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DLM 110 - Influencing Policymakers: Use Information

Use information

Summarize and Paraphrase

When writing a research paper, you will be asked to include support or evidence for your arguments using sources, such as data, statistics, books or journal articles. In order to refer to information from these sources, you can (1) quote exact words, (2) paraphrase specific ideas, or (3) summarize parts of or the entire work. These three options for referencing a source can be useful in different situations, depending on the information being used, its length and clarity, and your purpose for incorporating it. Below, the differences between quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing are described.


Quoting a source means that you directly use a source’s words to convey their point. The quoted text/wording should appear exactly as it does in the source being used, although you may use ellipsis or brackets to indicate any changes you make in order to make your sentence grammatically correct. Remember that you must put quotation marks around all quoted material.

When would you use a quotation? It is very uncommon to use quotes in college-level academic writing. Here are some reasons to use a quote rather than a paraphrase or summary:    
1. Accuracy: You are unable to paraphrase or summarize the source material without changing the author’s intent.
2. Authority: You may want to use a quote to lend expert authority for your assertion or to provide source material for analysis.
3. Conciseness: Your attempts to paraphrase or summarize are awkward or much longer than the source material.
4. Unforgettable language: You believe that the words of the source are memorable or remarkable because of their effectiveness or historical flavor.  Additionally, the source may have used a unique phrase or sentence, and you want to comment on words or phrases themselves.

In college-level writing, it is much more common for you to summarize or paraphrase a source.


Summarizing a source means that you capture the overall point or main idea of an entire source in 1-2 sentences or even a phrase. For example, you might summarize an entire movie’s plot, a book’s major theme or a journal article's main conclusion. Summarizing is particularly useful for condensing “big picture” ideas into a discussion of the work in general and in its entirety. Remember: when you summarize, you must cite the source you have summarized.

Let's look at an example of how an author writing about computer hacking summarizes several journal articles using only phrases:


In this example, the author summarizes the overall conclusions of 5 research studies in 3 sentences.


Paraphrasing a source means that you use your own words to discuss a specific source’s arguments. This is often useful in situations when you can state the arguments more clearly, concisely or using an organization that is more suitable for integration into your paper. When paraphrasing, strive for brevity while capturing the idea of a sentence or paragraph’s point (think “smaller picture,” local ideas). Remember: when you paraphrase, you must cite the source you have paraphrased.

When would you paraphrase?

1. To change the organization of ideas for emphasis. You may have to change the organization of ideas in source material so that you can emphasize the points that are most related to your paper.  You should remember to be faithful to the meaning of the source.
2. To simplify the material. You may have to simplify complex arguments, sentences, or vocabulary.
3. To clarify the material. You may have to clarify technical passages or specialized information into language that is appropriate for your audience.

6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

  1. Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.

  2. Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.

  3. Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you envision using this material. At the top of the note card, write a key word or phrase to indicate the subject of your paraphrase.

  4. Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form. Do not leave out central ideas if they contradict your arguments. Your paraphrase must remain true to the entire work you're paraphrasing.

  5. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.

  6. Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.

(6 Steps from the Purdue Owl)

Let's look at an example of paraphrasing, still from an article about computer hacking. Here, the author is paraphrasing the specific reasons computer users might accidentally download a virus to their computer originally recorded in a study by Acquisti et al.


In this example, the author paraphrases the entire literature review of one of his sources. He includes all the major points and subpoints from the literature, restating them in a more concise manner and in the order he intends to include them in his own analysis.


What's the difference between a summary and paraphrase?

Simply put, a summary is is written in your own words and includes only the key points of the writing. A summary is much shorter than the original source. You can summarize an entire article in a single sentence, for example.

A paraphrase is similar to a summary because you are rewriting the source in your own words, but the paraphrase will include both key points and subpoints or details. Because a paraphrase includes detailed information it can sometimes be as long (if not longer) than the original source.

All examples in this section taken from: Jungera, M., Montoyab, L., Overinka, F.J. (2017). Priming and warnings are not effective to prevent social engineering attacks. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 75-87. Retrieved from

What does "integrating evidence" mean?

When you use evidence from a book or journal to support your arguments in your papers, you want to add the quote, summary or paraphrase into your writing in a way that seems smooth and natural. Properly integrating evidence is important because:

  • Readers can better understand the relevance of smoothly integrated evidence.
  • Readers can clearly see the connection between integrated evidence and what it is trying to prove or illustrate.
  • Readers can be better convinced by smoothly integrated evidence.
  • Readers don’t experience being lost or frustrated by evidence that appear unrelated, inappropriate, or off topic.

How to integrate evidence

The best integration of evidence can be described as an evidence sandwich. You introduce the evidence. Present the evidence. And then interpret/analyze the evidence. Here are more details:

Introduce the quote: The top part of the sandwich is the introduction.  Begin the paragraph with context that tells how the evidence connects to your discussion. 

The evidence: Follow the introductory phrase with the “meat” of the sandwich, which is the evidence. After stating the summary or paraphrase (or quote), cite the source.

Interpretation: The bottom part of the sandwich, holding it all up, is your own reasoning and analysis explaining the relevance and significance of the evidence and its connection to your discussion.

Quote Sandwich Example:

(Top bread/Introduction) Computer antivirus software is an important business investment that protects companies from loss due to downtime, corrupted data and liability. (Meat/Quote) In Five Reasons Why Businesses Should Not Skimp on Antivirus Software, Eric Thompson, a leading computer security expert with Microsoft Systems, states American companies spent 25.8 million dollars recovering from computer hacking in 2013 (Thompson, 2015). (Bottom bread/analysis) Rather than spending this money to clean up damage such as wiped/locked hard drives and stolen data, companies would be better off investing in antivirus software.

What is synthesis?

Synthesis refers to combining multiple sources and ideas. As a scholarly writer, you will use information from multiple scholarly articles combined with your own interpretation and analysis to create new ideas. That is synthesis. Watch the brief video and look at the examples below for more information.

An example of synthesis

Strategies to help you synthesize

As you read your various sources for your paper, record their citations and themes in a synthesis matrix.