26 Integrating Source Material: Quoting, Summarizing, and Paraphrasing

Integrating Source Material (Quoting, Summarizing, Paraphrasing)

Types of Source Integration

There are three possible ways to include other people’s work in your own text: summary, paraphrase, or direct quotations. MLA citation rules require that each one of these methods require in-text citation. In other words, even if you’ve changed the words or condensed the material, you still need to give credit to the source of that information. Any information you didn’t know before consulting a source should be cited. Failure to properly cite source is a form of plagiarism. It’s often called “mosaic plagiarism” to separate it from the large scale copying of work.

1. Summary

A summary is when you take several ideas, or several main ideas, from a large chunk of text and reduce it in size. Summarizing also happens when you take data from a chart or a graph and use it in your text. For the length of papers that you’ll be writing in an Eng 101 or 102 course, you won’t need block quotations (quotes longer than four lines of text), so it’s a good idea to summarize information from larger passages. When summarizing, use your own words to convey the article’s main points; more than two of the same words is too much like the original source.
Original text: long. Your version: short. Quotation marks: no. Citation: yes.

2. Paraphrase

This is when you want to include source information, but you also want to make the source information fit within the language of your text. Maybe the information is too technical for you to directly quote, or you don’t really need the author’s exact words. A paraphrase conveys the source information but changes all of the words. An ideal paraphrase won’t use any of the original source’s words. If you have trouble changing the words when trying to paraphrase, use a direct quotation instead.
Original text and Your version=same length (roughly). Quotation marks: no. Citation: yes.

3. Direct Quotation

You’re probably familiar with this. A direct quotation uses the author’s exact words. You signal a direct quotation with a transition, called an : Jane Smith claims, “Direct quotations can provide effective evidence in a written argument.” The attributive tag signals to the reader that a quotation is coming, and it also informs the reader of the author. Sometimes, attributive tags can supply more information: In her college-level text on composing arguments, Jane Smith claims, . This attributive tag not only informs the reader of who the author of the quotation is, but also informs them of what kind of publication it was. Some attributive tags can be simple: One article found, she also states, the article claims, etc. The key point is this: all direct quotations need some form of attributive tag. 
Original text and Your version: are the same, except you’ve added an attributive tag. Quotation marks: yes. Citation: yes.

MLA In-Text Citation Examples for Summaries, Paraphrases, and Quotations

MLA requires the author’s last name and page number in parentheses at the end of any source material cited.

  • Summary: The study found people were happier when browsing dank memes, and that they tended to live longer (Smith 24).
  • Paraphrase: Lifespans increased in over half of the study’s participants (Smith 24).
  • Direct Quotation: In her study of the positive effects of memes published in The Journal of Meme Psychology, Jane Smith found, “sixty-five percent of subjects who self-reported extended browsing of ‘dank’ memes lived longer lives” (24).
True Integration: Making Source Information Fit
Students often struggle with integration source material with their own text. However, integrating source information isn’t difficult; there are several common tasks you need to accomplish when including source material. As we’ve discussed, any direct quotation will need an . It’s important to remember that there aren’t many word and phrases that you can use to introduce a quotation, so it’s not a difficult task. Learning a few basic strategies will cover most of your research tasks.

Basic Strategies for Integrating Source Quotations[1]

When you first cite a source, you may want to name the author and the source in your :

  • In her article “Quoting Sources in Your Composition Assignments,” Jane Smith states, “Insert quote here” (24).
  • Writing in the Journal of Psychological Research, Jane Smith argues, “Proper source integration is key to a strong research paper” (246).

If you use multiple quotes from the same source, you can shorten the attributive tag:

  • In the same article, Smith also claims, ” This is just a sample quote” (27).
  • Smith later suggests, “Pay attention to the formatting and the variety of verbs these samples use” (248).

Even brief transitions can establish a relationship between the source material and your own points:

  • Smith complains, “Students don’t vary their source integration enough” (28).
  • In fact, some research shows, “Seriously, they don’t” (Smith 28).

At the very least, signal that a quotation is going to appear:

  • One source states, “This is a transition” (Jones 44).
  • Jones argues, “The reader knows the quote’s origin” (25).

There are a variety of verbs suitable for attributive tags. You should try to use ones that are most accurate for your quotation:

(X=the author)

X acknowledges          X adds          X admits         X agrees         X argues         X asserts         X believes         X comments

X complains         X confirms         X concedes         X counters         X denies/does not deny         X emphasizes

X finds         X implies         (There are many more–try googling “attributive tags”)


Post-Quotation Strategies


Including an attributive tag is a crucial first step in successful source integration, but it’s not the only strategy. You can, and usually should, follow the source information with your own language. If a quotation is technical you might translate the material for your readers. Even if the quote isn’t difficult, you can still re-state the information to emphasize that information’s importance. You should also connect the source information to your argument. Doing this strengthens your argument by making connections between your argument’s points and the evidence instead of relying on your readers to do so. Additionally, these sentences help you develop your paper in a meaningful way.

Basic Post-Quotation Strategies

Just like attributive tags, there are a limited number of ways to signal you’re restating source material. You should use them:

  • In other words, the source is saying                                         .
  • Basically, Smith is suggesting                                         .

You can also signal when you connect a source’s evidence to your own argument:

  • This supports my claim that                                      .
  • Since Smith’s study shows                                 , we should                                         .


Integrating Source Quotations and Building Paragraphs

Introducing quotes establishes where you found the quotation and helps you clearly articulate that you’re offering an expert’s information to support your own argument. However, that’s just the first step to using source material effectively. With proper planning, a single quote can form the bulk of a paragraph. Here’s an example:


1a. In addition to these problems, X will increase unemployment, harming our economy. 1b. Even more disturbing, some research suggests that X will have lasting harmful effects. 2. Miller, et al’s study on X published in The Journal of Dank Memes, found that, “If X is not changed, we can expect widespread unemployment that increases every year for at least the next ten years” (122) 3. In other words, X will cause people to lose their jobs, which further harms our community; in fact, not only will people immediately lose their jobs, but job loss will continue for about a decade. 4a. Job loss harms not only those people who lose their jobs. 4b. Those people who lose jobs can no longer spend money at local businesses and the community as whole will suffer. 5. This is why we should oppose X by supporting plan Y.
Notice that each sentence performs a function.
Sentences 1a. and 1b.: A supporting point that is going to use the source as evidence, and a sentence that signals a quote will follow.
Sentence 2: The quote, with a transition that explains the quote’s origin.
Sentence 3: A sentence that explains the quote information.
Sentences 4a and b: Further elaboration that explains the significance of the source information.
Sentence 5: A sentence connecting the quotation to the paper’s argument.
[1] For a more detailed discussion of these kinds of templates see They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein
Additional They Say/I Say Templates can be found here.
Wondering how your annotated bibliography can help you? Check this out.


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Writing and Rhetoric by Heather Hopkins Bowers, Anthony Ruggiero, and Jason Saphara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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