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Using Sources & Avoiding Plagiarism: Types of Citation

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This page provides an overview and examples of the three major forms of citation:

Direct Quotation

You should reserve directly quoting a source’s terms, phrases, passages, data, or other material for those occasions when other writers’ exact words, phrasings, or extended descriptions and explanations are central to the point that you are attempting to make.

At times, we quote directly because the original writer’s turn of phrase or particular choice of an image, or special definition of a key word deserve to be recognized and savored by readers. In such a case, a summary or paraphrase would not permit readers to glimpse the writer’s rhetorical flourish, or apt choice of words or special way of putting forth an idea, the complexities or nuances of which would be lost to summary or paraphrase.

Similarly, the data included in a source text may be sensitive to organization other than its original representation; to retain accuracy, it must be displayed in its original form or format.

Examples of Direct Quotation

Original Text from Passage 1

The writer wanted to quote directly from the following article that examines the use of war metaphors to represent various environmental risks (think, for instance of the “war on coronavirus”). The passage is from Brendon M. H. Larson, Brigitte Nerlich, and Patrick Wallis, “Metaphors and Biorisks: The War on Infectious Diseases and Invasive Species” Science Communication 26, no. 3 (March 2005): 363.

War remains a highly useful device when faced by a local or national challenge. Indeed, in certain areas of science, such as conservation biology, cancer research, and other parts of the biosciences, war metaphor have become constitutive, a result that renders them innately plausible and almost unavoidable for those engaging in the field. However, it should be emphasized that the construction of war metaphors is not inevitable, as shown by the case of SARS, where the discursive framework and sociopolitical context did not provide suitable conditions for such metaphors and models to operate usefully. This example suggest that war metaphors are less likely to be used for problems at a distance, problems without a geographical focus.

Direct Quotation of Passage 1

The writer chose to quote directly from the source in order to capture the authors’ firm reminder that war metaphors are not, as some like to think, inevitable when speaking about things like invasive species and intruding viruses:

Given our recent experience with Covid-19, it is tempting to analogize a new virus to an “invader,” or to characterize it as a “silent enemy,” so accustomed are we to conceiving our response to social problems as “wars” (think, for example, of the “war on drugs,” the “war on poverty,” the “war on cancer”). But Larson et al. make the important point that metaphors of war are not inevitable. They declare that “it should be emphasized that the construction of war metaphors is not inevitable, as shown by the case of SARS, where the discursive framework and sociopolitical context did not provide suitable conditions for such metaphors and models to operate usefully” (363). Metaphors, in other words, flourish in some contexts and not others. Introduced into in inappropriate context, they can wither and die.


A writer paraphrases when she wants to put a source text’s claim, concept, or other key finding in fresh language, thereby showing her readers that she understands the original idea and is able to explain it to readers differently, with as little of the original meaning lost as is possible.

Example Paraphrase

Original Text from Passage 1

In this example, the writer wants to describe the source text’s distinction between two different understandings of what diversity means, but wants to do so in fresh language that will make the distinction accessible to a large group of readers without losing the source author’s original intent. The passage is from Anthony Kronman, The Assault on American Excellence (New York: Free Press, 2019).

The present understanding of diversity puts the emphasis on differences among groups rather than individuals. It also reflects a view of the relation between individuals and groups. Or rather, it reflects two views, between which it oscillates in an inconsistent fashion. On the one hand, those who think of diversity as an educational good often stress how deeply our identity is shaped by being a member of one group or another. They say that being black, Hispanic, female, gay, white, or heterosexual conditions one’s perceptions, tastes, and treatment by others at a fundamental level, in ways that are often unnoticed and largely unchangeable. It is therefore an essential part of one’s being. On the other hand, defenders of diversity are in general fiercely opposed to every form of “privileging.” They attack those who, in their view, enjoy special advantages because they are white, male, and hetero-normal. They consider these privileges unjust. No one has a right, they say, to look down on others or treat them less well because of their race, sex, or sexual orientation. (151)

Paraphrase of Passage 1

Here, the writer paraphrases Kronman’s distinction between two conceptions of diversity:

Anthony Kronman, the former dean of Yale’s Law School, distinguishes between two versions of diversity, both dependent on social groups. One version holds that certain characteristics (ethnic, sexual, gendered, racial) anchor one’s identity, but in ways often invisible to members of the dominant culture. Though foundational, such aspects are also trivialized or ignored altogether. Another version maintains that social status is awarded according to one’s normative appearance and behavior, resulting in inevitable discrimination and diminishment of personhood. (151)


A writer might begin a paraphrase with the phrase “In other words. . .” while a writer might begin a summary with the words “In essence. . . “ since a summary condenses a passage or an entire argument from a source text into far fewer words than were found in the original statement.

A summary economizes and is a technique devoted to efficiency. Sometimes it does so radically, as when an entire book is summarized in several sentences. Sometimes, only what’s called “the gist” of the source document’s argument or key point is represented.

Example of Summary

Original Text from Passage 1

The writer wishes to summarize a key point made by the sociologist Richard Sennett in his The Fall of Public Man (New York: W.W. Norton, 1976) because it is so salient to understanding how public behavior was understood in the eighteenth century.

“Public” behavior is a matter, first, of action at a distance from the self, from its immediate history, circumstances, and needs; second, this action involves the experiencing of diversity. This definition has no necessary bounds of time and place, for a hunting and gathering tribe or a medieval Italian city could in principle fulfill its conditions. But historically, the modern meaning of “public” jelled around the same time these two codes of belief, the body as a mannequin, speech as a sign, also took form. The confluence was no accident, for each of these codes of belief met the tests of a public phenomenon. (87)

Summary of Passage 1

Here, the writer summarizes Sennett’s claim:

Though what used to be considered the private sphere now impinges everywhere on publics, with persons moving easily between the household and the street with few behavioral demarcations, and thereby few restrictions on exposing what is thought to be one’s “true” self outside the private sphere, Sennett reminds us that one’s public appearance was once attuned to performing, as if one were on a stage in costume. (87)
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