Quotations, summaries and paraphrases

As discussed in Step 4.9, when you do any research at university and use it in your own writing it’s important to reference your sources. How do you cite these sources correctly?

In this Step, you’ll look at three useful approaches to integrating evidence from your sources into your writing. All three are valid ways to show the reader that you’ve read, understood and critically evaluated other information or data. When used appropriately, they’ll strengthen your argument and also clearly signpost where information has come from. You can use a combination of them in one piece of writing. These three approaches are:

  • using direct quotations
  • summarising
  • paraphrasing

Read this extract from the article you looked at in Step 3.7.

At the same time, consumers’ awareness of the links between meat eating and environmental problems remains low in the UK and beyond [26]. Aligning with the findings of previous research on the motivations for consumer meat reduction [11,12], this study found only limited significance for ‘environmental’ concerns as motivators for meat reduction, with ‘health’ the most prominent influence. The contribution of the current study to that existing insight is the demonstration of the considerable diversity in the interpretation of the ‘health’ implications of meat eating, as well as the implications of this for the experience of meat reduction in everyday life. Notably, this diversity was apparent not only between interviewees, but also within individuals’ own accounts—varying across the different constituent activities of eating—including sourcing food; cooking; eating out; providing for others; and planning for the week ahead.

Now look at three different ways that this text can be used as a source in a piece of academic writing.

1. Direct quotation

Mylan (2018, p.11) highlights the fact that “consumers’ awareness of the links between meat eating and environmental problems remains low in the UK and beyond.”

This is a direct quotation of part of the extract. It copies exact words from the original source and uses quotation marks around these words. The author’s surname, the date of the publication, and page number are given.

2. Summary

Mylan’s study (2018), indicates that health, rather than the environment, is a greater motivation for consumers to reduce meat consumption. However, exactly how eating more or less meat relates to health is interpreted in very diverse manners by individuals.

This is a summary of the whole extract and uses the student’s own words. It gives the main ideas rather than the detail and is therefore shorter than the original. Summaries are especially useful to convey the general message of a longer piece of text, or even a whole article. The author’s surname and the date of the publication are given.

3. Paraphrase

Mylan (2018) notes that UK consumers are not particularly aware of any connection between meat consumption and problems in the environment.

This takes part of the extract and rewrites it in the student’s own words. A successful paraphrase reflects a full understanding of the original. Notice that some words from the source text, such as ‘consumer’ and ‘environment,’ don’t need to be changed – this is because they’ve a precise meaning here with no possible synonym. The author’s surname and the date of the publication are given.

Note that in each case the student has included the author and the date of the source material in the essay. The full reference for each source will be given at the end in the reference list.

Your university will provide further information if you wish to learn more and practise these skills. They’ll offer a range of support and guidance, which might include workshops, tutorials and/or online guides.

You may like to look at the FutureLearn course ‘An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study’ for further guidance on quotations, summaries and paraphrases. You might also find the UEfAP website helpful.

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