What is the difference between paraphrasing and quoting?

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The difference between paraphrasing and quoting is that when quoting you use the author’s exact words, and when paraphrasing you use the author’s ideas but put them in your own words.

In writing, we often have to use other people’s ideas. There is nothing wrong with this. We are often researching, or writing about what other people think. Obviously in order to write about what people think, you need to use their ideas. It is important, however, when you use another person’s ideas that you give that person credit for the ideas.

Giving credit where credit is due is a complicated business. How do you know when it is better to use an author’s words, or when to paraphrase the author’s ideas? You do not want to overuse quotation. First of all, quotations should be short. A quotation should not be longer than twenty or thirty words in an essay in most cases, because your goal in an essay is to use the quotation only as evidence. Let’s say you are writing about To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, and you want to quote Atticus’s views on courage.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway …(Ch. 11)

This is a direct quotation. In this case, if we were to use this quotation, we would be using the author’s words directly. For example, I might write this:

Atticus tells the children that he wants them to see that real courage is “when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway” (11).

You can see that I used some of the words from the quotation, and introduced.

It is very important that when you paraphrase you still credit the author. You are still using the author’s words, even if it is not a word for word quotation. Let’s say that instead of the above, I had written this in my essay:

Atticus tells his children that he wants them to understand that real courage is not having a gun in your hand. Real courage is when you know you’re beaten before you even begin, but you begin anyway (11).

In this case, I still included the citation. (You should be citing with page numbers, not chapter numbers, but every book is different so for simplicity’s sake I am using chapter numbers.) It is extremely important to give an author credit in your essay, which is known as in-text citation, and at the end of the paper in a Works Cited page, in order to protect yourself from plagiarism and to be an honest writer. After all, you want your words to be your own. You want to be your own writer, and you want your words to stand out.

When quoting, you want to choose those few words that will best support your argument and help your reader make sense of what you are trying to say. When paraphrasing, you want to use your own words, but the author's meaning.

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