Summarising and Paraphrasing

Summarising and Paraphrasing

Summarising means explaining an idea in a shortened form with just the main points, while paraphrasing is explaining an idea in detail in your own words, using most of the information and detail from the original source. Both skills are important for effective study and writing assessments.

Direct quotation

You should not use many direct quotes, but if you do, make sure you include the in-text reference in brackets after the quote. An assignment that has a lot of direct quotes can often be weak in the writer’s own voice, as the writer is allowing the evidence they have found to do the talking. The marker wants to know what you think about the theory or issue, not simply your repetition of experts’ opinions. As you learn more subject matter you will rely on direct quotation less and less because you will become more confident with new vocabulary and ideas, and you will interpret and discuss ideas of others using your own words. Instead, you will learn to summarise.

Block quotations are those that are longer than 40 words; they should be used very rarely - certainly no more than once in a 1000 - 2500 word assessment. The quote is formatted to appear as a freestanding, single-spaced block of text within the paragraph. To create this block, indent the quote from both margins by an extra 1.5cm. It does not need quote marks, but it does need a reference like other quotes. (Note: Do not end a paragraph with a block quote.) If you are unsure about using block quotations correctly, then paraphrase or summarise at least some of the information so that the directly quoted part is less than 40 words.



Paraphrasing is not substituting a few words or rearranging sentences. Think about what the original writer is trying to say and write a completely new sentence if you can. If there is a key phrase, well-expressed by the original writer, then use it as a short direct quotation (see above). It is poor writing practice and not acceptable to create a long paraphrase from a source and simply put a reference citation at the end. Once again this is not showing what you think about the source or how it fits into your work.


There is an art to good summarising. Keep in mind that your purpose is to use the source material by linking the ideas in the summary to the general point you are making. Summarising is the best way to show your voice and convince the reader you understand what you are talking about.

When quoting, paraphrasing and summarising you must indicate the source with an in-text reference and transcribe full details of the source in your reference list.