Summary Paraphrase and Quotation

Summaries condense and encapsulate another piece of writing. They tell in briefer form the main ideas of the original. A summary may be complete in itself, as is often true in academic writing, when an instructor wants evidence that we understand an assigned reading. More often, summaries are part of a larger piece of writing, used as information or as support for an opinion. Both types are common in short documented papers. Summaries are objective, complete, and concise. In telling your readers what someone else has said, be careful to read and interpret that idea in the context of the original, not according to what you want it to say. Being totally objecfive is not easy to do, because whatever we read is somewhat influenced by our own experience. Try to be true to the original. Being complete in your summary will help. Don't omit essential parts of the context, such as time, place, occasion, and purpose. While examples and descriptive details are usually omitted in summaries, your reader must be able to understand the context of the ideas you are borrowing. At the same time, you must be concise. Concentrate on the main ideas, those appropriate to your context, and omit everything peripheral. Use your own words and phrases, not those of the original, and never lift even partial sentences without enclosing them in quotafion marks. Omit all unnecessary words.

Paraphrase A paraphrase is an idea restated in someone else's words. It is not necessarily shorter than the original; more than likely it is as long as, or longer than, the original. Like summary, paraphrase does not distort the original nor rely too closely on the words of the original. To write an accurate paraphrase, you need to understand not only the idea you are paraphrasing but the surrounding ideas as well. Notice how the following paraphrase restates the original in new words yet remains true in meaning.

ORIGINAL: "A Gallup survey of New York shows that approximately 2/3 of the 1000 children born to persons on relief every month enter this world without the benefit of marriage between their parents."--Jonathan Kozol, Death at an Early Age (New York: Bantam, 1967), 224

PARAPHRASE: In 1967 Jonathan Kozol reported results of a Gallup poll showing that, of the 1000 babies born each month to welfare mothers in New York, at least 650 were to single parents (224).

This paraphrase is approximately the same length as the original. It uses the second writer's words, not Kozol's, although it keeps proper names and other words crucial to the meaning of the original. Note also that the historical context of the original is mentioned so that readers of the paraphrase will understand that the figures are not current at the time of the second writing.

Direct Quotation When borrowing from other writers, use direct quotation sparingly, relying more often on summary and paraphrase. Reserve direct quotations for sentences in which the words cannot be changed without altering the meaning or the effect you want to produce. Examples are highly technical phrases, expert opinions, and ideas that are aptly phrased. The original writer may have written in a characteristic style or expressed controversial opinions or language that you don't want to appear as your own.

Use direct quotation when the words of the original must be exact. But avoid long quotations. When you must refer to a long passage, summarize most of it and quote only those portions that must remain in the words of their originator. Direct quotation must always be accurately transcribed and enclosed in quotation marks. When writing summaries and paraphrases, be particularly careful that you do not unintentionally quote the writer's exact words. If you want to include an apt phrase or two in your summary or paraphrase, transcribe them exactly and enclose them in quotation marks. The following example shows a paraphrase, plus quotation, of another sentence from Death at an Early Age:

ORIGINAL: "And how are our schools to supply a needed father-image in teaching such half-homed and half-backed children?" (Kozol 224)

PARAPHRASE PLUS QUOTATION: Kozol wonders how schools can provide male role models for children of single mothers--children who, he says, are "half-homed and half-backed" (224).

When you quote directly, you may at times want to omit some of the original words, especially if they do not suit your context or the syntax of your sentence. Always indicate omitted material with ellipsis dot-three spaced periods with spaces before and after. Here are two examples:

ORIGINAL: "True education doesn't quiet things down; it stirs them up. It awakens consciousness. It destroys myths. It empowers people, as Dennison So well put it, to think and do for themselves. "-John Holt, Freedom and Beyond (New York: Dell, 1972), 235

QUOTATIONS WITH ELLIPSES (ORIGINAL) "True education doesn't quiet things down; it stirs them up. It awakens consciousness. It destroys myths. It empowers people . . . to think and do for themselves" (Holt 235).

"True education doesn't quiet things down; it stirs them up. . . . It destroys myths. It empowers people, as Dennison put it so well, to think and do for themselves" (Holt 235).

Notice how the ellipsis dots are used in the second quotation. Because the omitted material follows a complete sentence, that sentence is ended with a period before the ellipsis is marked. As a general rule, avoid long quotations. When you do use quoted material that runs more than four lines, set it off in block form, and omit quotation marks.

Remember: The discussion of quoted material should run as long as the quotation itself. Do not use large blocks of text unless they are central to your paper and you intend on discussing their importance and validity for an extended period of time.