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This resource provides guidelines for paraphrasing and summarizing the sources you have researched.

Whether you are writing for the workplace or for academic purposes, you will need to research and incorporate the writing of others into your own texts. Two unavoidable steps in that process are paraphrasing (changing the language into your own) and summarizing (getting rid of smaller details and leaving only the primary points). These steps are necessary for three reasons.

First, if you used the original writer’s language without any changes, it limits your own learning; by paraphrasing and summarizing, you make a piece of information your own, and you understand it better.

Second, the original writers did not write for the audiences you are targeting; there are inevitably contents and language choices that will not necessarily work for your audience. Third, what authors write is considered to be their property, just like a coat or a car; by copying it (without giving credit), you can be accused of plagiarism.

Summarizing and paraphrasing are frequently used together, but not always. The following will give you some basic information on paraphrasing and summarizing, and then you will have the chance to reflect on appropriate paraphrasing and summarizing yourself.

As explained above, paraphrasing is making different word choices and re-arranging words in such a way that maintains the same meaning, but sounds different enough that readers will not be reminded of the original writer’s words. Here is an example, followed by inadequate and adequate paraphrases:

Example: The current constitutional debate over heavy metal rock and gangsta rap music is not just about the explicit language but also advocacy, an act of incitement to violence.

Inadequate paraphrase: Today’s constitutional debate about gangsta rap and heavy metal rock is not just about obscene language but also advocacy and incitement of acts of violence.

Adequate paraphrase: Lyrics in some rap and heavy metal songs that appear to promote violence, along with concerns about obscenity, have generated a constitutional debate over popular music.

In the inadequate paraphrase, the meaning of the original is altered somewhat: it claims that the debate is about advocacy AND violence, but it is supposed to be about advocacy FOR violence. Also, too few of the words have been changed, and the order of the sentence remains essentially the same. In the second attempt at paraphrasing, enough changes have been made so that readers would not feel that they are reading somebody else’s words.

When you are paraphrasing, there are a number of strategies you can apply:

  • Locate the individual statements or major idea units in the original.
  • Change the sentence structure and the order of major ideas, while maintaining the logical connections among them. For example, if the author you are paraphrasing presents a generalization and then backs it up with an example, try using the example as a lead-in to the generalization. For an individual sentence, try to relocate a phrase from the beginning of the sentence to a position near the end, or vice versa.
  • Substitute words in the original with synonyms, making sure the language in your paraphrase is appropriate for your audience.
  • Combine or divide sentences as necessary.
  • Use direct quotations from the original sporadically, limiting yourself to quotations of the most striking or interesting language. Do not quote very plainly stated passages.
  • Compare the paraphrase to the original to ensure that the rewording is sufficient and the meaning has been preserved.
  • Weave the paraphrase into your essay.
  • Document the paraphrase—give formal credit to the original writer(s).*

* Kennedy, M.L. & Smith, H.M. (2000). Reading and Writing in the Academic Community . New York, NY: Prentice Hall College Division.

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Purdue OWL: MLA Quoting, Summarizing & Paraphrasing

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Citing Sources: In-Text Citations- MLA

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What is an In-text Citation?

Created by EasyBib.

What is a Signal Phrase?

Signal phrases let your reader know that you are quoting or summarizing from another source. In the text of your essay, you refer to the source you are using.

  • In the words of researchers Redelmeier and Tibshirani, "..."
  • As Matt Sundeen has noted, "..."
  • Patti Pena, mother of a child killed by a driver distracted by a cell phone, points out that "..."
  • "...," writes Christine Haughtney.
  • "...," claims wireless spokesperson Annette Jacobs.
  • from Bedford Handbook (583).

Verbs in a Signal Phrase

When to use an in-text citation.

purdue owl paraphrasing mla

Created by Cardiff University Informmation Services. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License . 

To summarize:

  • If you had to go to a source to find the information, cite it.
  • If all the information in a paragraph comes from the same source, you may cite at the end of the paragraph. If, however, you have used more than one source in the paragraph, provide the citation after the material borrowed.

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Quoting Sources

When you quote a source, you include the author's  exact  words in your text. Use "quotation marks" around the author's words. Include signal phrases and an in-text citation to show where the quote is from.

Paraphrasing & Summarizing Sources

When you paraphrase or summarize a source, you restate the source's ideas in  your own words and sentence structure . Select what is relevant to your topic, and restate only that. Changing only a few words is not sufficient in paraphrasing/ summarizing. Instead, you need to completely rephrase the author's ideas in your own words. You do not need to use quotation marks.

Always use in-text citations when you paraphrase or summarize, to let the reader know that the information comes from another source. Continue to use signal phrases as well. For more information about paraphrasing, please review the content on the paraphrasing page.

In-text Citations: 1-3 Known Authors

Author named in the text : Format

Signal phrase with author's name, "quote" (page).

One researcher, Carol Gilligan, concludes that "women impose a distinctive construction on moral problems" (105).

Author named in parenthetical citation: Format

Signal phrase, "quote" (Author page).

According to a study, "the poor and minorities were victims" (Frieden and Sagalyn 29).

Our text discusses the "ethical dilemmas in public relations" (Wilcox, Ault, and Agee 125).

In-text Citation - More than 3 Known Authors

More Than Three Authors List only the first author's name followed by et al.

Signal phrase, "quote" (Author et al. page).

Recent research shows that "…" (Graham et al. 86).

In-text Citation - No Author

If the source has no named author, use the first main word in the title. If it is a very short title, you may use the whole thing. Put the title in quotation marks if it's a short source (e.g., an article) or italicize it if it's a longer source, like a book.

You may also name the title in your text and provide the page number in parentheses.

Note: Books and websites are italicized. Webpages and article names are within quotation marks.

Signal phrase, "quote" ( Shortened Title page).

Signal phrase with title, "quote" (page).

Full title of book =  Challenging Capital Punishment: Legal and Social Science Approaches One article states that, "A death row inmate may demand his execution for notoriety" ( Challenging Capital Punishment  135). Challenging Capital Punishment  states that, "A death row inmate may demand his execution for notoriety" (135).

Title of the article = "10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's"

One sign of Alzheimers is "memory loss that disrupts daily life" ("10 Early Signs").

In-text Citation - Electronic Sources with No Page Numbers

A database source is NOT the same as an Internet source. Most sites do not reproduce the article exactly as it was published in the original journal or magazine. If you find an article on a news website, such as the BBC site or CBC site please remember to cite the source as a website.

If there are no page numbers on the electronic source, use only the author name or the first main word of the title.

Signal phrase, "quote" (Author).

Signal phrase, "quote" ("Shortened Title" - if citing a webpage or article and author is unknown).

According to a study, "Twins reared apart report similar feelings" (Palfrey).

In-text Citation: Quoting a Source in a Source

If there are no page numbers on the electronic source, use only the author name or the first main word of the title. However, you can indicate where the material came from in your text.

There are occasions where you may find a source that quotes another source that you want to use in your paper. Ideally, you would find the original source to ensure you understand the context of the quote. If you do decide to use the quote from the source you are using, however, you must recognize both sources . For example, in the Critical Insights series, we have a popular book of critical analysis called Things for Apart. One of the chapters, written by Amy Sickels, is entitled "The Critical Reception of  Things Fall Apart."  In her essay, she quotes Keith M. Booker. This is the quote you decide you want to use:

Booker makes the point that the "African novel is always a complex hybrid cultural phenomenon that combines Western and African cultural perspectives" (qtd. in Sickels 43).

The citation in the Works Cited page (remember you need a hanging indent):

Sickels, Amy. “The Critical Reception of Things Fall Apar t." Things Fall Apart ,  edited by M. Keith Booker, Salem Press, 2011, pp.  33-52.

MLA Checklist - Quick Guide for Printing

  • MLA Checklist

Quick Links for Citing with MLA

  • Reference Sources - MLA
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MLA Videos for Memorial Univeristy

  • Citing Sources in MLA: A Basic Introduction
  • How to Cite Multiple Authors in MLA Style
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  • MLA Style Works Cited List: Citing Journal Articles
  • MLA Style Works Cited List: Citing Newspapers & Magazines

Used with permission.

For more information on MLA from OWL at Purdue

OWL at Putdue so one of the best sources of information on citing. Please review the following material if more information is required.

  • MLA General Format
  • MLA Sample Paper
  • MLA Tables and Figures

This LibGuide is based on the MLA Citations LibGuide created by Montgomery College Libraries. The content and format are used with permission.

The MLA Formatting Style Guide by OWL at  Purdue was also used with permission.

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MLA 8th Style - Citing and Sample Papers

Citations at the end of your paper (Works Cited)

  • MLA citations for materials found on the internet. Purdue Owl. Since almost everything comes from the internet - use this link to see how to cite electronic articles, books, websites and videos.
  • MLA citations for journal articles, magazine articles, and news articles Purdue OWL - Online Writing Lab. A more detailed guide to citing articles from periodicals.
  • MLA citations for books. Purdue OWL - Online Writing Lab. A more detailed guide to citing books and book chapters.

In-text citations and quotes.

  • MLA in-text citations Purdue OWL. Paraphrasing or quoting? You need to cite your source - both in your paper (in-text citation) - and at the end of your paper (Works Cited).
  • MLA and quotations. Purdue OWL. It's almost always better to paraphrase - but if you MUST quote - do it right!

MLA Sample Papers

  • MLA 8th Sample Paper from Purdue OWL
  • MLA 8th Sample Paper from USCB
  • APA 7th Quick Guide
  • APA Style Reference Examples From APA : A guide to creating references for a wide-variety of formats.
  • APA In-Text Citations From APA : A guide to creating in-text citations for a wide-variety of formats. Advice on paraphrasing, quotations, and plagiarism.
  • APA Paper Format From APA: A guide to headings, margins, paragraph indentation, spacing, and title page format,
  • APA Sample Papers From APA: A sample professional paper and a sample student paper.

Turabian (Chicago Author/Date)

  • Chicago Quick Guide
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  • Chicago Sample Paper
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  • Citing archival materials This link opens in a new window
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  • Quoting and paraphrasing
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  • Comparing citation managers

Citation Style Guides: Quoting and paraphrasing


When you write a paper for a university class, you will be expected to express the results of your research in your own words. Copying an entire paper, or even words or ideas from a source and presenting this as your own work is called  plagiarism  and is a major form of academic dishonesty.

To ensure that you aren't plagiarizing, you need to give credit to the creators of the original ideas, every single time you use them. This can be achieved by quoting or paraphrasing those ideas, and then citing the original source.

  • Using Evidence in Your Writing: Quoting, Summarizing, and Paraphrasing Learn to distinguish between quote, paraphrase, and summary in this University Library pre-recorded workshop.
  • Why You Need to Cite Your Sources An interactive video by the Cooperative Library Instruction Project which explains why it's important to cite sources. Hosted by Downs-Jones Library
  • How to Use Voice Markers This interactive video from the Cooperative Library Instruction Project will help you to learn how to use voice markers and signal phrases to usefully incorporate citations into your writing. Hosted by Lane Community College.

How do you include all of the information that you've found into your essay? This video from the now-defunct Cooperative Library Instruction Project and hosted by the Downs-Jones Library gives step-by-step instruction on how to incorporate your sources into the body of your essay, whether by direct quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing. It teaches about analyzing sources and using them to support your argument.

When and how to quote

When you quote, include a citation ( in-text, footnote or endnote depending on the style guide you're following) that identifies precisely where the quotation came from. The example below is quoted, and then cited using a footnote in Chicago Style:

1. Sylvia Van Kirk,  Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society , 1670-1870  (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983), 4.

How to paraphrase

As per the Writing at the University of Toronto website , "to paraphrase means to restate someone else’s ideas in your own language at roughly the same level of detail." 

When you paraphrase a source, you are required to give credit for information and ideas you have taken from that source.

Acceptable Paraphrasing

This writer has rearranged the sentences and rephrased most of Van Kirk's paragraph in his own words, but has clearly indicated that the idea comes from her work, and has included the citation information, using APA style.  

Unacceptable Paraphrasing

This is unacceptable because it just rewrites Van Kirk's sentences and doesn't acknowledge her as the source of either the information or the central idea.

Be sure not to include too much word-for-word copying from the original source when paraphrasing. When in doubt, ask your professor for help. After all, he or she is the one who will be grading your paper!

If you require more assistance with paraphrasing or quoting, visit the Writing Help Centre on the first floor of the Murray Library and speak to one of our tutors.

Using commonly-known facts

Commonly known facts are basic facts that can be found in any general source on the subject, and are likely to already be known by most people. Because they're so commonly known, you don't need to provide a source for the information.

Sir John A. MacDonald was Canada's first Prime Minister.

Saskatoon, situated on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, is often called the City of Bridges.

* Your instructor may have a different interpretation of what is and isn't common knowledge. When in doubt, defer to your instructor!

Helpful links

  • Paraphrase and Summary From the University of Toronto College Writing Centre, an explanation of the differences between paraphrasing and summarizing, with information on how to paraphrase.
  • Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing From the Purdue OWL. "This handout is intended to help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills."
  • Successful vs. Unsuccessful Paraphrases Examples of good and bad paraphrasing, with explanations, from the University of Wisconsin's Writer's Handbook.
  • Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It A page from Indiana University that includes examples of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing.

Writing help

  • Writing Help Centre The Writing Help Centre, located in room 142 of the Murray Library, offers free, one-on-one instruction in academic writing, online and in person. They also offer short writing workshops on topics such as punctuation, essay structure, documentation, and graduate writing.
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purdue owl paraphrasing mla

In-Text Citations: Quotations vs. Paraphrasing  

When it comes to writing an essay, including in-text citations is invaluable for demonstrating that you have done your research and supported your claim. In-text citations are not just important for those reasons. They can also help you avoid committing plagiarism by referencing where you got your information from. However, choosing the type of in-text citations you will be including can be a difficult decision when presented with the options of using direct quotations or paraphrasing. In this post, we aim to shed light on the differences between the two methods in order to demonstrate their respective strengths along with their optimal use.  


So, what exactly is the difference between paraphrasing and direct quotation? Paraphrasing is taking the information from a source and re-interpreting it into your own words. In contrast, direct quotation is copying the information directly from the source without changing any of the wording in your essay.   

When to Use What  

Although they both serve the same purpose of reinforcing and supporting your claims, paraphrasing and quotations tend to be used under different circumstances. Paraphrasing can be used when referring to the more general information from the source, such as its main idea, recurring theme, or conclusion. Furthermore, paraphrasing can demonstrate to the readers that you understand the topic and material you are referencing because you are not just copying what was said before. Instead, you are putting your spin on the information and presenting it in a new manner, exemplifying your knowledge in that field.  

Quotations, meanwhile, are more beneficial when referring to the technical language used in the original source is imperative for understanding the information being presented in your writing. Doing so can introduce concepts to your audience without having to explain the topic further. Although there can be times when you may be tempted to use several sentences from the original source, sticking to short quotes that only give the necessary information required to understand your paper is far more effective than including two or three sentences that do little to back your claims. If you do have to insert a larger quote, you will have to separate it from the rest of the paper’s body into what is known as a “block quote”. As the name suggests, block quotes take up their own small paragraphs that squeeze too much information into them.   

Different Formats Have Different Guidelines  

One of the first things you need to know even before starting your essay is the citation style that you will be using. Depending on the purpose of your writing, the citation style may be APA, MLA, Chicago (CMS), IEEE, or any other options. Typically, APA is used for education, psychology, and science, MLA is used for humanities, and Chicago is used for history, business, and fine arts. Moreover, each style has its own set of guidelines on how to format your paper, from titles and headings to listing sources and citations throughout your writing.  

Things to Avoid When Citing  

Generally, there are a few common mistakes to avoid when citing information in your writing. The most important thing to look out for is plagiarism –you should always make sure to cite information properly by giving credit to original sources. If you summarize an author’s ideas, quote someone’s work, or discuss information that you learned, you should reference the source through in-text citations and references.   

The next common mistake is over-relying on quotes . Remember that the purpose of writing is typically to communicate your thoughts, analyses, and interpretations of information, and therefore, your audience wants to read your ideas, not the ideas of used sources. Instead, choose only the most necessary quotes, which may be those that mention specific information and phrases that either cannot be reworded or can lose meaning when they are rephrased.   

The final mistake is to include long quotes to fulfill word counts or to avoid having to explain concepts in your own words. In general, a good writing tip to follow is to include only the information that is completely necessary to make your point or get your purpose across. If the quotes in your writing are getting too long, your perspective may get lost and make the writing feel as if it is someone else’s.   

Final Takeaways  

In short, using the proper citation methods is important because not only will it help you avoid plagiarism, but also help strengthen your stance. Although each common citation style has its own specific guidelines to follow, the same general idea behind citations carries across. Whether it is through paraphrasing to demonstrate your understanding of the source or quoting to provide detailed information, citations are the foundation on which your arguments are built. Overall, if you ever have doubts about your writing or want to get another pair of eyes to look over your work and help you, visit the University Writing Center!   

Additional Resources  

Purdue Owl. (2022). Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing . Purdue Owl. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/using_research/quoting_paraphrasing_and_summarizing/index.html  

Libguides. (2023). APA 7: Paraphrasing vs. Quoting . Libguides https://holyfamily.libguides.com/c.php?g=1058037&p=7756103  


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