Working with text-based sources
A text-based source means any written material that you use for your assignment. You know that you must reference any material that you use in an assignment (see also 'What is referencing?'), but this page is specifically about how you can use written sources i.e. books, journals, websites or any other 'text' source.
How do I use text-based sources?
Using sources correctly is a key to good academic writing. When you have come across a section in your reading that you would like to use in your assignment, there are three different ways to use source material: quoting, summarising and paraphrasing.
Regardless of the referencing style you use, there are three ways that you can integrate source material in the body of your essay (in-text citations):
- quote directly - use the exact words copied from a source.
- Use these sparingly. It is bad practice to copy chunks of text even if you reference it.
- Find out how to place a quotation in the body of your assignment. It may need to be placed in inverted commas ("quotation marks") or indented on a new line depending on the referencing style.
- paraphrase - you restate material from your source in your own words without summarising. This is done by changing the grammar, word order and/or main words used.
- summarise - you provide the main idea or argument from your source in your own words and in a significantly shorter way than the original text.
The following paragraph has been taken from Cottrell, S. (2008) The Study Skills Handbook, 3rd Ed. UK: Palgrave Macmillan, page 61. Read the text thoroughly and then look at the information about, and the examples of, quoting, paraphrasing and summarising this paragraph below. The author-date referencing system has been followed in these examples (for more information on referencing styles see 'Academic Integrity: Referencing Style Guides').
|As a student in Higher Education, you are responsible for your own progress - for your development as an autonomous learner. Although you will receive formal assessment (marks, grades and comments) from lecturers, it is important not to be dependent upon the assessment and views of other people. You benefit from being able to work out for yourself, through a process of analysis and reflection, what you do well, what you need to improve, and your priorities.|
Use the drop down links below for more information and examples of:
Cottrell has written a very useful guide to studying at university level and has included a great deal of material on developing independent study skills since, as she points out, a university student should foster his or her own "development as an autonomous learner" (2008, p.61).
- The quotation is in quotation marks ("...") at the end of the sentence: the citation is clear as it has been placed directly after the quotation. In this sentence the author (Cottrell) has been separated from the date; it could have been written 'Cottrell (2008, p.61) has written...'. Note the reference can be placed anywhere in the sentence as long as it clearly shows the separation between your own words and the words taken from the source.
- Note how the quotation uses the exact words copied from the original and how these words have been matched to the overall grammar of the sentence.
How do I use quotations?
A quote is the word for word repetition of the original text. When to quote? Not very often! You may wish to use a quotation to reinforce an idea in your assignment or because you intend to critique the ideas expressed in the quotation. Most importantly, do not fill your assignment with long quotes. This is very tiring to read and above all, pointless. The tutor wants to know what YOU think. However, seek guidance from your tutor because requirements in this area vary across disciplines.
Generally, quoted sources need to be either shown in quotation marks or indented depending on whether the quote is long or short. What is considered a long quote or a short quote and exactly how to present these depends on your particular referencing style. For information on particular referencing styles, see the reference style guides.
For further information on quoting see:
Cottrell has written a very useful guide to studying at university level and she explains that university students are independent learners who need to develop the ability to judge their own work separately and in addition to the feedback they receive from lecturers (2008 p.61). She adds that developing reflective skills, i.e. being able to review one's own work critically, is important for successful university study (2008, p.61).
- The paraphrase is quite long compared with the quotation and summary. This is because a paraphrase restates everything included in the original text.
- The paraphrase extends over two sentences, each requiring a citation.
- Cottrell's words have been introduced by 'she explains that...' and 'she adds that ...' . In this example, the citations are placed after the paraphrase but they can be placed anywhere in the sentence as long as it is clear that you are restating the ideas of the original author.
Paraphrasing a source
Paraphrasing means presenting the original source in your own words without necessarily being any shorter than the original. This does not need to be placed in quotation marks but it must be fully referenced.
When should I paraphrase?
To avoid a direct quote (i.e. to improve the flow of your writing), or when the original idea is more important then the exact wording (i.e. the author's style is boring, awkward or too difficult).
How do I paraphrase?
- Read the text, put it down and imagine you'd be telling a friend about it (in your own words but not too casual!). This way you can test your understanding of the ideas.
- Read the text, pick out the key points and use those to write a new text (without looking at the original). Leave at least a day before you write your new text, otherwise you may accidentally just rewrite the original text resulting in plagiarism.
- Change the vocabulary (phrases and words) by looking words up in a thesaurus or dictionary to find synonyms. Do not try to find synonyms for ‘shared language' (i.e. conventional language, technical terms or names). Do not put technical terms or shared language into quotation marks, e.g. Marx's class struggle does not become a ‘rank fight'. You can change vocabulary by:
- changing adverbs into adjectives and vice versa
- changing nouns into verbs and vice versa - e.g. procedure >> proceed
- using different constructions to express time/place
- Change sentence structure by turning active sentences into passive ones and vice versa.
Practise your paraphrasing
President George W Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State , a new BBC series reveals.
According to the BBC, President George W Bush said that he was told by God to invade …
- breaking long sentences into short ones
- combining shorter sentences (using link words)
- use different linking words
- change order in which ideas are presented, i.e. start by ‘rewriting' the passage from a different place e.g. the middle or the end
Is this ok?
The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq was ordered by God in order to build a Palestine State, George W Bush explained, according to the BBC.
- the meaning has remained the same
- the new wording is not too casual
- you've acknowledge the source (including page number - depending on referencing style)
- all parts copied from the original are in quotation marks
Try it out for yourself: Exercise
Cottrell has written a very useful guide to studying at university level and has included a great deal of material on developing independent study skills since, as she points out, university students progress best when they can direct their own learning (2008, p.61).
- The summary is the last 11 words in the sentence, the first half of the sentence was not written by Cottrell. The citation at the end clearly relates to the summary as it is introduced by 'as she points out' and followed by the citation placed at the end.
- The citation can be placed anywhere in the sentence as long it is clear that you are restating the ideas of the original author.
When should I use a summary of a source?
A summary, when used in the context of referencing sources, means that you are writing a shorter version of the original work, generally to give background information in a shorter form than in the original work.
For further information see:
How can I improve my writing?
Good referencing (i.e. avoiding plagiarism) is a pre-requisite to good writing. If you are unsure about referencing, essay writing in general or want to make sure that you will get the good marks that you deserve, there are a number of ways to get advice and information:
- See the referencing style guides for your School for examples of in-text citations using different referencing styles.
- Access information on finding and using sources at the Library's Information Skills pages.
- Manage your references using reference management software available from the Templeman Library.
- Use the resources on writing, referencing and avoiding plagiarism available on this website and try the online tutorials on the Useful links page
- Attend a FREE workshop given by the Student Learning Advisory Service and the Library
- Contact the Student Learning Advisory Service for a small–group or one-to-one appointment with an advisor
- Consult the resource bank at UELT (Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching)
- consult the online learning resources provided by the Student Learning Advisory Service
- Use other online resources:
- Guide for Students: Using English for Academic Purposes
- Resources of English Academic Literacies Goldsmiths University London
Tips on using source materials
- Place your in-text citation so that it is clear what material or idea has been taken from a source and what you have written from your own conclusions.
- Make sure that the grammar flows naturally across material that you have written and material you have included from another source.
- Make any quotation used as short as possible.
- Do not copy chunks of text.
- Use your own words as much as possible.
- This means summarising or paraphrasing the original source (with a reference of course).
- Reference any material you use which you have taken from a source including ideas, arguments, images, diagrams, plans, music, code etc. For more information on what material must be referenced, see 'Academic Integrity: What is referencing?'.