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Writing: Literature Review Basics

Direct Quotations v Summary v Paraphrasing


  • Cite when referencing a source and stating someone else's ideas, research, opinions, or thoughts
  • Cite when using an image, media file, document, or just about anything you did not create yourself.


  • Direct quotation
  • Summary
  • Paraphrasing



  • Your thoughts, explanations, and interpretations
  • Common knowledge


This Libguide section was inspired by one at Butler University, who graciously agreed to share their work. 

Source:  Butler University (2015).  Academic Integrity @ Butler.  Retrieved from

"Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author" (Driscoll & Brizee, 2013).

This quotation is taken word for word from the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Since the OWL's exact words are being used, credit is given to the authors, Driscoll & Brizee, using an in-text citation.  An entry would also be made in the paper's reference list as follows:





Most of the time, summarizing or paraphrasing is a better choice.  Direct quotes are best under the following circumstances:

  • When the phrasing is unique or strengthens your argument
  • When the essence or meaning of the text would be lost if summarized or paraphrased
  • When you want to invoke the authority of the author, and that authority is emphasized through the author's exact words.


  • Use quotation marks around all words copied from a source.
  • Follow formatting guidelines for using short or long (more than 40 words) quotations.
  • Provide an in-text citation for the source of the exact words you used immediately after the quotation
  • List a complete citation for the source on your references page.



"A summary involves Involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s).... Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material" (Driscoll & Brizee, 2013).

The passage above is a direct quotation from the Purdue OWL.  Now take a look at that same passage, which has been summarized, or which restates the most important ideas in the writer's own words.  A summary is usually much shorter than the original passage:

Summaries are short restatements of main ideas.


  • To provide useful background information for your audience
  • When concise, general, broad information is all that is needed


  • Since you are not directly quoting an author word-for-word, there is no need for quotation marks around your summary.
  • Credit the source with an in-text citation;  be aware that APA requests you provide a page or paragraph number whenever available.


Grounds for Argument:  How to Summarize Accurately

Harvard Guide to Using Sources:  When and How to Summarize


"A paraphrase is a detailed restatement in your own words of a written or sometimes spoken source material. Apart from the changes in organization, wording, and sentence structure, the paraphrase should be nearly identical in meaning to the original passage. It should also be near the same length as the original passage and present the details of the original." University of Houston-Victoria Student Success Center (n.d.). Decide when to Quote, Paraphrase & Summarize.

Paraphrasing is "your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form." Purdue University Online Writing Lab. (2012). Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing

Let's look at how a writer would paraphrase the definition from the Purdue OWL.

When you paraphrase, you take a passage from a source and put it into your own words. The original source must still be cited. Usually, the paraphrased version will be shorter than the original (Driscoll and Brizee, 2013).

Even though the paraphrased version isn't exactly the same as the source quotation, the idea is still the same. Therefore, it's important to give credit to the original writers.

Information in this section provided by Butler University and by National Louis University


  • Paraphrase an author's words by stating his or her ideas in your own words with your own phrasing.  Be sure to change both the sentence structure and wording.
  • Compare your paraphrased writing with the author's exact words to make sure you have not copied phrases or sentences from the author.
  • Always provide a citation for the paraphrased ideas.



  • Both involve a restatement of the original author's ideas and words. 
  • Both require that you, the writer, give credit to the original source. 
  • Both require that what you end up writing sounds more like you than the original author.


  • A paraphrase is a restatement that accurately represents the ideas in an author's original work, using your unique phrasing and vocabulary.
  • A summary condenses the original author's words into just a few main ideas.  It is meant to be short.
  • The main difference lies in purpose.  A paraphrase should focus on communicating the source material in a way that sounds uniquely like the writer who is restating the ideas.  Length is not a concern.  A summary is designed to capture the main idea of source material in brief form.


Leonard Lief Library and Lehman Studios (2014). Just Because You Put It In Your Own Words... Retrieved from


Common knowledge is information that is considered widely known or can be easily verified. 

Common knowledge does not need to be cited.



  • Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
  • Water freezes around 32 degree Fahrenheit.
  • The Great Lakes are located in the Midwest.
  • Steve Jobs was the inventor of many Apple products.



What seems common to you may not be common to everyone, especially if the common knowledge to which you are referring is based primarily upon culture or geography.   For example, anyone who has taken basic American history knows about Thomas Jefferson's contributions to our nation, but someone who has been raised elsewhere and who immigrated to the US later may not have that same background knowledge.   In those cases, it is helpful to refer readers to outside sources for that information so they may pursue the topics on their own.


How to Quote

A quote is generally more than three words borrowed from another source. The basic rules for quoting vary depending on the size of the quote. See accompanying tabs for more info.
Please note:
  1. When you need to leave out part of a quotation to make it fit grammatically or because it contains irrelevant/unnecessary information, insert ellipses like this . . . to indicate the truncation.
  2. If you must add or slightly change words within a quotation for reasons of grammar or clarity, indicate the change with square brackets. Exception: It is acceptable to change double quotation marks to single ones when you have a quotation within a quotation; it is also fine to change the first word of a quotation to upper case when needed.

See pages 170-171 of the APA manual for more information.

Fewer than 40 Words
Fit quotations within your sentences, enclosed in quotation marks, making sure the sentences are grammatically correct. When citing, the parentheses begin after the quotation marks but before the punctuation.

Because they are an avenue to communicating a specific point, "quotations are effective in research papers when used selectively" (Gibaldi, 2003, p.109).


See pages 170-171 of the manual for more information.

40 Words or More

For these longer quotes, be sure to use the following steps:
  1. Omit the quotation marks.
  2. Start a block quotation on a new line.
  3. Indent the entire quotation a half inch from the left margin (but not from the right margin).
  4. Double space the quotation.
  5. Place punctuation mark immediately after the quotation.



The American Psychological Association (2009) is clear on its expectations for large quotes:

If the quotation comprises 40 or more words, display it in a freestanding block of text and omit the quotation marks. Start such a block quotation on a new line and indent the block about a half inch from the left margin (in the same position as a new paragraph). If there are additional paragraphs within the quotation, indent first line of each an additional half inch. Double space the entire quotation. At the end of a block quotation, cite the quoted source and the page or paragraph number in parentheses after the final punctuation mark. (p. 171)


See pages 170-171 of the manual for more information.

Quoting - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I quote when there are no page numbers?
    If the page numbers are not provided, use paragraph numbers in your citation with abbreviation para.
    Research has clearly shown that "dogs drool often" (Jones, 2009, para. 2).

  2. How do I indicate I have omitted part of the text?
  • Use three spaced ellipsis points like this . . . within a sentence when you omit material from the original work.
  • Use four points like this . . . . when you have omitted material between two sentences.


See page 173 of the manual for more information.

How to Cite


APA Style requires that you cite an author within the body of your paper in addition to having a full citation on the references page. You can directly quote an author or paraphrase an author.

Paraphrasing versus Quoting

It is highly preferred that you use your own words to describe someone else's work, findings, etc. Although paraphrasing is preferred, you can directly quote from an author as long as you include the author's name, the date of publication, and the page number of the quotation. (Look to the right for more information about quoting.)

See pages 174-179 of the manual for more information.

See page 176 Table 6.1 for Basic Citation Styles.

One Author: 

  • Paraphrasing: Cite author's last name and publication year.
  • Quoting: Cite author's last name, publication year, and the page number(s)*.
    *On a website? Then cite the paragraph number after para.



Paraphrasing: Flight is an ability many birds have (Smith, 2011).

Author’s Name is Part of a Sentence: According to Smith (2011), many birds have the ability to fly.

Quoting: "Many birds can fly" (Smith, 2011, p. 265).

Institutional Author: "For an institutional author, spell out its entire name" (Center for Institutional Authors, 2016, para. 2).

Two Authors:

Use the word and between the authors' last names when citing within the text, and use the ampersand (i.e., &) when citing within the parentheses.

  • Paraphrasing: Cite authors' last names and publication year.
  • Quoting: Cite authors' last names, publication year, and the page number(s).


Paraphrasing: The research indicated that weather temperature is positively correlated with crime incidence (Davis & Brown, 1995).

Authors’ Names are Part of a Sentence: David and Brown (1995) suggest that weather temperature is positively correlated with crime incidence.

Quoting: Davis and Brown (1995) stated, "higher temperatures are correlated with an increase in criminal activity" (p. 180).


See pages 174-175 of the manual for more information.


Three to Five Authors: 

Name all the authors' last names the first time you cite them. Use the word and between the second to last and last authors' last names when citing within the text, and use the ampersand (i.e., &) when citing within the parentheses.

Use et al. for any subsequent citations.

  • Paraphrasing: Cite authors' last names and publication year.
  • Quoting: Cite authors' last names, publication year, and the page number(s).



Authors’ Names are Part of Sentence:

First Time: Research from Lee, Lewis, Taylor, Smith, and Johnson (2015) shows that librarians often have difficulty coming up examples of fake quotes to use in libguides.

All Other Times: Lee et al. (2015) suggest that librarians often have difficulty creating examples of fake quotes to use in libguides.


Citation at End of Sentence:

First Time: (Lee, Lewis, Taylor, Smith, & Johnson, 2015).

All Other Times: (Lee et al., 2015).

***Include the page number after the year if you are using a direct quote.

See page 175 of the manual for more information.

Six or More Authors: 

Only give the first author's last name followed by et al. rather than listing each author's name.

  • Paraphrasing: Cite first author's last name, et al., and publication year.
  • Quoting: Cite first author's last name, et al., publication year, and the page number(s).



Part of Sentence: Torres et al. (2010) argued...

Citation at End of Sentence: (Torres et al., 2010).

***Include the page number after the year if you are using a direct quote.


See page 175 of the manual for more information.

How do I cite it when...?


1. There's no author

If there is no author (be sure it's not an institutional author, like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), cite the first few words of the reference list entry (usually the title) and the year. Use double quotation marks around the title or abbreviated title. For example: ("All 33 Chile Miners," 2010). Note: Use the full title if it is short.

2. Authors Have The Same Last Name

If two or more of your sources are written by authors with the same surname, include the first author's initials with the surname in every in-text reference.

Example:  Among studies, we review M. A. Light and Light (2008) and I. Light (2006) ... 


3. No Page Numbers Are Available for a Quotation

If a resource contains no page numbers, as can be the case with electronic sources, then you cannot include a page number in the parentheses. However, if the source indicates paragraph numbers, use the abbreviation “para.” and the relevant number in the parentheses. If the paragraph number is not visible, cite the closest heading and the paragraph number following it.


As Myers (2000, para. 5) aptly phrased it…
(Beutler, 2000, Conclusion, para. 1)


4 Citing When Quoting a Quote

APA strongly recommends that you cite the direct and original source. So, if you read something that cites an interesting piece of information, it's best to find that original source, read it, and cite it. This will also prevent you from incorrectly interpreting it. Now, if you need to quote and cite something that is quoted in the source you are reading, there is a method.


Jackson's study (as cited in Smith, 2009) suggests....

You would only need to cite "Smith" in your references page, since this is the author you have read.


5. Citing Multiple Sources At Once

When citing several sources at once, combine them all within one set of parentheses. List them in alphabetical order (by authors' last names) and date order (if necessary), using semicolons between them.

Example:  Many studies have found a significant correlation between writing papers early and getting a higher grade (Day & Dream, 2010; Light, 2008; Night, Walker, & Sleep, 2015).