My Information Skills

Self-paced tutorials on research and study skills for TAFE SA students

Quoting, paraphrasing, summarising and generalising

This video from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows how we cite and appropriately integrate sources into our writing.

Let's look at an example.

The following paragraph comes from an online article published by the World Food Organization on their website:

Gaseous emissions and climate change - more impact than road transport
Here too livestock's contribution is enormous. It currently amounts to about 18 percent of the global warming effect - an even larger contribution than the transportation sector worldwide. Livestock contribute about 9 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, but 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide.

1. Example of a direct quotation:

A recent World Food Organization report (2006) states that livestock 'amounts to about 18 percent of the global warming effect - an even larger contribution than the transportation sector worldwide'.

2. Example of paraphrasing

According to a recent report, the livestock industry is responsible for 65 percent of the nitrous oxide in the atmosphere (World Food Organization 2006).

3. Example of summarising: 

Livestock throughout the world contribute more harmful gases to the atmosphere than the transport industry (World Food Organization 2006).

4. Generalising:

More articles are needed before you can make a general statement.

Generally when writing an assignment you should:

  • avoid too many direct quotations. It is better to paraphrase or put the information into your own words
  • ensure both direct quotations and paraphrasing are referenced.

direct quotation is effective if:

  • the original source is well worded, i.e. forceful, poetic, very expressive
  • you want to argue or comment on the point of view
  • paraphrasing may open the idea to misinterpretation.

All quotations must be copied exactly (spelling, punctuation, capitalisation etc.) even if there are errors in the original.

Short quotations (less than 30 words or two lines) are:

  • added to your sentence in the normal flow of words
  • enclosed in single quotation marks.

For example:

Flannery (2010, p. 12) has stated that nuclear power plants 'are nothing more than complicated and potentially hazardous machines for boiling water'.  

Long quotations (over 30 words) are in an obvious block or paragraph:

  • indented on the left and right
  • with a line space above and below
  • and have the font reduced by one size

For example:

Hall (1995, p.52) pointed out that:

From the perspective of these factors, the evolution of tourism in Australia may be regarded
as the result of the interplay between the social, political and economic technological forces

operating on and within Australian society.

Other common rules for using quotations:

  • Use single quotation marks for short quotes. Use double quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
  • Use parentheses (or curved brackets) to enclose information that clarifies or is used as an aside.
  • Use square brackets to interject or add commentary. They aid clarity and to show that this information is added by a different author.
  • Use ellipses (three dots...) to indicate that material has been omitted or withheld from the quotation.