Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Citing, paraphrasing, and quoting

I had a student recently ask about when they should cite and when they should quote. What they really meant was when should they paraphrase, and when should they quote... I think. So I wrote a short post on the differences between the three.

Citing happens all the time, regardless of whether we are quoting or paraphrasing. 

Whenever we draw on an expert's view in our own words (i.e. paraphrasing), we cite without quote marks and include an in text citation: (Author, date). This allows us to draw on many experts at once. We can create a synthesis. We put a normal APA reference for each author in our reference list. For example:

Perceptions are how we make sense of the world, by selecting, organising, and interpreting what goes on around us. We can easily make judgement and attribution errors that feed our assumptions false information, as well as projecting onto others what we feel ourselves. Both can lead to biases and defensiveness (Daft, 2008; Hellriegel, Jackson & Slocum, 1999; Grant, 2013). 

Whenever we use an expert's actual words, we put the words in quote marks, and include an in text citation plus a page number, because a quote comes from an exact place in a numbered document: (Author, date, p. x). With regard to the page number, we treat any exact 'thing' from an exact place as a quote: models, images, words, graphs, diagrams. We can't put these objects in quote marks, but we do provide the page number so the reader can find it. This format tends to limit synthesising, so we limit quoting. As with paraphrasing, we include a normal APA reference in our reference list. For example:

The University of Michigan’s call centre were underperforming with their alumni fund-raising. Adam Grant's (2013) research found that funds raised were largely applied to scholarships. He had staff each meet with a scholarship recipient for five minutes, clearly showing call-centre staff the results of their efforts. This shifted the staff mindset from 'begging' to focusing on WHY they were raising money. This shift in mental model doubled the "calls per hour and minutes on the phone per week". "Revenue quintupled: callers averaged $412 [per week] before meeting the scholarship recipient and more than $2000 afterward" (Grant, 2013, p. 207). 

When it comes to quoting, we should keep our quotes as short as possible, because each expert will have their own narrative 'voice'. It is tiring for the reader to be constantly switching between different rhythms and tones in the writing. Think of quotes as seasoning on the writing. A little to add piquancy, but not so much as to overpower the dish. 

Almost all the time - perhaps 95% or more - we will paraphrase what the original author has said as per point 1. With some writers, this will be closer to 100%.

A little clarification goes a long way.



  • Daft, R. L. (2008). The Leadership Experience (4th ed.). Thomson-South Western. 
  • Grant, A. (2013). Give and Take: A revolutionary approach to success. Penguin 
  • Hellriegel, D., Jackson, S., & Slocum, J. (1999). Management. International Thomson Publishing.
  • Young, S. (2017). Mental Models

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks for your feedback. The elves will post it shortly.