Distinguishing Between a Summary & a Paraphrase

Academic writing necessitates specific skills to effectively incorporate others’ thoughts or comments into one’s work, often through quotes, paraphrases, and summaries. Understanding the subtle distinctions between these techniques is crucial for producing a compelling piece of writing.

Key Takeaways

  • Summary is a condensed version of another author’s main ideas, written in your own words and is always shorter than the original text.
  • Paraphrasing involves presenting another author’s ideas in your own words and restructured sentences, while retaining the original meaning, and can be of the same length as the original text.
  • Summarizing focuses on shortening the original text, while paraphrasing emphasizes restructuring sentences while preserving the same idea.


In a research paper, the majority of the writing is in your own words. However, there are instances when it’s necessary to incorporate others’ thoughts to support or counter a point of view. You can either quote an author verbatim within inverted commas or condense the source material into a few lines to emphasize the other expert’s main points. Summary becomes a valuable tool for conveying ideas when wording is not as important. When it’s unnecessary to present the entire text and sufficient to present the main ideas in your own words, summarizing is the best way to bolster your point of view. Credit should still be attributed to the original author.

Summaries are always smaller than the source and aim to provide a broad overview or essence to the audience.


Paraphrasing allows a writer to utilize another author’s words in such a way that the text is altered, but the intended meaning remains the same. There is some condensation, and the focus is primarily on presenting the main points to the audience. The text’s credit is still given to the original author. When paraphrasing, it is essential to concentrate on presenting the author’s ideas in your own words by altering the sentence structure. The primary goal behind paraphrasing is to capture the essence, regardless of changes in word count or the number of sentences.

Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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