The same rules apply to paraphrasing as to quoting as far as referencing and quoting:
- the source must be identified through a properly phrased reference
- the contents (ideas, results, etc.) of the original text may not be altered
Should I quote or paraphrase?
In some academic fields, direct references to specific texts and text passages are frequent. Writers within these fields often strive to vary between quoting and paraphrasing, as a text with too many quotations is difficult to read and comes across as too dependent on sources, whereas a text with too much paraphrasing may give the impression of being vague and non-specific.
Whether to use a quotation or a paraphrase sometimes depends on the writer's aim in using a certain reference. If a specific phrasing or term is important, a quotation is the natural choice, whereas paraphrases may be preferable if the writer wants to report from and perhaps clarify the overall argument of a complicated source text. Below are two examples that illustrate how the same source can be used both in a quotation and in a paraphrase, and how the effect will differ slightly, depending on the form of reference that is chosen.
The source referred to in both examples below is a book from 1839, Sarah Stickney Ellis's The Women of England: Their Social Duties and Domestic Habits (see relevant extract in fold-down text element below).
In looking around, then, upon our “nation of shopkeepers,” we readily perceive that by dividing society into three classes, as regards what is commonly called rank, the middle class must include so vast a portion of the intelligence and moral power of the country at large, that it may not improperly be designated the pillar of our nation's strength, its base being the important class of the laborious poor, and its rich and highly ornamental capital, the ancient nobility of the land. In no other country is society thus beautifully proportioned, and England should beware of any deviation from the order and symmetry of her national column.
There never was a more short-sighted view of society, than that by which the women of our country have lately learned to look with envious eyes upon their superiors in rank, to rival their attainments, to imitate their manners, and to pine for the luxuries they enjoy; and consequently to look down with contempt upon the appliances and means of humbler happiness. The women of England were once better satisfied with that instrumentality of Divine wisdom by which they were placed in their proper sphere. They were satisfied to do with their own hands what they now leave undone, or repine that they cannot have others to do for them.
(Ellis, 1839, pp. 14-15)
In the examples below, the paraphrase and the quotation offer basically the same information, but in the paraphrase, the writer’s own words have been used instead of a quotation from Ellis's book.
In her discussion of what she perceives to be problems of English society at the time, Ellis (1839) argues that English middle-class women "have lately learned to look with envious eyes upon their superiors in rank, to rival their attainments, to imitate their manners, and to pine for the luxuries they enjoy" (p. 15).
In her discussion of what she perceives to be problems of English society at the time, Ellis (1839) argues that English middle-class women try to imitate upper-class manners and life-style (p. 15).
What is the difference between paraphrase and summary?
Both paraphrases and summaries are re-writings of an already existing text (speech, etc.). The main difference between the two is that whereas a paraphrase is a rewriting of a particular passage of the source, a summary boils down a longer text to a shorter one. In both cases, the meaning and focus of the source text must be kept, and a reference to the source must be given. Read more and find examples in the AWELU section on summarising:
Watch out: Avoid patch-writing
Whereas a quote is an exact reproduction of the source presented within quotation marks, it is a little more tricky to paraphrase, since the paraphrase must be a rewriting of the source text. If the paraphrase is too close to the source text in wording and structure, it may risk being classified as patch-writing. Read more about patchwriting – and the risk of plagiarising when paraphrasing – here: