10-Writing Tips

1. Writing Tips

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This section features advice for using sources well in your writing projects.

If your final product is a research paper or essay, much of your writing will be devoted to:

  • Reporting what others have said about your research question.
  • Answering your research question.
  • Convincing your audience that your answer is correct or, at least, the most reasonable answer (giving them evidence).
  • Describing the situation surrounding your research question for your audience and explaining why it’s important.

To do that writing, you will often use direct quotes from your sources and will paraphrase and summarize sources. But how should you choose which technique to use and when?

When to Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize

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Choose a direct quote when:

  • It is more likely to be accurate than summarizing or paraphrasing would be.
  • When what you’re quoting is the text you’re analyzing.
  • When a direct quote is more concise than a summary or paraphrase would be and conciseness matters.
  • When the author is a particular authority whose exact words would lend credence to your argument.

When the author has used particularly effective language that is just too good to pass up.

An arrow showing transformation from a black rectangle to a white rectangle.

Choose to paraphrase or summarize rather than to quote directly when the meaning is more important than the particular language the author used and you don’t need to use the author’s preeminent authority to bolster your argument at the moment.

Choose to summarize instead of paraphrasing when you need to provide a brief overview of a larger text. Summaries let you condense the resource material to draw out particular points, omit unrelated or unimportant points, and simplify how the author conveyed thier message.

Tip: Citing Sources
Remember to cite your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing. See How to Cite Sources for details.

Activity: Quote, Paraphrase, or Summarize?


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Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research Copyright © 2015 by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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