8.2 Summarizing, Direct Quoting, & Paraphrasing


Summarizing is when you describe or explain the central ideas, themes, or most important information found in a source. You might read a whole 5-page article about an issue, but in your research paper you just describe the main points of that article in one sentence. Or you read an entire chapter of a book and summarize it in one or two sentences. Summarizing is taking a lot of information and explaining it in as few words as possible. But because you are explaining what you learned from a source, you need to include an in-text citation within the summarizing sentence.

Example: Summarizing an Entire Book

In a paper, a summary of a book might look like this in APA style:

In their book Geek Girl Rising, Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens, highlight success stories of women working in technology and provide inspiration for girls wanting to break into this male-dominated industry (2017).

Direct Quoting

A direct quote includes the exact word-for-word sentences or phrases that you found in a source. When you copy and paste text into your paper, you are directly quoting that source. A direct quote must have quotation marks around it and it must include a citation to show the reader where those words came from.

Example: Direct Quote

Here is an example of a direct quote from a magazine article by Tracy Mayor in Computerworld titled “Women in IT: How Deep is the Bench?”.

A direct quote from this source would be written as follows (MLA style):

“In contrast, the industry shift away from nuts and bolts and toward hybrid skill sets – including higher-level analytics, process and project management, and user-centric social and mobile computing – could open up opportunities for women to move laterally into tech departments from other specialties” (Mayor 18).


Example: Paraphrasing a Source

Here is an example of a paraphrase from a magazine article by L. Mundy in Atlantic titled “Why is Silicon Valley so awful to women?

In an APA Style paper, a paraphrase of page 71 of the source could be written as follows:

A former Facebook employee says the company does a good job of making it seem like a great place to work, a company that’s friendly and equitable to women, but she says women are often not included in social situations in which important company ideas and products are being introduced (Mundy, 2017, p. 71).

Paraphrasing is when you use your own words to explain something that you learned from a source. Paraphrasing can be a useful way to clearly explain the meaning of information you uncovered through your research. It’s a good way to describe what you’ve learned and also help the reader understand the significance of the information. It is NOT rearranging the words or replacing just a few words in the sentence. Paraphrasing is a common writing technique, but it’s also where many students unintentionally plagiarize.

Students unintentionally plagiarize because they:

  • Take a sentence from a source and rearrange the words.
  • Use the thesaurus tool to change a few words in a sentence.

To do a good job of paraphrasing, you have to make sure you are using only your words, not the author’s. First, read the original source and think about it. Make a few notes of what you think it means. After that, try explaining the author’s ideas in your own words. It’s helpful if you wait a little while between reading the source and trying to paraphrase it so that the author’s words aren’t quite so fresh in your mind. If there’s a word or phrase that you keep repeating when you try to paraphrase, then you probably should just quote it (with quotation marks and a citation).

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge is a term for facts that are generally well-known, not controversial, and easy to look up. When you state something that is common knowledge in your paper, you don’t have to include a citation because you are assuming that the reader already knows this information. Common knowledge can vary somewhat depending on who the audience for your research project is. If you aren’t sure whether something you are stating in your paper is common knowledge, always play it safe and include a citation.

Common knowledge examples (no citation required):

  • Joseph Biden is the 46th president of the United States.
  • The USA celebrates its independence from Britain on July 4th.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.

For more information about summarizing, direct quoting, and paraphrasing, check out tips from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) from Purdue University.