Paraphrasing vs. Direct Quotations
As you write, it is important to provide evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. to support the claimsA statement that something is true, such as the thesis of an essay. A successful writer must present evidence to prove his/her claim. that you make in both your thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? and topic sentenceA sentence that contains the controlling idea for an entire paragraph and is typically the first sentence of the paragraph.. QuotingTo use the exact words of someone else in a writing. Quotes are indicted in a writing using quotation marks and attributive phrases. and paraphrasingThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech. source materialsInformation that is quoted or paraphrased from outside works, such as journal articles, online documents, and books. can be an excellent way to reinforce your claim. While quotations and paraphrases are similar, they should not be used interchangeably. This lesson will help you understand when it is appropriate to use a direct quotationAn exact copy of the words from a speech or text. These words are placed inside quotation marks to show that they are a perfect repeat of the original. versus paraphrasing it.
When to Paraphrase
Paraphrase in these situations:
1. To use fewer words yet state the same thoughts as the original textWords that make up a book, essay, article, poem, or speech..
Sometimes the choice to paraphrase a sourceA person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. instead of directly quoting it is a matter of being conciseDescribes writing that only uses words that are necessary for clarity, meaning, and interest.. Unless the quote is exceptionally meaningful, always choose to paraphrase.
Here is an example of an original text and its paraphrase:
"When my car was towed for the third time this winter, I went down to the police station and yelled, 'I've had it!' They told me to go to the impound lot and tell them that, but I stood my ground and demanded to know, for the citizens of this community, why our cars keep getting towed when there is no formal issuance of a snow emergency." Lisa Johnson, Renville Daily News, D4.
The writer expressed frustration and anger regarding the towing of her car; she even went to the police station and demanded to know why cars were being towed when no snow emergency had been declared (Johnson, D4).
2. To emphasize your own authority.
When you quote a source, your audience's attention moves from you, the writer, to the author of your source material; however, when you skillfully paraphrase material, the focus stays on you and your well-supported claims.
"Most cities are taking a more active role in developing and maintaining assistance programs for people who are homeless. Perhaps unrelated, but it turns out that a large percentage of our urban homeless populations are returning combat veterans. It's hard to understand how they can go from leading lives of total and complete structure and selflessness to drifting from street corner to bus stop in the cold. It's also difficult to grasp why we are not kinder or more giving to these people. I am not sure I understand cities. Then again, I don't know if homeless people in rural areas are treated any better." Steven Jones, Urban Development Now, page 37.
In an article in Urban Development Now magazine, a writer argues that cities have, essentially, a moral obligation to actively promote and develop programs for homeless people, and that the obligation is particularly important when a large number of homeless people are veterans who have sacrificed for their country and are now cast adrift (Jones, 37).
3. To share information and ideas from another source and not the original language.
Many sources that you will use may contain information and ideas that are relevant to your claim, but in language that is not particularly powerful or meaningful. In these instances, paraphrase the information.
Everyone is up in arms about schools making changes to their physical activity programs. People are crying out for more recess time. It's been said that the free time and movement actually helps kids think and concentrate. I happen to agree with the schools—cut the recess time. I am more interested in my child understanding fractions and decimals than playing on the monkey bars. I want her to go to a good college. No one gets into good colleges these days without high test scores. So that's what we, like most parents, want to see from our schools. Helen Pierson, Daily News, page C5.
While there is a movement of parents and school personnel expressing grave concerns about the limited physical activity of children during the school day, some agree with the school decision to focus on academics and raising test scores (Pierson, C5).
When to use Direct Quotations
Quote in these situations:
1. To emphasize the expertise of the original author.
When you quote people who are well-regarded in their fields, their authority translates to you and bolsters your claims; however, do not over-quote, because then your audience will assume that you have no authority.
"The journey to true personal happiness is an individual one. In all my decades of clinical work, when I ask patients to deeply consider what brings them joy, no two answers have ever been alike. Just as our DNA is unique, so are our personalities and our preferences." Psychologist Dr. Jerome Friend, Journey to Happiness, page 12.
There is not one formula for achieving true happiness because happiness is different for everyone. As psychologist Dr. Jerome Friend observes about how his patients describe their own happiness, "no two answers have ever been alike. Our DNA is unique, so are our personalities and our preferences" (12).
2. To maintain especially moving or historically meaningful language.
While it is possible to rephrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, it is probably unwise to do so. Particular lines from Shakespeare, the Gettysburg address, and the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States are all similar. Sources like these have language that is revered and will be more effective if quoted directly.
"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." First Inaugural Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
As Roosevelt said in his First Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
3. To preserve a statement that is exceptionally well-worded.
Sometimes an author says something in such a way that its meaning would be weakened if we were to put it into our own words.
"I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different." Roald Dahl, Danny the Champion of the World, page 9.
Smiles are as unique as personalities, but some smiles are more genuine than others. As Roald Dahl describes in his famous children's story, Danny Champion of the World: "I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different" (9).
Note that outside sources should make up no more than thirty percent of your entire essay. Your readers are interested in your ideas, and the sources that you use should not substitute for your claims and analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing.. Additionally, be judicious in your use of quotes.
When you do choose to quote, rather than paraphrase, be mindful of transitionsTying two events, passages, or pieces of information together in a smooth way. In writing, transitions are sometimes called links.. An essay full of quotations and quotation marks will be very choppy. It will help your reader if you introduce your quotation properly and take the time and effort to explain the quotation and how it adds to your own reasoning and arguments. Quotations should never stand alone in an essay.
Also note that your use of quotations and paraphrases can be dictated by the discipline you are writing for. Humanities or social science papers will tend to include several quotations, while most science and technology papers will not.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
You will encounter many writing situations in college and in your career that will require the use of quotations or paraphrases. Understanding the difference between the two formats and when to select one over the other is essential to effective and concise writing. For example, as a psychology student, you might read primary sourcesAn original document, painting, recording or other source of information typically used as evidentiary support. An example of a primary source is a philosophical dialog by Plato as opposed to a philosophy textbook about Plato. from notable figures of the field to cite in various essay assignments. You may find that you are able to effectively paraphrase those sources in which the original author's actual words are not central to moving your own essays forward. On the other hand, where you find that the original author's words are difficult to capture in any other format, or they are so important to the area you are reviewing that not quoting seems incomplete, then you may elect to provide a complete quotation.
Using quotations and paraphrasing are also important skills to use in the professional world. If you are involved in police work, you may find yourself taking many witness statements. In those cases, preserving the actual observations and feelings of others through their own words may not only be the more effective means of conveying their thoughts, it may be legally required.
Provided below are six sources and samples of paraphrased and quoted material from those sources, followed by writing scenarios. Review the material and the rationale for whether a paraphrase or direct quotation is more appropriate for each scenario.
1. Source: The Academic Journal of U.S. Colleges
Quotation: "While some of the more liberal colleges are remaining silent, the majority of colleges have spoken up to say 'Please, remember you are part of a community. Take care when posting things about others or your school online. What you say and do as a student of our institution is a reflection of who we are collectively.'"
Paraphrase: Most colleges in the United States are opting for stricter policies around student use of social media, appealing to students' sense of community responsibility; more liberal colleges are the exception.
Scenario: You have been asked to write an article for your college newspaper. What is the best way to incorporate this source?
Answer: Direct quotation
Because the quotation is well worded, it loses some of its power when paraphrased, so it should be directly quoted. Additionally, as this is an issue relevant to the audience of this article—students—the emotional tone of the quotation might be more effective, depending on the writer's take on the issues.
2. Source: The Journal of Gene Therapy and Human Stem Cell Research
Quotation: "The importance of following the study guidelines and federal requirements governing research using human subjects for stem cell research cannot be emphasized enough. Not only is failure to abide by these rules unethical, it can give rise to civil or criminal liability and the shutting down of vital research studies. Particularly given the recent participant injuries in gene mapping studies, we must be vigilant."
Paraphrase: Gene mapping and human stem cell research studies involving human subjects must be extremely careful to follow all guidelines and regulations in order to avoid ethics violations, legal ramifications, or potential elimination of the study.
Scenario: You have been asked to write a paper on the ethics of stem-cell research for your biology class. What is the best way to incorporate this source?
Because the journal article quotation conveys ideas that can be put into the writer's own words, the paraphrase is more efficient.
3. Source: Instructor-provided material for a course in safe patient handling.
Quotation: "Florence Nightingale worked in army hospitals all over Europe. During her time in those hospitals, she noticed that people in the hospitals seemed to get sicker sometimes. She linked this phenomenon to the fact that doctors and nurses failed to wash their hands regularly, spreading germs from patient to patient, and medical equipment was never cleaned properly. By bringing these issues to light, Florence Nightingale changed how hospitals handled issues of cleaning and sanitation. Her influence went far beyond the hospitals she worked in. Her insights forever changed how hospitals would run."
Paraphrase: In her work in European army hospitals, Florence Nightingale made the connection between a failure by medical personnel to wash their hands and both the spreading of germs and contamination of instruments. She revolutionized modern hospital care by changing the way doctors and nurses approached practices of cleaning and sanitation.
Scenario: You and your classmates are asked to write a group paper on Florence Nightingale for your history course and make a presentation to your class. What is the best way to incorporate this source?
The instructor notes do not have any language or statistics that need to be preserved verbatimA word for word repeat of an original text or speech.. Additionally, the quotation is repetitive and not particularly well-written. It can easily be paraphrased and shortened without losing any of its central meaning.
4. Source: State and Federal Government Regulations and Guidelines for Lab Worker Safety website
Section A of the Laboratory Safety Practice Act: "All genetics lab workers must adhere to the practices as detailed in the federal code on scientific laboratory work. These practices must be posted in an easily accessible area within the laboratory and outside the laboratory door. All genetics lab workers must take a yearly test confirming their knowledge of said practices. Failure to score at least eighty percent on this exam is grounds for retesting. Lab workers may continue to take the exam until they pass; however, they are not permitted to enter the lab under any circumstances until they do. Genetics lab workers must also follow the government regulations governing all lab workers in school or professional settings, whether they are students, interns, doctors, professors, or assistants of some other kind. Those regulations can be found in the federal rules, sections 1C-7D. Further, all lab workers are subject to the rules set forth by their individual university, college, institution, medical center, hospital, clinic, school, or private organization. Should the government become aware of repeated violations of regulations, guidelines, or rules, the government may inspect the laboratory, order changes to be made to protocol, suspend or eliminate all studies, and close the laboratory permanently. Lab workers may also be fined according to the fine schedule set forth in federal rule section 7Dii."
Paraphrase: Genetics lab workers are subject to the lengthy and specific regulations and guidelines under Section A of the Laboratory Safety Practice Act, which include posting of said regulations, testing, adherence to the government regulations governing all lab workers (federal rules, sections 1C-7D), and the local rules and regulations as provided by their own institution. Failure to abide by all rules, regulations and guidelines can have serious consequences, from fines to permanent suspension of laboratory studies.
Scenario: As an assistant to a professor in your college's genetics lab, you are asked to write a memorandum providing best practices for lab worker safety. What is the best way to incorporate this source?
Like most legal content, the rules and regulations as provided in the quotation are long, vague at times, and hard to follow. A better approach for the assistant is to paraphrase the regulations and then provide the students with a link to the actual regulations, noting that it is the student's responsibility to understand all guidelines.
5. Source: Student interview
Quotation: "Sure, cafeteria food is awful sometimes. But you learn what to eat and what not to eat, and the only way to do that is trial and error. The worst case scenario is that you have to hit the cereal bar or ice cream station. It's not the healthiest option, but it beats going hungry. Plus, the hamburgers are usually pretty good."
Paraphrase: Although it's a common perception that college students hate the cafeteria food, there appear to be some who are able to make the most out of it, sometimes resorting to the cereal bar or ice cream station.
Scenario: You are writing an opinion piece on your school's cafeteria food for a national blog. What is the best way to incorporate this source?
While the individual comment is amusing and detailed, paraphrasing it is the best choice because it succinctly captures its message in one sentence. It also keeps the reader from being distracted by the interviewee's voice and words.
6. Source: Ethical Issues in Today's Society
Quotation: "Hollywood blockbusters and local news media are responsible for the mass hysteria around a practice not often used: quarantine in the potential face of pandemic flu."
Paraphrase: Although movies and the news may paint a different picture, pandemic flu scares do not typically result in quarantines.
Scenario: You are helping your medical ethics professor find sources for an article on pandemic flu quarantines that he wishes to get published in a peer-reviewed journal. What is the best way to incorporate this source?
Answer: Direct quotation
Because it is powerfully written and comes from another peer-reviewed journal, making it a credible source, it should be quoted directly.
Provided below are six sources and samples of paraphrased and quoted material from those sources, followed by writing scenarios. Choose either to paraphrase or direct quote the source and explain the reasoning behind your decision.
Quotation: "Over the years, we have spent more than $30 million to make bicycling better. We’ve invested $2.1 million in community bicycling projects and leveraged more than $654 million in federal, state, and private funding. We have contributed millions to national groups and programs like the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the League of American Bicyclists, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, ensuring safer places to ride for both children and adults."
Paraphrase: People for Bikes works to support biking initiatives that make bicycling safer and accessible for all people. They direct government funding and raise and contribute millions of dollars in private funding to organizations that work with communities to implement better bicycling practices.
Scenario: You are writing a paper on the importance of creating cycling-friendly city infrastructures in the United States. What is the best way to incorporate the above source?
Explain your reasoning.
While the quotation has specific numbers that outline the contributions of People for Bikes, it does not utilize language that is especially memorable. Paraphrasing helps get the point across in far fewer words.
Quotation: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13
Paraphrase: As portrayed in Biblical scripture, Christian love is selfless, kind, and pure.
Scenario: You have been asked to write a paper on Christianity for your religious studies course. What is the best way to incorporate the above source?
Explain your reasoning.
First, the ideas in the quotation defy an easy and precise paraphrase. Second, this is an example of words that ought to be preserved and cannot easily be represented in some other way.
Quotation: O, I die, Horatio.
The potent poison quite o'er crows my spirit.
I cannot live to hear the news from England.
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.
So tell him, with th' occurrence, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.
Paraphrase: Hamlet dies a dramatic death in the final scene of Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, and simultaneously declares that Fortinbras should be the heir to his throne.
Scenario: You are researching and writing a paper comparing and contrasting Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies. What is the best way to incorporate the above source?
Explain your reasoning.
This is a crucial moment in Hamlet that is difficult to paraphrase while retaining both the meaning and the beauty of the original passage. Additionally, the passage comes from Hamlet, the character after whom the play is named. If the passage came from a minor character, it may be less necessary to preserve the specific phrasing.
Quotation: "At 9:00 p.m. on September 3, dispatch received a call from a young woman claiming her car had been stolen from a metered spot at the intersection of Aldrich and Park on the campus of Metropolitan State University. A similar call was received two days later, also around 9:00 p.m., from an older gentleman who turned out to be a professor parked outside the English department building. At 9:56 p.m. on September 8, we responded to a call from a couple who claimed their car was stolen from the parking lot outside the student union."
Paraphrase: Over the past week, local police have responded to three emergency calls made around nine o'clock p.m. regarding vehicles stolen from campus.
Scenario: As a member of the student body council, you have been asked to write a website update regarding campus safety and security. What is the best way to incorporate the above source?
Explain your reasoning.
Because you have been asked to address campus safety and security as a whole, not simply the incidents of vehicular theft, the details from the quotation are not necessary. Further, the writer's paraphrase captures the main point of the police blog and is written more effectively.
Quotation: "We spent those evenings talking, our gestures making up for a paucity of shared words. But I knew, in some unnameable way, that they were good people. And from that, I could tell how two people with no shared language could fall easily and deeply in love…"
Paraphrase: Coates describes how, despite language differences, he learned to communicate with his host family and came to understand them.
Scenario: You are writing a paper for your sociology course, investigating the rise of the memoir in popular literature. What is the best way to incorporate the above source?
Explain your reasoning.
In this example, the task is attempting to explain something, and the source is an example. The language of the source is most likely key to the investigation. The focus is less on what Coates says than on how he says it and why that has broad appeal, so using the exact quotation is more effective than paraphrasing.
Quotation: "I have attended the student ballet performance of The Nutcracker for the past twelve years and I have to say that this year the dances crackled and sparked! Not only were the costumes beautiful, but the choreography was excellent and the lead ballerina looked as if she were floating through the air."
Paraphrase: One audience member expressed that this season's student ballet performance of The Nutcracker was the most commanding she'd seen in twelve years.
Scenario: You have been asked to write a review of the latest student ballet performance of The Nutcracker for your local town newspaper. What is the best way to incorporate the above source?
Explain your reasoning.
The writer is preparing a review for a town newspaper, which is an opinion piece. While the paraphrasing expresses the central idea of the audience member's response, the quotation has more credibility as it represents one person's actual words, plus it is far more descriptive.
Why is it important to know when to quote and when to paraphrase?
Knowing when to quote and when to paraphrase is important because each choice comes with a number of specific implications. Sometimes it is important to preserve the original quotation because there is no way you would paraphrase it and fully or accurately retain its intended meaning. At other times, the quotation may contain extra words or ideas that will distract from your own thesis or actually take away from the strength of your arguments. In this case, paraphrasing is preferable.
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