Integrating sources by paraphrasing and summarising

Learn to integrate sources into your writing to strengthen your claims.

At university you are expected to read other people’s research and use their work as evidence to support your claims in your assignments. Direct quotes from other sources should only be used when absolutely necessary. It is best to paraphrase the quote or summarise the ideas when you use other people’s writing.

Tip: Good summarising and paraphrasing begins with understanding what the author is saying. Remember to keep the author’s original meaning when you rewrite it in your own words.

Summarising

Summarise a passage when you want to extract the main ideas only and use them as background material in your writing. A summary is usually much shorter than the original because the details are left out.

Tips on summarising.

  1. Does your summary keep the same meaning as your original sources?
  2. Did you select the key ideas most important to your discussion?
  3. Is your summary significantly shorter than your original sources?
  4. Have you checked that your summary is not too close to the original sources?
  5. Have you cited your original sources?
Original text

For example, McDonald’s has expanded rapidly overseas in recent years. Its skill in managing fast-food operations has proven to be just as valuable in countries as diverse as France, Russia, China, Germany and Brazil as they have been in the United States. Prior to McDonald’s entry, none of these countries had American-style fast-food chains, so McDonald’s brought a unique product as well as unique skills to each country.

From Hill, C. W. L. (1994). International business: Competing in the global marketplace. Illinois: Irwin.

Acceptable summary

McDonald’s has successfully established both its product and operating style in many countries outside the United States (Hill, 1994).

Paraphrasing

Paraphrase a passage when you want to keep all the points in the original.

An acceptable paraphrase employs all these techniques to rewrite the original source:

  1. Understand what you are reading.
  2. Check the meaning of terms you are not sure about.
  3. Identify the main point(s) of the text.
  4. Make notes without looking at the original. This will encourage you to find keywords that represent the main ideas and prevent you from copying whole sentences. Think of possible synonyms that could replace keywords (except for technical terms).
  5. Reconstruct the text by putting notes you have made into your own words. Start from the main idea, rather than the first sentence in the original text. This will help your reconstruction to be structurally different.
Original text

For example, McDonald’s has expanded rapidly overseas in recent years. Its skill in managing fast-food operations has proven to be just as valuable in countries as diverse as France, Russia, China, Germany and Brazil as they have been in the United States. Prior to McDonald’s entry, none of these countries had American-style fast-food chains, so McDonald’s brought a unique product as well as unique skills to each country.

From Hill, C. W. L. (1994). International business: Competing in the global marketplace. Illinois: Irwin.

Acceptable paraphrase

Hill (1994) cites McDonald’s as an example of a company that has been able to successfully expand into the international market. McDonald’s has created a global impact, not only with its “American-style” fast-food products, but also with its particular brand of management practices.

Plagiarism

Too close to the original and no source given:

In recent years, McDonald’s has expanded rapidly overseas. In countries as diverse as France, Russia, China, Germany and Brazil they have proven to be just as valuable at managing fast-food chains as in the United States. Previously, none of these countries had American-style fast-food chains. McDonald’s brought unique skills and a unique product to these countries.

Types of paraphrasing

Word-level paraphrasing is when you exchange a word in the original text for another word. Some techniques include:

  • Using synonyms (substituting the original words with other words or phrases with similar meaning).
  • Using word families (changing verbs to nouns and nouns to adjectives).
  • Think about collocations or ‘word partners’ (looking at how a word co-occurs frequently with other words).

Practice word-level paraphrasing.

Word-level paraphrasing alone is not enough to build an acceptable paraphrase because it results in a paraphrase that is very similar to the original text. Combine this technique with sentence-level and text-level paraphrasing techniques to produce a good paraphrase.

Sentence-level paraphrasing is when you construct a new sentence that expresses the same meaning as the original text. Some techniques for this are:

  • Changing the clause order (for example, by changing active constructions to passive).
  • Varying sentence openings.
  • Changing the sentence type (for example, by combining sentences or breaking up longer sentences).

Practice sentence-level paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing at text-level is paraphrasing a passage as a whole. As well as word-level and sentence-level paraphrasing, check that your paraphrase is coherent and unified.

Use cohesive devices such as:

Practice text-level paraphrasing.

Synthesising ideas from multiple sources

A good way to strengthen your claims is to integrate what multiple sources have said on a topic. This gives you the opportunity to compare, contrast, and express your critical thoughts on how these multiple sources inform your claim.

Read about Synthesising for more details.

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