To Paraphrase, Quote or Summarize: Which is Better?

The academic based assignment need students to bring about academic papers that are suitable to the academic conversations. this implies that in most of the academic papers and assignments the students cannot just write their own thoughts and ideas. On the contrary they have to refer to the existing ideas, which have already been identified and published by other scholars. The intention of this is to increase the authority of their arguments and to enable them students to engage in the larger academic dialogue. There are various methods that can be applied so as to ensure that the students incorporate the work of other authors in their own work.  The students can choose either to used direct quotations, to paraphrase or to provide a brief summary. This discussion looks at circumstances where it is appropriate to use one of these methods.


Why Use Quotations, Paraphrases, and Summaries?

Before discussing difference between paraphrase and summary, it is important to clarify roles they play in writing. Quotes, paraphrases, and summaries are methods through which one relates their own original writing to the sources created or published by other authors. Here are some common benefits they get when using either one or all mentioned methods:

Putting an argument into a larger academic or social context – for example, discussion of sources can provide some background information, as well as clarify some particular argument consequences;

Increasing your paper credibility – by mentioning other authors and thinkers, you contribute to their own authority as writers and researchers;

Making your argument more complex – address ideas that support their perspective, as well as to ideas that contradict it; this contributes to argument complexity, making it more interesting and appealing;

Supporting arguments – when citing statistics, facts, others’ documented ideas or experiences, support their own assumptions, making them more trustworthy.

Despite some common outcomes, students should distinguish summary vs paraphrase vs quotation. These methods have their own peculiarities you should consider while incorporating sources into text.


Read also: “Write my bibliography to have a good mark!”


Choosing What is Better for Your Paper

Strong writing usually includes quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, but these techniques have their own peculiarities, and they allow pursuing distinct purposes. Here is a brief explanation of situations when particular method is more relevant than another one.


Situations when quotations are best used:


The author’s exact words are as important as a meaning they carry;

The idea is presented briefly, and it supports your argument well;

Summary or paraphrase would change author’s original intent or meaning;

Provides your assertion with an expert authority.

Situations in which paraphrasing is better than alternatives:


Original author’s material is too complex and simplification is needed;

You need to provide your own clarifications;

Author’s ideas should be organized in a different manner than they are presented in an original text;

You need to make an emphasis that is slightly different from the original text.

You should summarize when:


You need to omit all the irrelevant information, including only those facts that matter to your discussion;

Original content is too complex, and significant simplification is necessary;

Readers are already familiar with mentioned content; you just refresh their memories, reminding them what they already know;

Rather than telling a whole story, you aim at briefly familiarizing readers with some content, without falling into discussion of irrelevant details.

Paraphrasing vs Quoting vs Summarizing: Practical Usage

No matter which method you  use, they should necessarily include citations. Failure to cite a source of borrowed information results in plagiarism. By citing and referencing works they consult, you avoid this undesirable academic outcome. There are specific rules authors should follow while using particular method. Let’s discuss them in greater detail.



It is the simplest way to use a source. When quoting vs paraphrasing, use exactly the same words as author used in the original writing. Most college professors demand students apply this method sparingly, limiting the amount of direct quotes to no more than 10 percent of their whole text. This limitation aims at insuring originality of papers. When using this method, you should employ quotes as a means to support (or sometimes refute) their own argument. They should not substitute your original ideas. They should merely create context in which the value of your own ideas becomes particularly evident. In other words, consider using quotes as a foundation or support for your original conclusions.


Paraphrase versus Summary

As for paraphrases and summaries, use your own words in both cases. Neither paraphrase nor summary allow borrowing content from source in a word for word manner. Students may only borrow meanings and ideas, using their own words for meaning mediation. So, how is paraphrasing different from summarizing? Paraphrase is often of similar length as or slightly shorter or longer than the original source. Unlike summary, paraphrase follows another author’s original content pretty closely. While students should use their own wording, they should preserve ideas of paraphrased author. Paraphrasing is particularly valuable as a means of referral to someone else’s work because it shows that you understand the material you cite in such a manner.


Summary versus paraphrase is significantly shorter than the original text. While students shouldn’t use exact words summarized authors have used in their writing, they also shouldn’t cite all of their ideas. Instead, summarizing allows them extract only those points, arguments, or ideas that are particularly relevant in context of their own argument. Unlike quotes along with paraphrases, which are used to cite particular lines or passages from cited sources, summaries also allow briefly assess or mention articles and larger works like novels or books as a whole.


Despite differences, these methods suggest that students will give credit to the original work and its author(s). Either you summarize, quote, or paraphrase, they should add citations in the text, and reference mentioned sources in their Bibliographies (this section should be titled either References, Bibliography, or Works Cited, depending on particular documentation style you use). When citing paraphrases, summaries, or quotes, consider following guidelines of specific citation style your professor demands. For more detail, please, use examples that follow. You can also find out how to cite a paraphrase as well as how to summarize without plagiarizing from previous EduBirdie blog posts.


Quoting Examples

You can include both short and long quotes in their papers. However, you should know that formatting as well as citation requirements differ depending on the length. Short quotes (the maximum length of which is determined based on the requirements of particular formatting style) should be incorporated into sentences. As for long quotations, which are also known as block, present them as separate text blocks.


Example of a Short Quote


Turabian (2009) has argued that research paper writing develops not only writing but also critical thinking skills because “As you learn to do your own research, you also learn to use – and judge p that of others” (p. 5).


Example of a Block Quote


In her book, she explained why it is important to include shared facts in one’s research or argumentative papers. Turabian (2009) acknowledged the following:


To be sure, we can reach good conclusions in ways other than through reasons and evidence: we can rely on tradition an authority or on intuition, spiritual insight, even on our most visceral emotions. But when we try to explain to others not just why we believe our claims but why they should too, we must do more than just state an opinion and describe our feelings. (p. 6)


Paraphrasing Example

Now lets talk more about paraphrase vs summary. When paraphrasing, students should not use quotation marks. But their in-text citations as well as references should be similar to those they use for direct quotes.


Original Passage:


To be sure, the answer to a conceptual question often turns out to be unexpectedly relevant to solving a practical problem. And before we can solve any important practical problem, we usually must do conceptual research to understand it better. But in most of the academic world, the primary aim of most researchers is only to improve our understanding. (Turabian 8)


Paraphrased Passage:


As Turabian argues, theoretical research can help resolve empirical problems. Scientists require theoretical proof before they can elaborate and introduce any practical changes. Academic research predominantly aims at providing such proof (Turabian 8).


Summary Examples

Unlike paraphrases, summaries allow students condense discussed texts significantly. In order to understand how far students are able to go while summarizing works of others, let’s consider “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, a famous American writer. Here is a very brief summary of this well-known short story:


In “The Lottery,” Jackson depicts a barbaric tradition that reveals people’s tendency towards accepting notions shared by the group to which they belong without questioning their reasonableness.


When summarizing books, stories, novels, article, or any other pieces of text, students concentrate on features that are relevant to their own writings. For example, in one case, they may need to summarize a plot, while in another instance, a single theme summary may be relevant.


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