Academic writing must draw on ideas and evidence from a range of appropriate scholarly sources. Evidence can include facts, quotations, arguments, statistics, research and theories.
There are three main ways you can incorporate information into your writing: paraphrasing, summarising and quoting.
Paraphrasing is writing someone else’s idea in your own words to demonstrate your understanding.
A good paraphrase:
maintains the meaning of the original text
changes the sentence structure from that of the original
replaces keywords and phrases (but not specialist terminology) using synonyms
acknowledges the original author with an in-text citation.
Original text from Jeffers et al. (n.d.):
Being digitally literate means having the skills and knowledge that equip you for living, learning, working and flourishing in today’s technological society.
Digitally literate people possess the knowledge and ability to study, work and live in a world reliant on technology (Jeffers et al., n.d.).
For more examples, see the paraphrasing handout in the "Further resources" section below.
Summarising is a short representation of the main ideas of an original text, written or spoken in your own words.
Summarising means that you reduce a larger text – a paragraph or a whole paper – into a few sentences. As with a paraphrase, a good summary maintains the meaning of the original text and acknowledges the source of the information.
Original text from Jeffers et al. (n.d.):
There are many positives to engaging with the online platforms offered by your university. You will broaden your access to learning environments and be able to create networks with your colleagues and peers, as well as experts and mentors in your field. You will develop your online identity and improve your online interpersonal skills through communication in university systems and social media platforms. You will also develop digital problem-solving skills, and learn to innovate and create in online environments.
Online platforms allow university students to network with others and develop important interpersonal and digital literacy skills (Jeffers et al., n.d.).
Quoting involves taking the exact words from the text.
You should use quotations sparingly as they do not demonstrate your understanding of the information. Quotations are appropriate for:
specific terms or expressions created by an author
literary texts/archival documents/primary sources
powerful or controversial statements
When using a quote:
enclose the quote in quotation marks
incorporate the quote so that it flows with the rest of the paragraph
include an in-text citation with author, year and page number.
Original text from Barker (2003, p. 453): Values are the customs, beliefs, standards of conduct, and principles considered desirable by a culture, a group of people, or an individual.
Values are fundamental to social work practice and are defined as “the customs, beliefs, standards of conduct, and principles considered desirable by a culture, a group of people, or an individual” (Barker, 2003, p. 453).
Information-prominent and author-prominent citations
When you summarise, paraphrase or quote in-text, you can include it in one of two ways: author prominent or information prominent.
Author prominent means that you name the author in your sentence.
Information prominent means that you only report the information in your sentence, naming the author in the parenthetical citation.
Author prominent: Smith (2011) argues that a rise in media consumption in the 21st century is linked to a rise in mental illness.
Information prominent: It has been argued that a rise in media consumption in the 21st century is linked to a rise in mental illness (Smith, 2011).
Reporting verbs can help convey your attitude to information sourced from others. Note how the different reporting verbs – state, claim, refute – convey different attitudes in these examples:
Jones (2012) states that investors were waiting to see whether the policy would change after the election.
Jones (2012) claims that investors were waiting to see whether the policy would change after the election.
Jones (2012) refutes the idea that investors were waiting to see whether the policy would change after the election.
Barker, L. (2003). The social work dictionary (5th ed.). National Association of Social Workers Press.
Jeffers, M., Rose, Y., Singh Sachdeva, K., & R. Tweedale. (n.d.). University life online. In C. Bartlett, T. Cawthray, L. Clark, S. Conway, K. Derrington, A. Devi, A. Frederiks, L. Gunton, W. Hargreaves, D. Howarth, S. Irvine, M. Jeffers, K. Lovric, R. McGregor, E. Peters, L. Pickstone, B. Retallick, Y. Rose, A. Sahay, ... R. Tweedale (Eds.), Academic success (Australian ed., pp. 295-298). University of Southern Queensland. https://usq.pressbooks.pub/academicsuccess/ Used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.