What’s the Difference? Summarizing, Paraphrasing, & Quoting

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are three methods for including the ideas or research of other writers in your own work. In academic writing, such as essay writing or research papers, it is often necessary to utilize other people’s writing.

Outside sources are helpful in providing evidence or support written claims when arguing a point or persuading an audience. Being able to link the content of a piece to similar points made by other authors illustrates that one’s writing is not based entirely off personal thoughts or opinions and has support found from other credible individuals. In scientific work such as reports or experiment related writing, being able to point to another published or peer-reviewed writer can strengthen your personal research and even aid in explaining surprising or unusual findings. In all situations, referencing outside sources also elevates the integrity and quality of your work.

When pulling information from an outside source it is critical to properly use quotations, paraphrasing, or summarizing to avoid plagiarizing from the original passage. Plagiarism is portraying another’s work, ideas, and research as one’s own, and is an extremely serious disciplinary offense. Without using proper quotations, paraphrasing and summarizing, it can be easy to unintentionally plagiarize from the original source. Including citations that reference the author also helps ensure proper credit is given, and no accidental plagiarism occurs. Regardless of if APA, MLA or Chicago style are used, a citation must accompany the work of another author.

This article will compare these three concepts, to help users become more comfortable with each of them and the differing scenarios to utilize each. The article will also provide examples and give pointers to further increase familiarity with these essential techniques and prevent the happening of plagiarism.

What is Quoting?

Quoting is the restatement of a phrase, sentence, thought, or fact that was previously written by another author. A proper direct quotation includes the identical text without any words or punctuation adjusted.

One might use a quotation when they want to use the exact words from the original author, or when the author has introduced a new concept or idea that was of their conception. Oftentimes, the author already used concise, well-thought-out wording for an idea and it may be difficult to restate without using a direct quote.

However when repeating content from someone else’s work, one must use quotation marks with a corresponding citation or it will be considered plagiarism. The proper citation may also vary based on the citation style being used.

Examples of Quoting

In order to further the understanding of how to utilize quotes, some examples of incorrect and correct quotation are provided below.

Original Text: As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favorable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps

Incorrect Quotation Example: “Because natural selection acts only by accumulating slight, successive favorable variations. It can produce no greater or sudden modification and can only act by very short and slow steps

Correct Quotation Example: “As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favorable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps,” (Darwin 510).

The bad example provided does not include the identical text or identical grammar and punctuation to that of the original source. The quote is also lacking one quotation mark and a citation to attribute the initial author. Meanwhile, the good example is completely identical to the original text and features a correct citation, making it a great example of a quote in use.

What is Paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is taking the written work, thoughts, or research of another author and putting it in one’s own words. Correct paraphrasing is done through the restatement of key ideas from another person’s work, but utilizing different words to avoid copying them. Oftentimes, finding synonyms to the words used by the original author helps to paraphrase.

One would use paraphrasing when they hope to capture the key points of a written work in their own writing. Paraphrasing should also be employed when the content of the original source is more important than the wording used. This writing technique is a good strategy to maintain one’s personal writing style throughout a written work.

Similar to quoting, even paraphrased material should be accompanied by the proper citation to avoid plagiarizing the initial author.

Examples of Paraphrasing

In order to further the understanding of how to utilize quotes, some examples of incorrect and correct quotation are provided below.

Original Content: The Statue of Liberty, one of the most recognizable symbols of freedom and democracy across the world, was a gift of friendship to America from France. Inaugurated in 1886, the statue is 305 feet tall and represents Libertas, the Roman liberty goddess, bearing a torch in her right hand and a tablet in her left hand with the date of the US Declaration of Independence. Broken shackles lay underneath the statue’s drapery, to symbolize the end of all types of servitude and oppression.

Incorrect Paraphrasing Example: The Statue of Liberty is an evident display of freedom and democracy for the whole world, and was created by France for America to represent their friendship. The 305 foot statue of the Roman liberty goddess Libertas was installed in 1886. The Statue of Liberty has a tablet with the US Declaration of Independence date in one hand and a torch in her other. She also has broken shackles on the ground to represent an end to enslavement and oppression.

Correct Paraphrasing Example: France presented the United States with the Statue of Liberty in 1886 to commemorate the two countries friendship. The Roman goddess of liberty, Libertas, stands 305 feet tall as a well-known tribute to freedom and democracy. The statue commemorates the US Declaration of Independence though the tablet in her left hand that accompanies a torch in her right. The Statue of Liberty also celebrates an end to oppression and servitude, indicated by broken chains by her feet (Diaz, 2019).

The incorrect example provided featured a sentence structure that followed too closely to that of the original text. Additionally, the writer only swapped out a few words for very common synonyms so the paraphrased content is ultimately too similar to the original text. An academic work that used this paraphrase would be cited for plagiarism.

On the other hand, the correct example featured paraphrased content that is properly cited, with variety to the sentence structure and text that includes words beyond just synonyms to words in the original content. This example also contains the main ideas, but is ultimately slightly condensed from the original text.

What Is Summarizing?

Summarizing is providing a brief description of the key ideas from a written work. This description should be in one’s own writing, and is typically significantly shorter than the source material because it only touches on the main points.

Summaries are commonly used when a writer hopes to capture the central idea of a work, without relying on the specific wording that the original author used to explain the idea. They also can provide a background or overview of content needed to understand a topic being discussed. This strategy still captures the meaning of the original text without straying from one’s personal tone and writing style.

Unlike paraphrasing and quoting, a summary does not require an in-text citation and only occasionally needs accreditation to the original writer’s work.

Examples of Summarizing

In order to further the understanding of how to summarize content in your writing, some examples of incorrect and correct summaries for the short children’s story Goldilocks and The Three Bears are provided below.

Incorrect Summary Example: Once upon a time, Goldilocks went for a walk on the beach when she saw a house and went in it. In the house she found three bowls of soup and decided to try them all, but one was too hot, one was too cold and one was just right. Next, Goldilocks tried to sit in three different chairs but only found one that fit her perfectly. Lastly, she went to the back of the house and found three beds. Just like the soup and chairs she tested all of them before picking one that she liked the best and taking a nice long nap. The End.

Correct Summary Example: In Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Robert Southy, a young girl wanders into the house of three bears where she tastes three different porridges; sits in three different chairs; and naps in three different beds before finding one of each that fits her. Goldilocks is eventually found by the bears who are upset about her intrusion and usage of their personal belongings.

The incorrect example provided would not be considered a good summary for a few reasons. Primarily, this summary does not summarize well, as provides too much unnecessary detail and an individual would still be able to comprehend the main point of the story without it. The summary also ends without touching on the most important point, which is the lesson of the story. This summary also provides inaccurate information, and lacks a citation.

Meanwhile, the correct example is a good summary because it does not spend too much time on any certain aspect of the story. The reader is still able to understand exactly what happens to Goldilocks without consuming any non-essential details. This summary also provides completely accurate information and touches on the main point or lesson from the story.

Differences and Similarities

There are a few major differences and similarities between the three writing techniques discussed.

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are similar in that they are all writing techniques that can be used to include the work of other authors in one’s own writing. It is common for writers to use these strategies collectively in one piece to provide variety in their references and across their work. These three strategies also share the similarity of helping to prevent plagiarizing the content from the original source. All three of these methods require some form of citation and attribution to the original author to completely avoid plagiarizing.

Oppositely, the main difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing is that quoting is done word for word from the original work. Both paraphrasing and summarizing only touch on the key points and are written with some variation from the initial author’s work, usually in the style and tone of the new author. When comparing just the latter two, paraphrased material tends to be closer in length to the actual material, because it only slightly condenses the original passage. On the other hand, a summary is most likely significantly shorter than the original author’s work since this method only pulls from the most important points.

Final Thoughts

It is extremely common to utilize the previous writing of others, especially in academic writing. These original works enhance the quality and honesty of one’s work while also providing backing and emphasis to the points made.

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are all strategies for incorporating the thoughts, ideas, research, and writing from another author in one’s own work. The three methods explained are also safe strategies to employ to avoid accidental plagiarism of the original passage.

Another strategy to ensure one’s writing is properly quoted, paraphrased, and summarized is by using a plagiarism checker. Quetext provides an easy-to-use plagiarism checker that verifies the originality of work and can create citations for any sources cited throughout the paper.