Faculdade de Motricidade Humana

Master’s Course in Phisiotherapy Sciences
Scientific English – 2nd Session

quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing


What are the differences among quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing? These three ways of incorporating other writers' work into your own writing differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing.

Quotations To quote means to copy exactly a portion of a text, with the purpose of presenting the author's actual words. Quotations must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.


Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.


Why use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries?
Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries serve many purposes. You might use them to: provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing refer to work that leads up to the work you are now doing give examples of several points of view on a subject call attention to a position that you wish to agree or disagree with highlight a particularly striking phrase, sentence, or passage by quoting the original distance yourself from the original by quoting it in order to cue readers that the words are not your own expand the breadth or depth of your writing

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Writers frequently intertwine summaries, paraphrases, and quotations. As part of a summary of an article, a chapter, or a book, a writer might include paraphrases of various key points blended with quotations of striking or suggestive phrases as in the following example:


In his famous and influential work On the Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud argues that dreams are the "royal road to the unconscious" (page), expressing in coded imagery the dreamer's unfulfilled wishes through a process known as the "dream work" (page). According to Freud, actual but unacceptable desires are censored internally. (page).

Original Text (quotation) "If you're coping with an illness or want to exchange views about a medical topic, you'll want to find your way to a newsgroup. Despite the name, these are not collections of news items. They are, in effect, virtual bulletin boards open to anyone who cares to participate. The messages generally consist of plain text" (Schwartz). Paraphrase In a recent article, the author suggests finding a relevant newsgroup if you have a particular medical problem or if you want to talk with others about a medical subject. Newsgroups are online bulletin boards that are available to anyone; in spite of their name, they are not news reports. Anyone who wishes to may join in a newsgroup discussion (Schwartz).

Summary Newsgroups, online discussion groups open to any participant, are a useful resource for anyone concerned about specific medical issues (Schwartz).



When to quote instead of paraphrase:
When the wording of the original is memorable or vivid and you can't re-write it to sound any better When the exact words of an authority would lend support to your own ideas When you want to draw attention to the author's opinion, especially if that opinion differs greatly from other experts' opinions


There are several ways to integrate quotations into your text. Often, a short quotation works well when integrated into a sentence. Longer quotations can stand alone. Remember that quoting should be done only sparingly; be sure that you have a good reason to include a direct quotation when you decide to do so.

Common Errors in Quoting: If you misquote your source, you are not making fully ethical use of that source. Be sure to closely check every word and punctuation mark in the original text. Do not quote very long passages; consider using a combination of quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing to represent the argument or information presented in the original text.



To answer questions such as “what was the movie about?” “How did the game go?” and “what did I miss in class today?” you must be able to summarize. Your questioner doesn't want to know every line and action in the movie, every play in the game, or every word from class; the question asks you to select the important details and summarize them. Similarly, when you summarize a reading you need to be able to find the important data and then present it as clearly and concisely as possible.


Good summaries are harder to write than you may think - bad summaries are easy!

A summary is a shortened or condensed version, in your own words, of something you have read. Not only an important writing skill, summary writing is also a valuable learning tool. The most common kind of summary writing in college requires you to read the work of someone else, to be able to pick out the most essential idea, and to put these ideas into your own words.


The summary, therefore, becomes a tool for understanding what you read; it forces you to read critically, differentiating between main ideas and minor points. Summary writing also forces you to write clearly because you cannot waste any words.

Characteristics of Summaries:

Summaries identify the source of original text. Summaries demonstrate your understanding of a text. Summaries are shorter than the original text-they omit the original text "examples, asides, analogies, and rhetorical strategies. Summaries focus exclusively on the presentation of the writer's main ideas-they do not include your interpretations or opinions. Summaries normally are written in your own words-they do not contain extended quotes or paraphrases. Summaries rely on the use of standard signal phrases ("According to the author..."; "The author believes..."; etc.).





The first aim of the summary is brevity: your job as a summary writer is to convey in as few words as possible the information contained in the piece of writing. Because the summary is concerned with stating the ideas of someone else, the second aim of the summary is objectivity. This is not the place to respond to a writer's ideas but to demonstrate your understanding of them. The third aim of the summary, completeness is the most crucial. Both objectivity and brevity will follow from your ability to isolate and concentrate on the main idea contained in the selection you are summarizing.

The key features of a summary: (1) it is shorter than the source, (2) it repeats the ideas of the source in different phrases and sentences.


Summing-up is a technique that follows strict rules: 1. The original text is cut to about one third. 2. Only the main ideas are mentioned; that means that no repetitions are allowed. 3. Specific statements are combined to form general statements. 4. Direct or reported speech are changed into statements, with the exception of very important quotations.

Tips for Summary Writing:

When you have to sum up written texts follow these hints:


1. Read the text quickly in order to find the main ideas - general focus and content (skimming) 2. If necessary look at special passages of the text in order to make clear that you have got all the main ideas (scanning). 3. Take a pencil and underline, highlight, or circle key sentences, phrases, and words (marking). Omit specific details, examples, description, and unnecessary explanations. Note: you may need to go through the article twice in order to pick up everything you need.

4. Write down key-words, i.e. words that sum up the meaning of the text, but which needn't necessarily occur in the text (making notes).

5. Sum up the key-words in simple sentences (summing up in simple form) 6. Combine the simple sentences by using conjunctions like "as, though, because, since" etc. (summing up in complex form).


7. Compare the original text with your text to find out that you've got the essential information (check).

The most Important Issue to Consider When Summarizing

DO NOT LEAVE YOURSELF OPEN TO ANY CHARGE OF PLAGIARISM - In general, the citation of the author's name or the title of his/her work in your text signals to your reader that you are starting to use source material. If the name or title is not cited in your text, readers may not be aware that a new source has been introduced until they reach the parenthetical note. The reader may not know where your thoughts have ended and the author's have begun. If you do not cite your author by name or mention the title of the source, be certain to use your own voice to provide continuity between quotations: "One study reports..." "Other researchers indicate...."


Guidelines for Summary Writing

1. Read the article carefully - twice! Remember this: a summary is mostly a reading exercise. It is impossible to write an accurate summary after reading an article quickly or just one time. Most problems in summary writing have more to do with understanding the text than writing the summary.


2. Take notes on the main points and supporting details on a separate sheet of paper. Be careful to use your own words! Although this might seem like a waste of time, when it comes time to write a essay, this extra effort will really "pay off."

3. Begin your summary by mentioning the author and title. The publication and date may also be mentioned. Margaret Talbot's essay "The Gender Trap" (Washington Post Magazine 11/20/94) examines the value of women's colleges today.


4. Using your notes, write your summary on a separate sheet of paper. Proof-read what you wrote, checking the organization, content, grammatical conventions, and style.

5. Avoid unnecessary details Summaries are supposed to give general information only; if the reader needs details, he needs to read the original piece.


6. Don't necessarily follow the exact organizational pattern of the original writer. Remember that your summary should reflect your own way of thinking and writing.

7. Don't give your own opinion The form and expression of a summary makes it clear to the reader that you are accurately presenting the ideas of another author. If you add your own opinion to an otherwise well-formed summary, your opinion will appear to be that of the author's.


8. Finally use your own style of writing. Do not copy the original author's writing style.

What should you do if your summary is too long?

Most of the time we write summaries that are too long rather than too short. If your summary falls into this category check through it, looking for the following errors:


Excessive content First, you have to make sure that everything that you have included is important. You might have repeated a point or given too much emphasis to another which is merely a supporting point. Next, look carefully at examples or details that you have included. These are often the easiest elements to remove.

Lengthy expressions Most summaries simply use too many words. The best and only solution is to cross out all words which are not important. This may very often improve the quality of the expression and enhance your ideas. The language may be tightened by reducing the number of words in the following ways:


Changing verbs For example replace "make up your mind" with "decide." Splitting sentences If a sentence has two or three clauses, divide it into shorter sentences by leaving out the conjunction. You may even use semi-colons to replace conjunctions. Adjectives and adverbs These two parts of speech are usually over-used. In many cases they can be omitted without damaging the sense of the passage. Shortening phrases The most common cause of excessive length is the use of three or four words where a single word would be just as effective. For example "as well as" can be replaced with "and."

What should you do if your summary is too short?

Insufficient content Summaries can sometimes become too short because important points have been left out. The first priority in such a situation is to check again that all the points have been included. This will often reveal an omission of some kind. Look carefully to see if you have: over-simplified a point; combined two separate but related points.


If you still find your version too short, check: examples details It may be that you could include more of these, or perhaps cover those that you have included in more detail. Do this by adding a phrase, clause or sentence in the appropriate part of the passage.

Over-brief expression It may be that your summary is too condensed that the reader will find it hard to grasp its meaning. This may result in ambiguity or uncertainty. Errors of grammar can also cause your expressions to be too brief. Perhaps you have forgotten to include a main verb in a sentence. Usually errors such as this can be corrected by inserting a single word in the right place.



Paraphrasing is a way for you to smoothly integrate the ideas of someone else into your own essay. When a writer paraphrases a section from a source (for instance, when a student paraphrases a few sentences from a newspaper article to use in his research paper), what he is actually doing is turning the original text into his own words. He's not adding his own opinion, and he's not using the original wording: he's "translating" the original text into his own language, to flow better with his own writing.


A paraphrase is an accurate, thorough restatement of the original text in your own words. It will actually be about as long as the original work, and it will most certainly retain all of the original ideas. Paraphrases, when they appear within a paper, must be cited, because they are the author's ideas that come from the original work, not your own ideas. Again, a good paraphrase is accurate, complete, and in your own voice...and you must cite it!

In short, a paraphrase is...
- your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form. - one legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a source. - a more detailed restatement than a summary, which focuses concisely on a single main idea.


Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...
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it is better than quoting information. it helps you control the temptation to quote too much. the mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original.


When to paraphrase:
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When the ideas are more important than the author's authority or style When the original language isn't particularly memorable, but the ideas are When the original language is too difficult to understand (for instance, when the particular jargon or complexity of the original work is so difficult to understand that you need to paraphrase it so that the meaning is immediately clear)



Literal Substitute the original words of each sentence with synonyms. You can use the process as a first step in drafting paraphrases. There are two objections to this form of paraphrasing: since you paraphrase sentence by sentence, your overall structure may be awkward; and you also run a greater risk of plagiarism. Therefore, you should use free paraphrasing for all of your final drafts.


Free Use synonyms and rearrange the sentence structure. You can borrow the main ideas without necessarily keeping the same organization. This form of paraphrasing sounds more natural and is recommended.

Example: The Original Quotation: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...“

A Literal Paraphrase Eighty-seven years before, our ancestors founded in North America a new country, thought of in freedom and based on the principle that all people are born with the same rights.


A Free Paraphrase Our ancestors thought of freedom when they founded a new country in North America eighty-seven years ago. They based their thinking on the principle that all people are born with the same rights.


5 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning. If you don't understand it, you can't paraphrase it correctly. That's guaranteed. Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.


3. Look back at the original to see if you have changed the grammar and vocabulary. If not, change them now. Make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form. 4. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source. 5. Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.


Common Errors in Paraphrasing: If you follow the sentence structure of your source, only changing words here and there, you are not paraphrasing but plagiarizing.

Some examples to compare


The original passage:
“Students frequently overuse direct quotation

in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.” Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 4647.

A legitimate paraphrase:
In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).


An acceptable summary:
Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).

A plagiarized version:
Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes. “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.” Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.


Below is a quotation followed by three samples, one of which inadvertently plagiarizes.

The Passage as It Appears in the Source
Critical care nurses function in a hierarchy of roles. In this open heart surgery unit, the nurse manager hires and fires the nursing personnel. The nurse manager does not directly care for patients but follows the progress of unusual or long-term patients. On each shift a nurse assumes the role of resource nurse. This person oversees the hour-byhour functioning of the unit as a whole, such as considering expected admissions and discharges of patients, ascertaining that beds are available for patients in the operating room, and covering sick calls. Resource nurses also take a patient assignment. They are the most experienced of all the staff nurses. The nurse clinician has a separate job description and provides for quality of care by orienting new staff, developing unit policies, and providing direct support where needed, such as assisting in emergency situations. The clinical nurse specialist in this unit is mostly involved with formal teaching in orienting new staff. The nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist are the designated experts. They do not take patient assignments. The resource nurse is seen as both a caregiver and a resource to other caregivers. . . . Staff nurses have a hierarchy of seniority. . . . Staff nurses are assigned to patients to provide all their nursing care. (Chase, 1995, p. 156)


Word-for-Word Plagiarism
Critical care nurses have a hierarchy of roles. The nurse manager hires and fires nurses. S/he does not directly care for patients but does follow unusual or long-term cases. On each shift a resource nurse attends to the functioning of the unit as a whole, such as making sure beds are available in the operating room, and also has a patient assignment. The nurse clinician orients new staff, develops policies, and provides support where needed. The clinical nurse specialist also orients new staff, mostly by formal teaching. The nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist, as the designated experts, do not take patient assignments. The resource nurse is not only a caregiver but a resource to the other caregivers. Within the staff nurses there is also a hierarchy of seniority. Their job is to give assigned patients all their nursing care.

Notice that the writer has not only “borrowed” Chase’s material (the results of her research) with no acknowledgment, but has also largely maintained the author’s method of expression and sentence structure. Some phrases are directly copied from the source or changed only slightly in form. Even if the writer had acknowledged Chase as the source of the content, the language of the passage would be considered plagiarized because no quotation marks indicate the phrases that come directly from Chase. And if quotation marks did appear around all these phrases, this paragraph would be unreadable.


A Patchwork Paraphrase
Chase (1995) describes how nurses in a critical care unit function in a hierarchy that places designated experts at the top and the least senior staff nurses at the bottom. The experts — the nurse manager, nurse clinician, and clinical nurse specialist — are not involved directly in patient care. The staff nurses, in contrast, are assigned to patients and provide all their nursing care. Within the staff nurses is a hierarchy of seniority in which the most senior can become resource nurses: they are assigned a patient but also serve as a resource to other caregivers. The experts have administrative and teaching tasks such as selecting and orienting new staff, developing unit policies, and giving hands-on support where needed.

This paraphrase is a patchwork composed of pieces in the original author’s language and pieces in the writer’s words, all rearranged into a new pattern, but with none of the borrowed pieces in quotation marks. Thus, even though the writer acknowledges the source of the material, some phrases are falsely presented as the writer’s own.


A Legitimate Paraphrase
In her study of the roles of nurses in a critical care unit, Chase (1995) also found a hierarchy that distinguished the roles of experts and others. Just as the educational experts described above do not directly teach students, the experts in this unit do not directly attend to patients. That is the role of the staff nurses, who, like teachers, have their own “hierarchy of seniority” (p. 156). The roles of the experts include employing unit nurses and overseeing the care of special patients (nurse manager), teaching and otherwise integrating new personnel into the unit (clinical nurse specialist and nurse clinician), and policy-making (nurse clinician). In an intermediate position in the hierarchy is the resource nurse, a staff nurse with more experience than the others, who assumes direct care of patients as the other staff nurses do, but also takes on tasks to ensure the smooth operation of the entire facility.

The writer has documented Chase’s material and specific language (by direct reference to the author and by quotation marks around language taken directly from the source).


Perhaps you’ve noticed that a number of phrases from the original passage appear in the legitimate paraphrase: critical care, staff nurses, nurse manager, clinical nurse specialist, nurse clinician, resource nurse. You can borrow them legitimately because they are all precise, economical, and conventional designations that are part of the shared language within the nursing discipline. In every discipline, some phrases are so specialized or conventional that you can’t paraphrase them except by wordy and awkward circumlocutions that would be less familiar (and thus less readable) to the audience. When you repeat such phrases, you’re not stealing the unique phrasing of an individual writer but using a common vocabulary shared by a community of scholars.


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