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Citing Sources: Summary

Three ways to cite

There are three ways to cite a source:

  1. Summary: A brief description of longer passage written by the author.
  2. Paraphrase: A restatement of an idea in roughly the same length as the author originally described it.

  3. Quotation: The exact same words as the author used, presented between quotation marks.

Some tips on summary and paraphrase

It is important to not only cite the source, but also to restate the author’s description in your own words.

Too closely imitating the author’s language structure in your summary or paraphrase is a form of plagiarism, even if you provide a citation, because it gives the false impression that the words are your own when they are not. This includes rearranging the author’s sentences but using mostly the same wording, or simply inserting synonyms into the author’s sentence arrangement. To avoid doing this, make sure you are processing the author’s ideas and then presenting them in a way that is uniquely yours. Too closely mirroring the author’s syntax and word choice not only shows disregard for properly crediting the author, but does not give your own voice a chance to shine. The Bedford Handbook (Hacker 503) suggests reading the part of the work you want to summarize or paraphrase, and then looking away as you write it in your own words to help prevent copying it too closely.

For more tips on summarizing and paraphrasing, see:

Summary: Example of original text

Some text is highlighted to illustrate the plagiarism example below.

Dorcas, Michael E., et al. The Frogs and Toads of North Carolina: Field Guide and Recorded Calls. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 2007. Print.

Like many anuran species worldwide, the frogs and toads of North Carolina have a difficult road ahead. Worldwide, scientists have documented drastic declines in many frog and toad populations. For many of these disappearances and declines, the exact causes are difficult to determine. In some parts of the United States, scientists have documented strange body malformations in some species. These alarming developments have prompted an increased interest in the threats facing amphibians. Many organizations have developed programs to monitor the status of frogs and toads throughout the world.

In North Carolina, loss of quality habitat is one of the greatest threats frogs and toads face. Habitat destruction and fragmentation threaten entire populations by:

  • Eliminating wetland habitats necessary as breeding sites,
  • Removing forested areas and other upland habitats where many species live most of the year, and
  • Creating barriers between these two habitats that prevent individuals from migrating to and from breeding areas.

Scientists estimate that one-half of North Carolina’s original wetlands have been lost due to urban development and conversion to cropland. Our state ranked sixth in the nation for total acres of land developed between 1992 and 1997.

Examples of proper summary and plagiarism of original text

The yellow highlighting indicates how the wording and order have been directly copied from the original text above. Even though a citation has been provided in both cases, the example on the right side below is considered plagiarism.

Proper Summary Plagiarism

Environmental conditions in North Carolina pose a threat to frogs and toads. According to scientists, wetland destruction has already occurred on a massive scale. The destruction of wetlands, along with forests, uplands, and migration routes, could destroy vast numbers of these species. This is not only a concern in North Carolina, as frog and toad populations are declining around the world (Dorcas 8).

 Like most species in the world, frogs and toads have a hard road ahead. Scientists have recorded major declines in many populations of frogs and toads. In North Carolina, loss of good habitat is one of the greatest problems, caused by the elimination of wetlands, removal of forests and upland habitats, and creation of barriers that prevent migration (Dorcas 8).

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