Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting


In your assignments you will be expected to draw on the writing of experts in your field of study to demonstrate your understanding of key concepts, ideas and debates. You will also use this material as evidence to support your arguments and justify your claims.

Care is needed when incorporating the work of others into your assignments to avoid plagiarism. The techniques that will assist you to achieve this are: paraphrasing, summarising and quoting combined with correct referencing.

The tutorial will cover:

Making notes for assignments

Although it can be tempting to copy chunks word-for-word from a text when making notes for an assignment, you should avoid this for three reasons:

  • it can increase the risk of accidental plagiarism
  • it can mask the fact that you do not fully understand what you have read
  • it is a passive technique and does not help you to learn.


Rewording some technical terms or specialised vocabulary (e.g. direct instruction and liquid chromatography in the following examples) might not be easily possible because replacing them with similar words can alter the original meaning or not communicate the same meaning.


a. The teaching method known as direct instruction was developed in North America in the 1960s.
b. Liquid chromatography will be used to separate the components of the mixture.

Therefore, you might need to copy the keywords or discipline-specific words that are essential to retain the original meaning in your notes and use them in your assignments.

The following tips will help you write effective notes and avoid plagiarism. Click on the headings below for more details.


When planning and writing your assignment, use only your own notes which are written in your own words. This will help you avoid plagiarism.


Are the following statements about note making true or false?


Paraphrasing means expressing information or ideas from other sources in your own words in a similar number of words as the source text. Paraphrasing is NOT simply replacing words with synonyms or rearranging the structure of sentences. It involves rephrasing a text substantially while retaining the original meaning. Paraphrasing involves acknowledging the original source with proper referencing.


A paraphrase is particularly useful:

  • when you are dealing with facts and definitions
  • when you need to refer to a chunk of information from one particular part of a source (e.g. a paragraph in the introduction of a journal article).

Here is how to paraphrase:

  1. The first step in paraphrasing is to read the original text and get a full grasp of it. You may need to read the original text a few times and check the meaning of key words to fully understand it.
  2. While you are reading, think about the overall meaning of each paragraph or section - don’t just focus on the individual words and sentences.
  3. After each paragraph or section, put the reading aside and state it in your own words.
  4. When you can do this, you are ready to write your paraphrase.
  5. Finally, proofread, revise and edit your paraphrase as necessary.


Don't forget to include a proper citation when paraphrasing and be careful not to change the author’s meaning.


The paragraph below is a paraphrase written by a student. Its aim is to support one of the key contentions in their essay on learning motivation among older students studying off campus. Compare the student’s paraphrase to the original text and answer the following question.

The student’s paraphrase:

In the research study undertaken by Kahu (2014), students struggled to learn material that did not interest them. However, they were highly motivated to learn, and more successful, when studying topics they chose themselves. Kahu concludes that student interest in learning is greatly influenced by the design and content of the curriculum.

Original source:

Course design and content were critical influences on interest. For instance, courses that students chose to do, or that offered opportunities for choice of sub‐topics or assessments, enabled them to follow their interests and therefore experience that positive spiral. On the other hand, compulsory courses and topics that did not interest the students often led to boredom and frustration. Boredom was consistently linked with lower behavioural and cognitive engagement. Bored students procrastinated more, studied less, and, importantly, found the learning more difficult.


Below is an extract from a text which a student intends to use in an assignment, followed by two attempts at paraphrasing it. Read through these, then indicate which you think does a better job of paraphrasing.

Assignment topic

It is generally agreed that homelessness is increasing in Australia, yet there is no commonly accepted definition. What does it mean to be ‘homeless’, and why is it so hard for governments, charities and social commentators to agree on a definition?

Original text:

Because of the complexity of homelessness from a social policy and service delivery perspective, there are a wide range of views on what constitutes homelessness. Definitions of homelessness are culturally and historically contingent. They range from limited objective measures which conflate homelessness with rooflessness to more subjective definitions founded on culturally and historically determined ideas of ‘home’.

Paraphrasing - Example A

Homelessness is complicated from both policy-making and service delivery points of view. For this reason, there are many different opinions on what homelessness means. Characterisations of homelessness are linked to culture and history. They encompass both narrow objective views which define being homeless as being roofless, and more personal definitions based on cultural and historical understandings of 'home' (ABS, 2012).

Paraphrasing - Example B

A multi-faceted concept, homelessness can be defined in a variety of ways, most simply as the basic lack of shelter. However, our understanding of what constitutes a ‘home’ is also informed by our culture and history. This complexity impacts the development of effective policy and services to address homelessness (ABS, 2012).


Summarising means briefly outlining the main points of a reading in your own words without adding your own ideas or changing the author’s meaning. Summarised information must be accompanied by a citation.


A summary is particularly useful if you need to refer to the main idea/argument presented in a source (e.g. a book/chapter/article, etc.).

Here is how to summarise:

  1. Similar to paraphrasing, the first step in summarising is to read the original text and get a full grasp of it. You may need to re-read the original source a few times and look up the meaning of key words to fully understand it.
  2. When reading, ask yourself: What is the overall message? What are the key points?
  3. Concentrate on the essentials and leave out details and examples.
  4. Put the source aside and state its key points in your own words.
  5. When you can do this, you are ready to write your summary.
  6. Finally, proofread, revise and edit your summary as necessary.


Don't forget to include a proper citation when summarising and be careful not to add new points or change the original meaning.


The following paragraph is a summary of the original source below written by a student as part of a report on the dietary habits of Australian adolescents. Compare the student's summary to the original text and answer the question.

Original source:

With respect to daily intakes of specific micronutrients, 40% of adolescent girls and 8% of adolescent boys were at risk for inadequate intakes of iron. While protein intakes were adequate in these subpopulations, the top two sources of iron were from plant-based, iron fortified sources (breakfast cereals and breads and bread rolls). With regard to higher iron bioavailability and density, animal-based protein sources may be another strategy to address iron intake, particularly among females, as it has been previously shown to be a less popular food choice among Australian children and adolescents and avoided by young female adults (Fayet-Moore et al., 2017).

The student’s summary:

Fayet-Moore et al. (2017) found that 40% of adolescent girls, compared to 8% of boys, are likely to have an inadequate amount of iron in their diets, in spite of a sufficient protein intake. They attribute this to a tendency to avoid foods derived from animals.


Read this section of an article and choose which option from the answers below best summarises it.

Original source:

Longitudinal studies have also confirmed the role of beliefs in teacher practice. The impact of previously held beliefs was found to be enduring when four school teachers were observed over a two-year period implementing a new and specific method of teaching reading (Stephens et al., 2000). Despite the teachers receiving special training, new practice was not comprehensively sustained, with one teacher reverting to practice based on prior-held beliefs at the end of the training period. Similar reliance on earlier beliefs has been observed in studies of preservice teachers. In a two year study on development of professional belief systems about reading instruction the teachers appeared to create fictive images of themselves as teachers consistent with their prior knowledge of teachers and reading, and the experiences they had on teaching practicum (Stoube, 2009). These factors seemed more important in forming these teachers’ notions about teaching reading, than formal reading courses undertaken as part of teacher training. In a similar fashion, research with preservice teachers at two American universities found that previous, personal experience and beliefs continued to influence content and instructional choices of these participants (Barnyak & Paquette, 2010).


Remember: Read the text carefully and check anything you do not understand. Your summary will not be accurate if you have misunderstood the work. Also, be careful not to let your own ideas get mixed up with those of the author’s.


Quoting means repeating the author’s exact words. In some disciplines, such as literary studies and history, quoting is used frequently to support an argument. In most others, especially science and technology, it is used sparingly, if at all. Make sure you understand how quoting is used in your discipline. If unsure, ask a lecturer or tutor.

Some situations which might justify direct quoting could be:

  • the author has devised and named a new theory, model, concept, technique or scale
  • the author has provided a definition of a concept
  • the author’s words have unusual impact and would be difficult to express in any other way
  • the author is a notable authority on the subject and their words will lend weight to your argument
  • you are expected to use examples to justify your interpretation or analysis of a literary work.

Keep the quote as brief as possible, and integrate it into the development of your argument or discussion. This means commenting on the quote to show how it connects to your point. All quotes require page numbers in the citation.


Different citation styles have different definitions of short and long quotes. Check your citation style or ask your tutor or lecturer if you are unsure.

Short quotes

For a short quote (up to two or three lines), place the relevant words in quotation marks and incorporate them into your sentence.

According to Scholte (2008, p. 1473) “when globalisation is interpreted as internationalisation, the term refers to a growth of transactions and interdependence between countries”.

It is not a failing of the author when one of the characters acts in an unusually audacious way. As Jane Austen’s character, Mrs Croft, says, “We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days” (1992, p. 71). There are many examples in real life as well as fiction of a normally cautious person finding themselves enjoying an adventure.


You do not need to place technical terms or specialised vocabulary in quotation marks if you use them as a part of a paraphrase or summary in your assignment.

Long (Block) quotes

Quotes of more than 30 or 40 words (depending on the citation style you are using) should be:

  • set apart from the rest of your text, usually by leaving one blank line before and after
  • indented, usually by five spaces
  • possibly typed in a smaller font.

Generally, the quote should be preceded by a colon. Check the referencing style guide for your unit.

Kotler comments on the tendency of many Americans to assume that everything in the United States is better than elsewhere:

A nation that is great does not need to boast about it! It will be known without promotion. Other nations don’t appreciate hearing, by implication, that their country offers much less than the U.S. does. The citizens of many countries actually prefer their country’s ways and culture to U.S. culture. Many Europeans, especially the French, feel their lives are more satisfying (Kotler, 2016, p. 168).

A similar attitude prevails in Australia and can be discerned in discussions about immigration. Many commentators take it for granted that everyone would prefer to live here.


Never end a paragraph with a block quote. You should always explain how the quote fits into your argument.


Each of these four attempts at quoting has an error. Drag the error the writer has made (on the right hand side) and match it to the quote on the left.


Look at the following examples of long quotes. Indicate whether the quote has been used appropriately. Hint: This activity requires you to consider more than just the formatting of the quote.

Information-prominent or Author-prominent citation

There are two broad types of citation; information-prominent and author-prominent.

Information-prominent citation is used when what (i.e. the information) you want to convey is more important to your purpose than telling the reader who (i.e. the author) wrote that information. In this case the citation follows the content. For example:

By focusing on the observable manifestations of mental processes, natural science is at risk of being defined too narrowly as the “science of meter reading”, thereby diminishing the importance of the underlying cognitive processes that behaviour is based on (Chomsky, 2006, p. 57).

Author-prominent citation is used when the primary importance is given to who (i.e. the author) has written the information, findings or opinion you are presenting in your writing rather than what is presented. In this case the author is usually mentioned in the subject of the sentence. Instances when author-prominent citation are useful include:

  • when the author is a noted authority on the topic
  • when tracing the historical or chronological development of new thinking or discoveries
  • when comparing differing expert opinions.

For example:

The eminent linguist, Noam Chomsky has warned that a narrow definition of the natural sciences as the ‘science of meter reading’, fails to acknowledge the complex cognitive processes that observable behaviour is based on (2006, p. 57).


Look at the following citations. Are they information-prominent or author-prominent?

Putting it all together

So far we have discussed three methods of presenting or referring to the work of others in your assignments: paraphrasing, summarising and quoting.

In any assignment you will most likely use a mix of these techniques to convey what you have read. However, there are other considerations which will affect the way you present this information:

  • Naturally you will select the information which best supports your purpose in relation to the assignment. You might use only part of the information provided in a given source and you will often need to incorporate information from several sources to fulfil your purpose, whether it is to support your argument, to explain a concept, or to refute another writer’s ideas.
  • The words you choose to introduce and comment on the information you present, as well as the way you synthesise information from various sources, will show your attitude to the content. This is often referred to as your 'voice' which provides clues to the readers about how they should interpret what they read.

Look at the example below. The purpose of the paragraph is to introduce the concept of homelessness and lead into a discussion of policy development and service provision. Note how the writer has incorporated materials from several sources.

Homelessness can be defined in a number of ways. These extend from the want of shelter (ABS, 2012), which may or may not include temporary shelter such as couchsurfing and crisis accommodation (Mission Australia, 2017), to a lack of permanency, membership of a family or social unit, or sense of historical belonging (OUP, 2017). The difficulty of agreeing on a definition is reflected in the complexity involved in developing effective policies and services for those deemed to be homeless (ABS, 2012).


Respond True/ False or Agree/Disagree to the following statements with reference to the paragraph above.


Now read the version below. This time we can hear the essay writer’s voice in the way the information is conveyed.

Click on the words, phrases or sentences that indicate the writer’s attitude.

Homelessness is more than the want of a roof over one’s head. A multi-faceted concept, it can be defined in a variety of ways, most simply as merely the want of shelter (ABS, 2012), including or not including those who are couch surfing or in crisis accommodation (Mission Australia 2017). However, four of the six entries under ‘home’ in the Oxford Living Dictionary (OUP, 2017), emphasise permanency, membership of a family or social unit, or historical association. These additional elements reflect the influence of cultural and historical factors on our understanding of what constitutes a home (ABS, 2012) and, by extension, what is lost when one becomes homeless.

Phrases Found: 0 of 5

Answer true or false to the following statement about the paragraph above.


Austen, J. (1992). Persuasion. Promotional Reprint Company.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). A Statistical Definition of Homelessness (No. 4922.0).

Chomsky, N. (2006). Language and mind. Cambridge University Press.

Fayet-Moore, F., McConnell, A., Kim, J. & Mathias, KC. (2017). Identifying eating occasion based opportunities to improve the overall diets of Australian adolescents, Nutrients, 9(6), 608. doi:10.3390/nu9060608

Kahu, E. (2014). Increasing the emotional engagement of first year mature-aged distance students: Interest and belonging. The International Journal of The First Year In Higher Education, 5(2), 5-55. doi:10.5204/intjfyhe.v5i2.231

Kotler, P. (2016). Democracy in decline: rebuilding its future. Sage Publications.

McHardy, J. & Chapman, E. (2016). Adult reading teachers’ beliefs about how less-skilled adult readers can be taught to read, Literacy and Numeracy Studies, 24(2), 24-42. doi:10.5130/lns.v24i2.4809

Mission Australia. (2017). What is homelessness?

Oxford Living Dictionary. (2017). Home.

Scholte, J. A. (2008). Defining Globalisation. World Economy, 31(11), 1471–1502. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9701.2007.01019.x