Quoting and paraphrasing in your research

Quoting and paraphrasing the work of authors engaged in writing about your topic adds expert support to your research papers.

In any study of a subject, people engage in a “conversation” of sorts, where they read/listen to others’ ideas, consider them with their own viewpoints, and then develop their own stance. It is important in this “conversation” to acknowledge when we use someone else’s words or idea. If we didn’t come up with it ourselves, we need to tell our readers who did come up with it.


Quoting is when you use the exact words from a source. You will need to put quotation marks around the words that are not your own and cite where they came from.

Follow these tips when quoting from sources

  • Choose passages that seem especially well phrased or are unique to the author or subject matter.
  • Be selective in your quotations. Avoid over-quoting.
  • You don’t have to quote an entire passage. Use ellipses (. . .) to indicate omitted words.
  • It's okay (and sometimes advisable) to introduce the author’s name before the quotation.
  • Before or after quoting a passage, include an explanation in which you interpret the significance of the quote for the reader.
  • If you are having trouble paraphrasing (putting something into your own words), that may be a sign that you should quote it.
  • Shorter quotes are generally incorporated into the flow of a sentence while longer quotes may be set off in “blocks.” Check your citation handbook for quoting guidelines.


Paraphrasing is when you state the ideas from another source in your own words. Even when you use your own words, if the ideas or facts came from another source, you need to cite where they came from.

Follow these tips when paraphrasing

  • Don’t take a passage and change a word here or there. If the information is too close to the original (even if it follows a similar sentence structure), it may be considered plagiarism.
  • Read the passage, reflect upon it, and restate it in a way that is meaningful to you within the context of your paper.
  • After reading the passage that you want to paraphrase, look away from it, and imagine explaining the main point to another person.
  • After paraphrasing the passage, go back and compare it to the original. Are there any phrases that have come directly from the original source? If so, you should rephrase it or put the original in quotation marks.

If you cannot state an idea in your own words, you should use the direct quotation.

Ideally, papers will contain a good balance of direct quotations, paraphrasing and your own thoughts. Too much reliance on quotations and paraphrasing can make it seem like you are only using the work of others and have no original thoughts on the topic.

Always properly cite an author’s original idea, whether you have directly quoted or paraphrased it. If you have questions about how to cite properly in your chosen citation style check out the Quick How Tos on three of the most common citation styles: APA, Chicago, or MLA. Another helpful source is the Purdue Online Writing Lab. The University of Nevada, Reno Libraries also have the latest print copies of various citation guides in our reference collection at the Research Help desk.

University Writing Center

The University Writing Center provides helpful guidance on quoting and paraphrasing and explains how to make sure your paraphrasing does not veer into plagiarism. If you have any questions about quoting or paraphrasing, or need help at any point in the writing process, schedule an appointment with the Writing Center.