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Referencing and Plagiarism: Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting

Paraphrasing and summarising

Summarising and paraphrasing are the preferred ways of including information from other sources in your own work.


When you summarise, you are working from the notes you have taken from various sources during the reading and research you have done for your assignment. This means that in a summary you select the most important information from a text (book, journal article, website etc.) and bring it together to ‘fit’ into your writing. This is the information you have found which is significant for your discussion. Presenting this in your assignment shows your understanding of the source texts and demonstrates that you can select and deselect information as appropriate. It allows you to show interpretation of literature, and also to combine various sources into one paragraph.

See the example below from a student’s essay. Note how each of the sources is cited each time it is used:

Recent studies have found some significant evidence of the impact of exercise on health in children. Smith et al. (2016) and Brown (2018) examined groups of 50 and 100 children respectively over a period of five and three years. Although impact of 20% improvement in heart/lung capacity was noted by Smith et al. (2016), the improvement noted by Brown, who had measured existing levels of fitness without an intervention, was lower, at 10-12%. However, both of these studies fail to address other factors which might have affected the sample. Green and Taylor (2014), in a study comparing the health of children in flats, as opposed to a group in houses with gardens, found little health difference, using the same measures as the other two studies. They do comment, however, on the socio-economic factors involved, such as diet, finding that it was these that most influenced levels of activity in both groups and suggesting that this explained the lack of health differences between the groups. These findings suggest a need for further research to examine a wider range of factors influencing active behaviour in children.


When you paraphrase, you are working more closely with the original text; you want to use something specific from the text, but to put it into your own words; you want to help it ‘fit’ into your text and you want to avoid direct quotation. Although paraphrase is not as common as summary in academic writing, it is still used frequently and is better than using a direct quotation. Various techniques can help you paraphrase effectively and you need to use a combination of techniques in your writing; one technique is never enough as it will lead to patchwork paraphrase where your writing is too close to the original text.

Some techniques to use when paraphrasing:

Word form e.g. verb changes to noun (discover --- discovery)
Word order e.g. putting a conditional clause first instead of second (if he did this, it would change --- It would change if he did this)
Active/Passive e.g. (The teachers did not allow them to speak --- They were not allowed to speak in class)
Synonyms e.g. (The findings were significant --- The findings were important)

Look at the examples below. The first paraphrase is too close to the original whereas the second paraphrase employs all of the techniques above; thus, it becomes the student’s own presentation of the idea while still being attributed to the original source. When paraphrasing, using author prominent citation (as in paraphrase 2 below) helps move away from the original wording.

Original from Smith 2012 The city is a mixture of African and European cultural influences.
Paraphrase 1: example of bad paraphrasing Culturally, the city is a mixture of African and European influences (Smith, 2012)
Paraphrase 2: example of good paraphrasing As Smith (2012) highlights, culturally, the city is influenced by both Europe and Africa.


You should use quotations sparingly, for example when you want to include definitions or strong statements. They should be as short (less than two lines or about 40 words in length) and relevant as possible.

Short quotations (fewer than 40 words)

Short quotations should provide the page number (using p. for ‘page’ or pp. for ‘pages’) and should not use italics or bold text.

Where the reference is after the quotation, as in the second and third examples below, the full stop comes after the parentheses (brackets) rather than the end of the actual quotation.

Quotations should match the grammar of the sentences they are placed within so that the overall sentence makes sense.

Pay attention to the examples below and the locations of the full stops:

Citation examples

a) Haralambos and Holborn (2007, p. 143) state that “the family has been seen as a universal social institution, an inevitable part of human society.”

b) Thinking and reflecting play an important role in the learning process. “These resting times provide periods for reflection and permit time for new things to be learned, mastered and brought to fruition” (Jones, 2005, p. 122).

c) A study into UK business engagement conducted by MacLeod and Clarke states that the “correlation between engagement, wellbeing, and performance is repeated too often for it to be a coincidence” (2009, pp. 35-36).

Long quotations (40+ words)

Where the reference comes before the quotation (as in a)), the full stop comes before the closing quotation mark. Where the reference is after the quotation (as in b) and c)), the full stop comes after the bracket rather than at the end of the quotation.

Try to avoid such long quotations if possible. If you do need to include a longer quotation (over two lines in length) it should be indented in a separate paragraph as a block quote.

Unfinished quotations

Sometimes, to shorten the length of a quote and remove unnecessary or irrelevant information, you might want to leave out some words, lines or paragraphs from a direct quotation. When doing this you need to be careful not to distort the message being communicated by the author. You indicate you have omitted some of the quote, use an ellipsis (three dots: …).

Citation example
“…research techniques are engulfing researchers in a deluge of data. JISC and other organisations are funding studies…to gain new insight and knowledge…within this resource.” (Redfearn, 2006, p. 6)

Note: You do not need the ellipsis points at the start of the quotation if it is embedded within your own sentence.

Citation example
According to Redfearn (2006, p. 6), “research techniques are engulfing researchers in a deluge of data.”

Note: Cite Them Right advises that you can use single (' ') or double (" ") quotation marks, and to be consistent throughout your assignment. However, the Turnitin Similarity Checker will not disregard single quotation marks so quotations using single quotation marks may be flagged as plagiarism. The punctuation choice won't be a problem when your work is read and assessed by a human being, so don't panic, but please be aware that this may be flagged on the similarity score.