Quoting and Paraphrasing

By Fain Ropelle

Quoting and Paraphrasing

When you quote something, you’re saying that the words you’ve quoted are exactly as they appear in the thing you’re quoting. 

The opening of Romeo and Juliet tells us that the Montagues and Capulets are “two households, both alike in dignity” (Prologue.2). 

When you paraphrase something, you’re putting the idea in your own words. (Of course, you must still be accurate to the idea you’re taking from the source.)

The opening of Romeo and Juliet tells us that the Montagues and Capulets are essentially equal in terms of social status and reputation (Prologue). 

How can quoting and paraphrasing be helpful? 

  • Makes your paper actually participate in a conversation
  • Shows you’ve done your research, which lends credibility to your argument
  • Helps you avoid plagiarism
  • Helps focus your own ideas by giving you something to bounce them off of
  • Helps show which ideas aren’t yours, which is useful for setting up arguments that you plan to argue against or qualify in some way (I.e., “They say _____, but I say _____.”)

When can quoting be helpful?

  • If the language the sources uses is important. (This is common in literature essays.)
  • If the source has a good, clear way of saying something, and it’d be simpler just to use their words than to try and paraphrase it.

When can paraphrasing be helpful?

  • If the idea is the important thing, and the language does not really matter

    • For example, lab reports do not usually quote previous studies. Rather, they paraphrase them, because what is important is what the studies discovered, not how they phrased those discoveries.
  • If you are summarizing a point that the source makes implicitly, but never comes right out and says
  • If it is the major point of a piece, but the way the author phrases their thesis does not neatly fit into your own sentence structure

Some general advice when quoting and/or paraphrasing

  • Read the context around the part you are quoting or paraphrasing to make sure it’s actually what the author is saying. You don’t want to say “Kayla says ____,” when what Kayla was actually saying was “Fred says ____, but that’s wrong.”
  • When paraphrasing, be sure to tell your reader clearly where the source’s ideas end and yours begin. This can often be quite simple: “The author says X. However, ______.” But you will need to be very clear, because you will not have quotation marks to be clear for you.

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