the academic world, plagiarism is a serious matter because ideas in the forms of research, creative work, and original thought are highly valued.  Chances are, your school has strict rules about what happens when someone is caught plagiarizing.  The penalty for plagiarism is severe, everything from a failing grade for the plagiarized work, a failing grade for the class, or expulsion from the institution.

You might not be aware that plagiarism can take several different forms.  The most well known, purposeful plagiarism, is handing in an essay written by someone else and representing it as your own, copying your essay word for word from a magazine or journal, or downloading an essay from the Internet.

A much more common and less understood phenomenon is what I call accidental plagiarism.  Accidental plagiarism is the result of improperly paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, or citing your evidence in your academic writing.  Generally, writers accidentally plagiarize because they simply don’t know or they fail to follow the rules for giving credit to the ideas of others in their writing.

Both purposeful and accidental plagiarism are wrong, against the rules, and can result in harsh punishments.  Ignoring or not knowing the rules of how to not plagiarize and properly cite evidence might be an explanation, but it is not an excuse.

To exemplify what I’m getting at, consider the examples below that use quotations and paraphrases from this brief passage:

Those who denounce cyberculture today strangely resemble those who criticized rock music during the fifties and sixties.  Rock started out as an Anglo-American phenomenon and has become an industry.  Nonetheless, it was able to capture the hopes of young people around the world and provided enjoyment to those of us who listened to or played rock.  Sixties pop was the conscience of one or two generations that helped bring the war in Vietnam to a close.  Obviously, neither rock nor pop has solved global poverty or hunger.  But is this a reason to be “against” them? (ix).

And just to make it clear that I’m not plagiarizing this passage, here is the citation in MLA style:

Lévy, Pierre.  Cyberculture.  Trans. Robert Bononno.  Minneapolis:  U of Minnesota P, 2001.

Here’s an obvious example of plagiarism:

Those who denounce cyberculture today strangely resemble those who criticized rock music during the fifties and sixties.

In this case, the writer has literally taken one of Lévy’s sentences and represented it as her own.  That’s clearly against the rules.

Here’s another example of plagiarism, perhaps less obvious:

The same kind of people who criticize cyberculture are the same kind of people who criticized rock and roll music back in the fifties and sixties.  But both cyberculture and rock music inspire and entertain young people.

While these aren’t Lévy’s exact words, they are certainly close enough to constitute a form of plagiarism.  And again, even though you might think that this is a “lesser” form of plagiarism, it’s still plagiarism.

Both of these passages can easily be corrected to make them acceptable quotations or paraphrases.

In the introduction of his book Cyberculture, Pierre Lévy observes that Those who denounce cyberculture today strangely resemble those who criticized rock music during the fifties and sixties” (ix).

Pierre Lévy suggests that the same kind of people who criticize cyberculture are the same kind of people who criticized rock and roll music back in the fifties and sixties.  But both cyberculture and rock music inspire and entertain young people (ix).

Note that changing these passages from examples of plagiarism to acceptable examples of a quotation and a paraphrase is extremely easy:  properly cite your sources.

This leads to the “golden rule” of avoiding plagiarism:

Always cite your sources.  If you are unsure as to whether you should or should not cite a particular claim or reference, you should probably cite your source.

Often, students are unclear as to whether or not they need to cite a piece of evidence because they believe it to be “common knowledge” or because they are not sure about the source of information.  When in doubt about whether or not to cite evidence in order to give credit to a source (“common knowledge” or not), you should cite the evidence.

Plagiarism and the Internet

Sometimes, I think the ease of finding and retrieving information on the World Wide Web makes readers think that this information does not need to be cited.  After all, it isn’t a traditional source like a book or a journal; it is available for “free.”  All a research writer needs to do with a web site is “cut and paste” whatever he needs into his essay, right?  Wrong!

You need to cite the evidence you find from the Internet or the World Wide Web the same way you cite evidence from other sources.  To not do this is plagiarism, or, more bluntly, cheating.  Just because the information is “freely” available on the Internet does not mean you can use this information in your academic writing without properly citing it, much in the same way that the information from library journals and books “freely” available to you needs to be cited in order to give credit where credit is due.

It is also not acceptable to simply download graphics from the World Wide Web.  Images found on the Internet are protected by copyright laws.  Quite literally, taking images from the Web (particularly from commercial sources) is an offense that could lead to legal action.  There are places where you can find graphics and clip art that Web publishers have made publicly available for anyone to use, but be sure that the Web site where you find the graphics makes this explicit before you take graphics as your own.

In short, you can use evidence from the Web as long as you don’t plagiarize and as long as you properly cite it; don’t take graphics from the Web unless you know the images are in the public domain.  For more information on citing electronic sources, see Chapter 12, “Citing Your Research with MLA and APA Style.”

Summarize & Paraphrase Sources

by Joe Moxley

Learn how to integrate the words and ideas of others into your documents without losing your voice and focus.
Over the years, conventions have evolved regarding how writers should acknowledge and integrate the ideas and works of others.

This section on annotating, summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources explains how to develop an annotated bibliography, and it explains how this effort can help you to manage your time and help create a focus for your research report. In addition, this section clarifies distinctions between summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources, and exploring conventions for weaving others’ ideas and words into your prose without destroying your focus and voice.

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

by Brianna Jerman

Academic writing requires authors to connect information from outside sources to their own ideas in order to establish credibility and produce an effective argument.

Sometimes, the rules surrounding source integration and plagiarism may seem confusing, so many new writers err on the side of caution by using the simplest form of integration: direct quotation. However, using direct quotes is not always the best way to use a source. Paraphrasing or summarizing a text is sometimes a more effective means of supporting a writer’s argument than directly quoting. Taking into consideration the purpose of their own writing and the purpose of utilizing the outside source, authors should seek to vary the ways in which they work sources into their own writing.

Paraphrasing and quoting are two of the three ways an author can integrate sources. The two methods are closely related, and therefore, can sometimes be confused with one another. Quoting borrows the exact wording used in a source and is indicated by placing quotes around the borrowed material. Paraphrasing, on the other hand, borrows an idea found in a shorter passage but communicates this idea using different words and word order. While it is acceptable to loosely follow a similar structure, paraphrasing requires more than simply changing a few of the original words to synonyms. Both paraphrasing and directly quoting have their merit, but they should be used at different times for different purposes. An author chooses to use one of these strategies depending on why the source is being used and what information the source provides.

When to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing provides an author the opportunity to tailor the passage for the purpose of his or her own essay, which cannot always be done when using a direct quote. Paraphrasing should be used to

  • Further explain or simplify a passage that may be difficult to understand. It could be that the topic, such as the process of extracting stem cells, is particularly difficult to follow, or that the author has used language that further complicates the topic. In such situations, paraphrasing allows an author to clarify or simplify a passage so the audience can better understand the idea.
  • Establish the credibility of the author. In connection to the above point, paraphrasing a complicated passage can help the author establish trust with his or her audience. If an author directly quotes a difficult passage without analysis or further explanation, it may appear that he or she does not understand the idea. Paraphrasing not only clarifies the idea in the passage but also illustrates that the writer, since he or she can articulate this difficult message to the reader, is knowledgeable about the topic and should be trusted.
  • Maintain the flow of the writing. Each author has a unique voice, and using direct quotes can interrupt this voice. Too many quotes can make an essay sound choppy and difficult to follow. Paraphrasing can help communicate an important idea in a passage or source without interrupting the flow of the essay.
  • Eliminate less relevant information. Since paraphrasing is written using the author’s own words, he or she can be more selective in what information from a passage should be included or omitted. While an author should not manipulate a passage unnecessarily, paraphrasing allows an author to leave out unrelated details that would have been part of a direct quote.
  • Communicate relevant statistics and numerical data. A lot of times, sources offer statistical information about a topic that an author may find necessary to developing his or her own argument. For example, statistics about the percentage of mothers who work more than one job may be useful to explaining how the economy has affected children rearing practices. Directly quoting statistics such as this should be avoided.

When to Quote

Direct quotes should be used sparingly, but when they are used, they can be a powerful rhetorical tool. As a rule, avoid using long quotes when possible, especially those longer than three lines. When quotes are employed, they should be used to

Provide indisputable evidence of an incredible claim. Directly quoting a source can show the audience exactly what the source says so there is not suspicion of misinterpretation on the author’s part.

  • Communicate an idea that is stated in a particularly striking or unique way. A passage should be quoted if the source explains an idea in the best way possible or in a way that cannot be reworded. Additionally, quoting should be used when the original passage is particularly moving or striking.
  • Serve as a passage for analysis. If an author is going to analyze the quote or passage, the exact words should be included in the essay either before or following the author’s analysis.
  • Provide direct evidence for or proof of an author’s own claim. An author can use a direct quote as evidence for a claim he or she makes. The direct quote should follow the author’s claim and a colon, which indicates that the following passage is evidence of the statement that precedes it.
  • Support or clarify information you’ve already reported from a source. Similar to the above principle, an author can use a direct quote as further evidence or to emphasize a claim found in the source. This strategy should be used when an idea from a source is particularly important to an author’s own work.
  • Provide a definition of a new or unfamiliar term or phrase. When using a term that is used or coined by the source’s author or that is unfamiliar to most people, use direct quotes to show the exact meaning of the phrase or word according to the original source.

Tell Your Readers When You Are Citing, Paraphrasing, or Summarizing

by Joe Moxley

While documentation styles differ in their formats and procedures, they all agree on one point: You must ensure that your readers know when you are borrowing from secondary sources. Remember, in particular, that readers read from left to right.

They should not–and truly cannot–be expected to read backwards to determine just how much of a paragraph or section is borrowed from a secondary source. For example, note the confusion a reader would have in evaluating Theresa Lovins’s interesting essay, “Objectionable Rock Lyrics”:

Many Americans fear government intervention when it comes to human rights. They fear that government censorship of rock lyrics might lead to other restrictions. Then too, what would the guidelines be, who would make these decisions, and how might it affect our cherished constitutional rights? Questions like these should always be approached with serious consideration. We have obligations as parents to protect our children and as Americans to uphold and protect our rights. Therefore, it’s important to ask what effects proposals like Tipper Gore’s, president of PMRC, might have on our freedoms in the future. She recommends that the record companies utilize a rating system: X would stand for profane or sexually explicit lyrics, V for violence, O for occultism, and D/A for drugs/alcohol. The PMRC also suggest that the lyrics be displayed on the outside cover along with a general warning sticker which perhaps might read “Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics.” To date, record companies have not agreed to all these demands but some have decided to put warning labels on certain questionable albums (Morthland).

Although Lovins provides complete documentation for Morthland–the source that she is citing in this paragraph–she does not clarify for the reader exactly what she is borrowing from Morthland. As a result, the reader cannot know if the author is indebted to Morthland for all of the thoughts in this paragraph or merely the section on PMRC’s proposal. This problem could be easily rectified by including a transitional sentence that distinguished her thoughts from those of other authors whom she is citing. For example, Lovins could write, “According to John Morthland’s recent essay in High Fidelity, Tipper Gore has recommended that record companies do such and such.” If Lovins did not want to call so much attention to Morthland, she could merely put Morthland’s name in parentheses after the word “future” in the sixth sentence of this paragraph.

The second example, below, serves as another example of how an ambiguous citation/paraphrase results in confusion for the audience:

While the PMRC’s request needs to be studied, perhaps they have merit. Rating systems could actually serve to alert the public, similar to how movie ratings have helped motion picture audiences choose the types of movies they wish to view. A committee could be appointed by a reputable party such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The group would perform its duties in a manner similar to that used by the Academy of Motion Pictures. This type of system has not hurt the movie industry, but has actually aided in promoting some movies. For instance, “The Black Hole” by Walt Disney Productions was given a PG rating. Disney was trying to reach a broader audience and by receiving this kind of rating they did just that. It told the adult audience that it wasn’t along the same lines as a Mary Poppins film, and perhaps it contained material which they could enjoy but was too sophisticated for a 4-6 year old to grasp. Movie rating is a good example, proving that rating systems can and do, in fact, work (Wilson).

Lovins runs into the same problem in this paragraph as she did in the previous one. Because she doesn’t inform the reader about exactly when she is referring to Connie Wilson’s Time essay, “A Life in the Movies,” readers cannot be sure whether it is Lovins’s idea or Wilson’s that “a committee could be appointed” to evaluate the lyrics of rock music. If this idea was originally propounded by Wilson, then Lovins could be considered guilty of plagiarism, yet most people would merely describe this particular example as sloppy scholarship.

Avoid Dropped Quotations

provided by Writing Commons

Why is it important to avoid dropped quotations?

A dropped quotation—a quote that appears in a paper without introduction—can disrupt the flow of thought, create an abrupt change in voice, and/or leave the reader wondering why the quote is included.

Instead of creating an unwelcome disruption in their paper’s cohesiveness with a dropped quotation, thoughtful writers should employ strategies for smoothly integrating source material into their own work.

What are the benefits of fluently integrating a direct quotation?

When quotations are smoothly integrated, writers can strategically introduce their readers to the new speaker, connect their point to the quotation’s theme, and provide their audience with a clear sense of how the quote supports the paper’s argument. Using these tactics to segue from the writer’s voice to the source’s voice can add agency and authority to the writer’s ideas.

What can be done to fluently integrate a direct quotation into a paper?

Use a signal phrase at the beginning or end of the quotation:

  • Sample signal phrases:
    • Noted journalist John Doe proposed that “ . . . ” (14).
    • Experts from The Centers for Disease Control advise citizens to “ . . . ” (CDC).
    • “. . . ,” suggested researcher Jane Doe (1).

Use an informative sentence to introduce the quotation:

  • Sample introductory sentences:
    • The results of dietician Sally Smith’s research counter the popular misconception that a vegan diet is nutritionally incomplete:
    • An experiment conducted by Dave Brown indicates that texting while driving is more dangerous than previously believed:

Use appropriate signal verbs:

adds confirms lists reports
argues describes illustrates states
asserts discusses notes suggests
claims emphasizes observes writes

Use Solely Your Own Words to Paraphrase

provided by Writing Commons

What does it mean to paraphrase?

When paraphrasing, a writer uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s ideas. Paraphrasing does not mean simply changing a few of the original words, rearranging the structure of the sentence, or replacing some words with synonyms. A paraphrase should explain a borrowed idea in the writer’s own voice but must also remain true to the message of the original text.
Why is it important to paraphrase using only your own words?
  • To avoid plagiarism: If you are presenting an idea other than your own and you haven’t cited the source, this act could be considered plagiarism. Remember, however, that even when you paraphrase using your own words, you must still cite the original source since the idea has been borrowed.
  • To simplify or clarify complex ideas found in the original passage: Sometimes an author has explained an idea or concept in a way that is difficult to follow, or an idea may be particularly perplexing. By using your own words, you not only illustrate to readers that you understand this concept, but also help readers understand the idea more clearly. This clarification is especially important if the idea you’re paraphrasing is vital to developing and supporting your own argument.
  • To report the essential information of the idea: A lengthy direct quote may provide details that are not clearly relevant to your purpose or argument. By using your own words to paraphrase the idea, you can eliminate information that might distract your reader from the main message.
Let’s look at an example of a paraphrase:
Direct quote: “[The new laws] would also help ensure that companies like BP that are responsible for oil spills are the ones that pay for the harm caused by these oil spills, not the taxpayers. This is in addition to the low-interest loans that we’ve made available to small businesses that are suffering financial losses from the spill” (Obama). [1]
Paraphrase: According to the President, the proposed legislation would hold oil companies accountable for damages caused by oil spills and provide affordable loans to businesses whose profits have been affected by such incidents (Obama).
[1] Obama, Barack. “Remarks on the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” The White House. Washington, D.C. 14 May 2010. Address. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.

Paraphrase Accurately to Preserve the Source’s Ideas

provided by Writing Commons

What does it mean to paraphrase?

When paraphrasing, a writer uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s ideas. The borrowed idea should be presented in the writer’s own voice but must remain true to the message of the original text. A paraphrase should clearly and accurately communicate the most important points of a text without integrating outside ideas.

How can the source’s ideas be preserved when paraphrasing?

  • Read the text closely and carefully to ensure clear understanding.
  • Without looking back at the original text, paraphrase the idea(s) of the passage in your own words.
  • Compare your paraphrase with the original passage.
    • Have you accurately communicated the message of the original text?
    • Have you used your own words instead of copying those in the original text?
    • Have you included information or opinions that are not part of the original text?

Let’s look at an example:

Original text: “Women with dependent children are most likely to take up measures such as part-time working and other reduced working-hour arrangements, and school term-time working (where it is available, mostly in the public sector) is almost exclusively female. A number of barriers appear to limit men’s take-up of such measures: the organization of the workplace (including perceptions of their entitlement, that is, perceptions that men’s claims to family responsibilities are valid), the business environment and the domestic organization of labour in employees’ homes (including the centrality of career for the father and mother and their degree of commitment to gendered parenting, both closely class-related)” (Gregory and Milner 4-5). [1]

Paraphrase: Gregory and Milner explain that men are less likely than women to pursue part-time and alternative work schedules that compliment home life responsibilities. The authors propose that this pattern is due to conceptions about gender at the workplace, where men are viewed as responsible for their families’ needs, and at home, where views of traditional parenting roles and socio-economic conditions affect expectations for division of household labor between parents (4-5).

Note: The paraphrase captures Gregory and Milner’s ideas about men’s and women’s likelihood to participate in part-time work situations, and the reason behind these choices, without copying the authors’ original language and voice.

Avoiding Plagiarism

by Jennifer Janechek

When incorporating outside sources, it’s important to be conscious of what constitutes plagiarism and to avoid plagiarizing material. Plagiarism occurs when an author uses someone else’s ideas, words, or style in his or her own writing without properly attributing the information to that source. While many people think that plagiarism only occurs when a writer directly copies someone else’s words, there are many other types of plagiarism: using the ideas of someone else without referencing that source; failing to capture a source’s point in your own words when paraphrasing; mimicking an author’s style; and neglecting to include an in-text citation for a quote, paraphrase, or summary.

But don’t be afraid to use outside sources! They’re incredibly important to academic writing. For example, if you wrote an essay on the Indian Mutiny without incorporating any source material, you would lose credibility, and your reader would likely think that you’ve made up everything in your paper. But first, here is a breakdown of a few key points regarding source material and plagiarism:

  • Plagiarism occurs when you use someone else’s ideas.

A writer can plagiarize a source by referencing the ideas espoused by another writer without giving credit to (citing) the original source. Let’s say, for example, that you read an article by Jennifer Yirinec called “Dramatic Representations of the Indian Mutiny.” In reading that article, you learn that Yirinec views dramatic representations of the Indian Mutiny as showing some negativity toward the colony of India. In referencing this idea in your own paper, you would have to provide an in-text citation. Below is an example of how the writer should reference this idea:

Original quote (from source):

“I argue that dramatic representations of the Indian Mutiny shed a negative light upon the colony of India.” (from Jennifer Yirinec, “Dramatic Representations of the Indian Mutiny,” pg. 54).

Writer’s incorporation of this idea into her paper:

The Indian Mutiny inspired many English dramas that depicted India in a negative light (Yirinec 54).

Even if you’re not quoting or paraphrasing, you’re referencing an idea that came from someone else; as such, it’s important to provide an in-text citation that attributes the idea to the source.

  • Plagiarism occurs when you switch words around.

Paraphrasing can be tricky, and sometimes students who mean to paraphrase can unintentionally plagiarize by failing to communicate a source’s ideas in their own words; however, this doesn’t lessen the offense, so it’s important to learn to paraphrase correctly. Paraphrasing does not mean merely switching words around. You’ll learn more about paraphrasing in another piece in this section, but for now, let’s take a look at an example of plagiarism:

Original quote (from source):

“I argue that dramatic representations of the Indian Mutiny shed a negative light upon the colony of India.” (from Jennifer Yirinec, “Dramatic Representations of the Indian Mutiny,” pg. 54)

Line from student paper:

Dramatic representations figuring the Indian Mutiny depict India, a colony of Britain, in a negative light (Yirinec 54).

You see, these excerpts are very similar; though they are worded slightly differently, paraphrasing requires the writer to represent the source’s ideas in his or her own words—not to jumble the original source’s words to create a new sentence.

The general rule of thumb is that a writer who uses three or more words from a source should place quotation marks around those words and cite accordingly.

  • Plagiarism occurs when you mimic an author’s style.

While it’s certainly productive to read published articles to learn how prominent writers structure and communicate their ideas, writers should not copy other writers’ styles. Yes, even mimicking an author’s style counts as plagiarism. When reading academic articles, note how writers organize their paragraphs, articulate their theses, vary their diction and sentence structure, and incorporate source material, but be careful not to steal another author’s style. You don’t want to write exactly like someone else, anyway! Learn from many different published authors, determine what strategies work best for you, and negotiate different strategies based upon your rhetorical situation and purpose. But always be yourself in writing.

  • Plagiarism occurs when you forget to include an in-text citation.

Even if you forget to drop in an in-text citation for a source that you quote, paraphrase, or summarize but do reference the source in your works cited page, you are still plagiarizing another author’s words and/or ideas. That’s why it’s always important to consider what ideas are your own and what ideas you’ve gleaned from outside sources during the research and writing processes. It’s generally a bad idea to write a draft in which you include quotes and paraphrases without ensuing citations, intending to return later to the draft and insert the necessary in-text citations—if you do this, you might overlook source material when you return to the paper.

Plagiarism has many different levels—some offenses are greater than others. A common student fear is that he or she will plagiarize material unknowingly—that he or she will accidentally reference an idea or phrase that came from a source he or she hasn’t read. This is actually pretty rare, and if it happens, it is something that you can discuss with your instructor. Do not be afraid to incorporate evidence into your paper just because you’re worried that you’ll unintentionally plagiarize. Referencing others’ ideas is essential in a research assignment. Hopefully the pieces on introducing and integrating evidence will help you successfully incorporate evidence into your assignments without plagiarizing. But also be sure to check out your individual university’s plagiarism policy.

Understand When Citations are Necessary

by Joe Moxley

Avoid plagiarism and academic dishonesty by understanding when you need to provide citations in your research.

While you may be an unusually bright, innovative thinker, your instructors still expect your research reports to link your insights with those of other scholars. Research involves “listening in” on a scholarly discussion in professional periodicals, books, and reference volumes, and then synthesizing, extending, and connecting what you discover through others’ publications with your own insights.

One of the cornerstones of academic research is the need to acknowledge sources. Researchers and users of research expect you to qualify on whose shoulders you stand. Whose ideas influenced yours?

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

You must acknowledge your indebtedness to other authors throughout your project by following an established method for documenting sources. Each discipline has its own procedures for citing material, which you will need to familiarize yourself with if you hope to be taken seriously as a knowledgeable and competent contributor to your chosen field. Although style guides differ in regard to where the author’s name or publishing source is listed, they are all designed to ensure that proper credit is given to authors. As you know from your experience as a writer, developing insights and conducting original research is difficult and time-consuming, so you can understand why people want to receive proper credit for their original ideas.

Use the following questions to ascertain whether you need to cite sources of information in your work:

  1. Is the information taken directly from another source? Is this information not generally well known? In other words, is this information part of the common domain–i.e., the knowledge, assumptions, and so on that experts in a field already know or assume? Or is this new knowledge, something the author has discovered or developed within his/her writing?
  2. Am I paraphrasing or summarizing someone else’s original thoughts? If you cite three or more words from the original or even one word that was coined by the author, you should acknowledge your indebtedness by placing quotation marks around the borrowed terms.
  3. Will summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting the source add a layer of authority to your interpretation or argument? Perhaps the source is influential, which may sway readers’ opinions regarding the strength of your argument or conclusions.

Whenever you answer yes to any of these questions, then you must document the source. But be careful: Avoid stringing together a list of sources and calling it a research paper. College instructors tend to be very critical of essays that read like laundry lists of loosely tied-together ideas. Connectedness is key; learning how to balance another writer’s words with your own requires patience, practice, and diligence in thinking-through multiple drafts of a document.

Avoiding Plagiarism: A Checklist for Student Writers

by Angela Eward-Mangione

After you understand what plagiarism is, as well as how to avoid it, consider using a plagiarism checklist as you draft and edit your work. The following checklist is ideal for use during the drafting and revising stages of the writing process.

Checklist for Avoiding Plagiarism

1.  Apply a note-taking system in your pre-writing process.

  • I have carefully used a note-taking system, such as synthesis notes, while conducting research.
  • I have recorded citation information for each source so that I do not have to locate it later

2.  Verify the accuracy of information about your source during the pre-writing process.

  • I have reviewed all the information about the source—such as its authors, title, container, publisher, and year of publication—to ensure it is accurate.

3.  Outline your first draft, but only include your original ideas.

  • I have created an outline only consisting of my original thesis statement and main ideas to ensure that I have not substituted others’ ideas or words for my own.

4.  Identify ideas and details from your source notes that support or spar with your main ideas.

  • I have purposefully selected details from credible, relevant sources to support my thesis statement and main ideas.

5.  Decide which details to quote or paraphrase.

  • I have chosen to directly quote definitions, passages for analysis, or information that has been uniquely stated. 
  • I have decided to paraphrase information to further explain a topic or maintain the flow of writing. When paraphrasing information, I have used my own words and sentence structures.

6.  Place quotation marks around any short quotes.

  • I have placed quotation marks around content that I have directly quoted, except for long quotes, which formatting guidelines (e.g., MLA, APA, or Chicago Style) require me to place in a free-standing block without quotation marks.

7.  Lead quoted and/or paraphrased content with signal phrases or informative sentences.

  • I have inserted signal phrases or informative sentences prior to any information that I have quoted or paraphrased.

8.  Insert in-text citations after quoted and/or paraphrased information.

  • I have included in-text citations directly after quoted and/or paraphrased information rather than citing my sources at the end of each paragraph.
  • I have followed the correct formatting guidelines (e.g., MLA, APA, or Chicago Style) for all in-text citations.

9.  Include a Works Cited or References Page.

  • I have included a complete list of sources that have been quoted and/or paraphrased in my paper.
  • I have followed the correct formatting guidelines (e.g., MLA, APA, or Chicago Style) for my Works Cited or References Page.

10.  Ask your instructor any questions you have before, not after, you submit your paper.

  • I have sought advice regarding any questions that relate to the content and/or documentation in my paper.
  • I understand that submitting my paper means that I am also stating it consists only of my own work, except in cases for which I have included appropriate documentation. I have not purchased any of the content in my paper.

Important Concepts


why writers quote and paraphrase from research


the real “art” to research writing


quoting is borrowing

what paraphrasing provides an author

cornerstones of academic research

Licenses and Attributions


The Process of Research Writing | Steven D. Krause | Spring 2007

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Summarize & Paraphrase Sources, Joe Moxley, Writing Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase, by Brianna Jerman, Writing Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Tell Your Readers When You Are Citing, Paraphrasing, or Summarizing, by Joe Moxley, Writing Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Avoid Dropped Quotations, Writing Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Use Solely Your Own Words to Paraphrase, Writing Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Paraphrase Accurately to Preserve the Source’s Ideas, Writing Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Avoiding Plagiarism, by Jennifer Janechek, Writing Commons, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Understand When Citations are Necessary, by Joe Moxley, Writing Commons, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Avoiding Plagiarism: A Checklist for Student Writers, by Angela Eward-Mangione, Writing Commons, This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


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