Writing Summaries and Paraphrases

The ability to summarize and paraphrase is an essential academic skill. Summaries and paraphrasing help substantiate ideas in research papers without the need to quote every word from source material.

  • A summary condenses the main ideas of all or part of a source in your own words.
  • A paraphrase is a rewording of a particular point from a source.

You can be accused of plagiarism if you change only a few words from the original source and use that as your summary or paraphrase. Be careful to use your own words and sentences.

To write a summary or paraphrase:

  • Read and reread your source until you understand exactly what it is saying.
  • Put the source and your notes aside and record what you recall that is relevant to your project.
  • Rewrite this information in your own words and sentences so it becomes a coherent part of your paper written in your own style.
  • Make clear which are your own ideas and words and which come from another source. 
  • Any ideas and wording which are not your own need to be documented as to their source.

Two sample summary and paraphrase exercises are included in the writing center. In one (Exercise 8), you will be asked to distinguish between summaries and paraphrases; in the other (Exercise 9), you will be asked to write a summary or paraphrase.

Questions or feedback about ESC's Online Writing Center? Contact us at Learning.Support@esc.edu.