On-Line Tutorial

Research Skills: Quotations and Paraphrases

Being a student has advantages. One is that, by definition, you are learning information and, thus, are not expected to be an expert. This means that to learn you must find out what experts say. Research is searching for and finding what they say.

Once you find the information, the second important step happens. You will take notes and then incorporate the information into your work. There are two or three types of note taking. One is quoting. Another is paraphrasing. The third is summarizing, which can be considered a kind of paraphrasing. It is writing the original information in your own words but using only the main points. It is a paraphrase that is shorter than the original.

In each of these three types of note taking, you MUST cite your source. That is you must indicate who said it and where you found the information. Failing to cite (mention or name) your sources can fail you in a university course. IT IS CRITICAL! As you look at the material I send you, notice how I cite my sources. We will talk about how the cite later.

Quotations are repeating exactly word–for-word what someone said or wrote. You COPY exactly the information that you want to use in your essay or talk. Quotation marks begin and end the quote. All the words and punctuation inside the quotation marks must be taken from the original source. (Quotation marks are also used around titles of articles.)

Here is a good example of a writer using quoted information. The information is taken from  http://www.orst.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/1997/July97/animalrights.htm  

Example: Joe Marks in his article "Most Believe Animals Have Minds," tells the readers, "There's no way to scientifically prove animal intelligence, but professor Steve Davis is sure animals on the farm have minds and can think" "(Marks, 1997, ¶1).


Paraphrasing is using your own words to express the idea from your source. To write a good paraphrase you

  • change the vocabulary,
  • change the sentence structure and word order (the grammar), and
  • keep the ideas.

Paraphrasing is difficult because first you must completely understand what the original source says. There are several dangers in paraphrasing. They are

  • using more than 3 consecutive words from the original,
  • failing to change the sentence structure or word order enough,

Here is the example from above. Notice that the beginning of the sentence is not quoted. What kind of information is not in quotes? (Answer the questions, and then click on the to check your answers.)

Example 1: Joe Marks, in his article "Most Believe Animals Have Minds," tells the readers, "There's no way to scientifically prove animal intelligence, but professor Steve Davis is sure animals on the farm have minds and can think" (Marks, 1997, ¶1).

  • Who is Joe Marks? What is "Most Believe Animals Have Minds?" 
  • Is the quoted material correct?
  • What is the information that is not in quotation marks?
  • What does the information in parentheses ( ) mean?
  • Is this parenthetical information necessary? 

Now let’s look at other possible ways to restate that same information, keeping our rules above in mind.

Example 2: Joe Marks in his article "Most Believe Animals Have Minds," tells the readers that professor Steve Davis is sure animals on the farm can think although, "there's no way to scientifically prove animal intelligence" (Marks, 1997, ¶1).

What do you think of paraphrase example 2? Does it violate any of our guidelines for a good quotation? How should it be corrected?

Example 3: According to Professor Steve Davis, certainly animals on the farm can think; however, he adds,  "there's no way to scientifically prove animal intelligence" (Marks, 1997, ¶1).

Again decide if this is a correct use of quotations and paraphrasing. Can you explain your opinion? If it is not, which parts are correct and can be kept? Which parts must be changed? 

How to paraphrase

No one will ever say that paraphrasing is an easy skill to learn; however, practice does make it easier. There are some steps that can help you get started. The first thing you must do is understand the sentence or sentences to be paraphrased (or summarized). You can begin by breaking long sentences down into simpler sentences helps.

Example 4 Original Quote: "For example, most of us have heard that the pig is the most intelligent farm animal, and many people have pot-bellied pigs as pets or have seen the movie 'Babe,' in which the pig portrays human-like intelligence" (Marks, 1997, ¶13).

If we break this sentence down, we get something like this:

1. Most people believe this statement.

2. The pig is the most intelligent of all the farm animals.

3. Many people have had pet pigs.

4. Many people have seen the movie "Babe."

5. In the movie "Babe," the pig is as intelligent as a human.

In these simple sentences, we have already started step two, changing vocabulary and even step three, changing sentence structure. Look at example 4, and evaluate it using the same guidelines.

Example 4 Paraphrase
: Three reasons why people believe pigs are intelligent animals is that they have often heard that statement, that many people have owned pet pigs, and that people have seen movies, such as "Babe," which show pigs to be very intelligent.

Is this a good paraphrase? Check your rules for a good paraphrase.

Did the vocabulary and sentence structure change? 
Are there more than 3 consecutive words copied from the original? 
Is it possible to paraphrase (or change) those words? 
What one thing is missing that was is all the other examples? 

Assignment : Paraphrasing quotes 1.

A. "Most of his fellow faculty and graduate students at Oregon State University agree, although nobody gives rocket scientist status to a chicken or turkey."


B. "Davis said scientists have been unsuccessful in measuring absolute animal intelligence."


C. "For most, the data support a continuation of the status quo in animal agriculture - but only so long as the animals are treated in accord with their intelligence . . .  .However, many respondents . . . believe some production confinement systems are not humane." 

You can find the article that these quotes come from at : http://www.orst.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/1997/July97/animalrights.htm

Come to class prepared to discuss the purpose of the article and the main ideas. What is Steve Davis' opinion about animal intelligence? 

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