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Learning to Summarize, Paraphrase, and Quote from Sources

July 25, 2016 - Posted toWriting Tips

Content learning to summarize  paraphrase  and quote from sources

The words come up on the board that every student dreads, “Essay due on___” Although you sigh and mumble under your breath the cussing of a sailor, you know you have to do it.

One of the parts of an essay that gets students gasping for air like they are drowning is style. There are two types that papers normally require, MLA (Modern Language Association), and APA (American Psychological Association) style.

Document sources according to convention.

Any sources that you use in your research papers must be cited to show your readers where you got them in case they want to do further research. Citing sources in APA has its own characteristcs, for example.

You also must cite sources to give the authors recognition for their contribution to your research. If you use work that is not yours and do not cite it, it is considered plagiarism.

There are two parts to a proper citation: an in-text citation, and at the end of the paper a more detailed list of sources under the title of “Works Cited”.

Both the in-text citations and reference page can vary depending on the type of source it comes from, (books, periodicals, web-pages, or academic journals etc.) Here are some general guidelines on how to add quotes in APA style:

Author Names

  • Give last names only, unless there is more than one author with the same last name. In that case use the first initial and last name. Ex: J. Smith, G. Smith.


  • For in-text citations, give only the year; the only exception is in personal communications, then use the full date. It should be cited like this: (J. Smith, personal communications, July 25, 2016) always including the words,” personal communications”.

  • Periodicals are not dated within the text. Only cite them on the reference pages.

  • If you cannot locate a date for your source, put the letters (n.d.) instead of the date in parenthesis.

Page Numbers

  • Include whenever possible in parenthesis after the borrowed material is cited in the text. Put “p.” (or “pp.”) before the page number(s).

  • If you are covering a range of pages for your source, list them with the first page through the last. (Ex. 211-245)

  • Sometimes pages are not available. In this case use paragraph numbers written as “para” to help readers locate a specific location. Your professor will thank you.


Another part of writing academic papers that sometimes gets overlooked is the summary of content.

Once you determine that an article, book, or other text deserves closer scrutiny and you have read it with a critical eye, you are now ready to put the ideas you have gleaned from the text into your own words. These are brief summaries of fuller paraphrases that will become the notes you use to bring your paper together.

  • Recapping what the writer has said.

Search for the main point in the text and build your summary on it, making sure that the statements you make accurately reflect the content of the sources. The summary is entirely you own word with the inclusion of the author and title of the work so you can easily cite it later. For instance:

Up first on our search for answers from scientific researchers, is the subject of biological reasons for our symptoms when under the spell of love. Jeffrey Kluger, senior editor at TIME magazine, in an article entitled The Science of Romance, gives the reader many issues to ponder, …

When it is time to do your works cited page you can easily look through your paper to find these summaries which include the information needed.

  • Be sure your summary is accurate and complete.

What a summary does not do is blue the meaning of what the author of the sources is trying to say and your words. You job is simply describe what the sources material does. Include all bibliographical information (title, author, and date) from the source.

  • Use your summary to record your take on a source.

Make sure that what you summarize does not conflict with what is being said in the article but supports it or disagrees with it properly and within the context of the work you are using.

  • Use of your summaries in an annotated bibliography.

Early in your paper your teacher may ask for an annotated bibliography. This is a alphabetized list of your sources that include a summary and evaluation of each piece of material.

Professors usually ask for this to see how well you have researched your material. It is a good practice and once you have completed one you should have an in-depth idea of what your paper is going to be about.

Preparing you summary as you go along will help you immensely. After reading so many sources they become blurred into each other and if you don’t record them as you read them you will lose sight of where they came from. A pack of 3 x 5 cards is the perfect way to keep track of all of your summaries and their sources.


The last part of the paper we will look at today is paraphrasing. Paraphrasing provides a more complete record of the sources you are using then summaries. It does recap the main point like summaries do, but it also tracks the claims leading up to the conclusions being made.

  • Follows structure of source

After determining the main points made by your sources, and how the work was organized to support its claims, follow the same structure as your source. Doing this will keep your thought process flowing in the same direction as the source material and give your paper the weight it needs to build to your conclusion, and support the claims of the writers through your own words.

  • Abstract Structure

Take compact and sensible notes adapting the tone, style and organization of your source. This is how you will be able to paraphrase the paper to your needs, some of the material may be more valuable to your paper than others. You are creating an abstract of the material you are using. It should be complete and readable within itself. Your paraphrased writing is just that, your understanding of the sources that you have read in your own words.

Here we have listed only a small amount of information and you can use it in your admission essay, however if you need help that you cannot find on your own, you can use college paper writing service that can prepare you samples of how these papers are structured. Reach out to them or to your peers for help. Good luck, and breathe!


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