Academic Writing: Important Notes – Quote vs. Paraphrase

The object of academic writing is for you to say something for yourself using the ideas of the subject; for you to present ideas you have learned in your own way. You can do this by reporting the works of others in your own words. You can either paraphrase if you want to keep the length about the same, summarize if you want to just pull out the main points or synthesize if you need to use information from several sources. In all cases you still need to acknowledge other people’s work by correctly citing and referencing.


When the words of an expert, authority, or relevant individual are particularly clear or expressive, you may want to quote them. Do not quote all the time, excessive quoting is not good academic practice and will not earn you high credit; save quotes for instances where the wording is especially powerful. The quote is an impact point in your writing. The statement needs to be strong and clear in relation to the point you are making. A strong quote may use language that is particularly vivid or expressive or have wording that is needed for technical accuracy.


Sometimes you may not be sure when to quote directly and when to paraphrase. Try to remember to quote only if the language is particularly expressive or adds weight to your argument. When using paraphrasing be sure that the comment or summary is in your own words. First study the source until you are sure that you understand it.  Then without looking at the source, write the paraphrase in your own words. Compare your paraphrase with the source to be sure it conveys the same meaning but in different words. Place quotation marks around any borrowed words or terms and cite.


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