Summarizing and Paraphrasing

Writing at the college level often means integrating ideas from published sources into your own arguments.  To do this, you can use direct quotes, or you can paraphrase and summarize. Paraphrasing and summarizing involve condensing the original source to focus your reader’s attention on the specific ideas that support your argument.  Generally, paraphrasing and summarizing are considered more sophisticated than quoting because condensing the original source in those ways require a deeper understanding of the original source than simply quoting.  


A summary is an overview of a text. The main idea is given, but details, examples and formalities are left out. Used with longer texts, the main aim of summarizing is to reduce or condense a text to its most important ideas.

Why use a summary?

  • To outline the main points of someone else’s work in your own words, without the details or examples.
  • To include an author’s ideas using fewer words than the original text.
  • To briefly give examples of several differing points of view on a topic.
  • To support claims in, or provide evidence for, your writing.

Writing a Good Summary: The Procedure

  1. Read the article to find the thesis statement. Read each section a few times to find the topic sentence for each paragraph and the supporting details within this paragraph.
  2. Take notes in your own words: write down any significant fact or detail in your own words to minimize the risk of plagiarizing the article/essay you have to summarize.
  3. Summarize each paragraph to make sure you know what its main point is.
  4. Include the thesis and the writer’s full name (or simply the last name) in the introduction.
  5. Review your notes to provide main supporting details as they appear in the paragraphs. Only write information that is crucial to understand the content of the article/essay.
  6. In your conclusion, restate the conclusion drawn by the writer of the original.
  7. Always use the writer’s tag to indicate that the information does not come from you. For example, include phrases like “Jones believes;” “Jones finds that;” “Jones expresses disbelief about.”


Paraphrasing is a way of presenting a text, keeping the same meaning, but using different words and phrasing. Paraphrasing is used with short sections of text, such as sentences or paragraphs.

Why use paraphrasing?

  • To rewrite someone else’s ideas without changing the meaning.
  • To express someone else’s ideas in your own words.
  • To support claims in, or provide evidence for, your writing.

Write Good Paraphrasing: The Procedure

  1. Read the original text until you understand fully its meaning.
  2. Set the original aside or close the book and write down what you remember about the text.
  3. Check your version against the original to make sure you express the essential information accurately.
  4. Use quotation marks to indicate any phrase or concept you borrowed from the original.
  5. Record the source, with its page number, so you can easily indicate it if you need to incorporate it later into an essay.


Original Passage: “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.” Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.

Unacceptable Use of the Source: Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

NOTE: First, this passage has no citation.  Furthermore, it uses too many words/phrases from the original and fails to change the structure of the sentences and paragraph.

Acceptable Paraphrase: In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

Acceptable Summary: Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).

Kaylan | 2019

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit