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1.8: Paraphrasing and Summarizing

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    Exploring paraphrasing and summarizing

    Let's explore paraphrasing and summarizing in an article about DACA recipients or "Dreamers". Figure 1.8.1 shows a young woman protesting in support of DACA.

    Woman holding sign that says "Legalize my dream"
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "DACA protest" by vpickering is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

    Look at the example quotation, paraphrase, and summary from the article “What the Supreme Court’s DACA Ruling Means for Undocumented Students and the Colleges and Universities They Attend, Today” in Table 1.8.1 below. What similarities do you notice between the quotation, paraphrase, and summary? What differences do you observe?

    Table 1.8.1 Table comparing a quotation, paraphrase and summary of an article




    In The Conversation’s “What the Supreme Court’s DACA Ruling Means for Undocumented Students and the Colleges and Universities They Attend, Today,” Sayil Camacho states, “an estimated 1.1 million undocumented children live in the United States, according to data drawn from the Census Bureau. This number includes about 100,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school every year. The most recent estimates indicate that approximately 450,000 undocumented immigrants are enrolled in colleges and universities, including some 45,000 pursuing advanced degrees.”

    In The Conversation’s “What the Supreme Court’s DACA Ruling Means for Undocumented Students and the Colleges and Universities They Attend, Today,” Sayil Camacho states that over a million children are in the United States without legal papers. The latest data that was collected by the Census Bureau also shows that almost half a million undergraduate students in higher education are undocumented. Furthermore, this number includes 45,000 students who are enrolled in graduate school.

    In The Conversation’s “What the Supreme Court’s DACA Ruling Means for Undocumented Students and the Colleges and Universities They Attend, Today,” Sayil Camacho shares that a large number of children (about 1.1. million) are in the U.S. without legal papers of which 100,000 are in high school, 450,000 in college and 45,000 in graduate school.

    Now, check the following list. Did you observe all the similarities and differences?


    • Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries all use reporting words to refer to the source.
    • Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries all report ideas from the original text.
    • Paraphrases and summaries both report ideas from the original text, but change the words and sentence structure.


    • Quotations use the same exact words from the original text, unlike paraphrases and summaries.
    • Quotations use quotation marks "..." to show which words are copied directly.
    • Summaries are shorter than the original passage, while quotations and paraphrases are closer to the same length as the original. 


    We can paraphrase a passage to show our comprehension and the meaning of a text. In essays, we might use a paraphrase to provide support for the point we are making. When we paraphrase, we capture what the text says.

    With a paraphrase we:

    • Keep the length similar to the text we are paraphrasing
    • Use our own words - they should be different from the text (unless a key term is of essence)
    • Keep the meaning the same as the original text - we do not include our opinion
    • Use a different sentence structure - change up the grammar!
    • Need to reference the writer’s name and title of the text.


    We can also demonstrate our understanding of a text by writing a summary. A summary can be short or long, but it is always significantly shorter than the original text. We might be asked to summarize a whole text or a particular point in a text, and we may have to summarize a text or passage in a sentence, a paragraph, a page, or even a whole essay.

    Examine the elements of a strong summary:

    • Starts with an introductory sentence that lists the title of the text, author and the main idea (thesis) restated in your own words

    Example: In “Title,” author states that.... (or choose a different verb, for example, claims, explains, defends, insists, asserts, compares, warns, observes, condemns, suggests, refutes, shows, or acknowledges. See the Chapter 4 Language Toolkit to learn more about reporting verbs).

    • Uses your own words to express
    • Condenses the text: it is significantly shorter than the original text
    • Gives an overview of the text
    • Accurately captures the key/main points of the original text and ignores most of the details, examples, illustrations or explanations.
    • Only contains the ideas of the original text (not our own opinion)
    • Uses academic conventions (e.g., avoid *you,* contractions such as isn’t - use is not instead - and qualifiers like really / very) + use the writer’s last name after you’ve introduced them by their full name
    • Looks like a paragraph
    • Makes sense - connect points with transition words, for instance

    To summarize, consider doing the following:

    1. Preview the text
    2. Annotate it
    3. Look for the main idea (thesis)
    4. Write a 1-sentence summary for each paragraph in your own words
    5. Write a sentence that summarizes the whole text in your own words
    6. Order key points in a way that makes sense
    7. Connect the points with transition words
    8. Avoid repetition

    Summarizing to help you read

    Let's try summarizing an article from this chapter.

    Try this!

    1. Choose a text from this chapter, for example, “Undocumented Immigrants May Actually Make American Communities Safer – Not More dangerous – New Study Finds” by Robert M. Adelman and Lesley Reid in 1.4.
    2. Write notes to prepare to summarize the reading:
      1. Author and title: 
      2. Main idea:
      3. 1-3 supporting details:  
    3. Use your notes to write a summary in 5 sentences or less.
    4. Compare your summary to your classmates What similarities and/or differences do you notice?
    5. As a fun challenge, try to condense your summary to 25 words (not including author’s name and title). You can do this individually or as a whole group.
    6. Reflect on the experience condensing an article to 25 words. Was this hard to do? Why or why not?

    Licenses and Attribution

    CC Licensed Content: Original

    Authored by Marit ter Mate-Martinsen, Santa Barbara City College. License: CC BY NC.

    This page titled 1.8: Paraphrasing and Summarizing is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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