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Unit 1:  About sourcesUnit 2: Evaluating sourcesUnit 3: Quoting & paraphrasingUnit 4: Reporting evidenceUnit 5: Referencing

Overview: using quoting & paraphrasing

This section explains how you integrate direct quotes and paraphrases into your own writing to demonstrate your perspective on an assignment topic.

Components of academic writing

Academic writing usually consists of three components:

  1. Original material

    At undergraduate level, you are not always expected to have carried out original research or contributed genuinely original ideas. However, you will create an original perspective to some extent by:

    • combining and integrating evidence from your sources in your own way.
    • developing particular arguments on the basis of the evidence you have selected to use.
    • drawing your own conclusions from the material you have presented.
  2. Material you have paraphrased or summarised from your research and reading

    As an undergraduate, you are rarely expected to produce totally original ideas or insights. Rather, you are expected to show that you have engaged with the material relevant to the topic by extensive reading and research, and that you have formed your own conclusions about the topic based on this reading.

    For this reason, and because there are limits on the amount of material you can quote directly, most of the material you present will be paraphrased or summarized from your sources.

    You paraphrase material which is:

    • not an original idea, approach or perspective of your own.
    • not quoted directly.
    • important in helping you build your arguments.
    • important in helping you present your conclusions.

    Sometimes you will be paraphrasing a single source quite closely, sometimes paraphrasing more loosely from more than one source and sometimes summarising ideas from a range of sources.

    You need to select and integrate material from your many sources in a way that will convince your reader of the strength and validity of your arguments.

  3. Material you have quoted directly

    Most faculties and departments have limits on the amount of quoting you can do. This is because your tutors and lecturers want you to show that you have understood the material, and they cannot be sure of that if you are using the exact words of the source.

    This means that when you do quote, you need to have a clear purpose in mind and this purpose needs to be strategic in terms of the arguments you are building.

    You quote material which:

    • is directly relevant to the arguments you are building and the conclusions you are supporting.
    • encapsulates, summarises or presents a perspective or approach, often in a particularly forceful, concise or imaginative way.
    • needs a recognisable authority to back it up because the perspective it presents is unusual or unexpected.