As you’ve seen, citation has many purposes, because there are many reasons for talking about ideas and information from sources. In academic writing, it’s also useful to distinguish between these three ways of using sources:
- Quoting is using the exact words from a source, which are always put in quotation marks.
- Paraphrasing communicates information or ideas from a source, but puts the ideas or information in your own words. When you paraphrase a portion of an article, for example, you convey all of the information in the portion that you’ve selected, but you communicate this information in your own words to best suit your audience and purpose. Paraphrasing is not just changing a word here and there; instead, paraphrasing involves understanding what a source says and being able to express it completely in your own words.
- Summarizing, like paraphrasing, puts information or ideas into your own words, but summarizing also picks out the most important main points and leaves out information that the audience does not need to know for your purpose. Summarizing shouldn’t leave out information in ways that distorts the meaning of the source, but it should focus on what is most relevant and necessary for readers.
In academic writing, ALL of these uses of source material — a quote, or paraphrased ideas or information, or summarized information — are immediately followed by an in-text citation or footnote to identify the source. Note that even if you put information or ideas into your own words, you would still cite the source directly after you use the information. Your reader should at all times find it easy to know exactly which ideas, information, and words come from which source, which will help them to see the overall conversation, and how your writing fits into this overall conversation.