exploring medical writting




How to summarize, paraphrase, and quote: Definition and practice

2018.07.19 0+

You need to learn to summarize, paraphrase, and quote to incorporate other writer’s words and ideas into your own writing. Considering the strict academic honesty rules and the increased effectiveness in detecting plagiarized content, these skills are essential for academic writing.

What is the difference between the summarizing, paraphrasing and quoting?

To summarize means to render main points and ideas of the author in your own words. This includes paraphrasing and (possibly) quoting from the original. A distinctive feature of a summary is that it renders all the major ideas of the original, but is significantly shorter than the original text.

A summary is used:

  • In the introduction to rhetorical analysis of an article, critical analysis of a scientific research, or a response-essay.

  • When the article relates to a larger debate, a certain point of view may be presented by summarizing an article of one author and indicating all the points he makes to support his argument (for example, in the essay about whether NASA spending is worth it, you may provide a summary of the article by Lauren Lyons, which contains many arguments in favor of state funding of NASA)

To paraphrase means to rend facts and ideas in your own words. You may paraphrase a single sentence or write a summative paraphrase rendering the idea of a particular passage.

A paraphrase is used:

  • When citing one of the author’s examples or ideas to sustain your own argument.

  • When rendering facts, which are not common knowledge.

Quoting means presenting author’s words as they appear in the cited source.

Direct quotations are used:

  • To present peculiar term or notion

  • To demonstrate author’s style

Note that the attribution to the author (that is a parenthetical or a footnote citation) is necessary for all the three variants.

How to summarize?

To write a summary, read the whole text and formulate its main idea in one or two sentences. Therefore, indicate what points the author makes to support this idea.

While a paraphrase may stand as a separate idea, author being mentioned only in the parentheses, summary should contain the indication of the title of the work and its author. It is also beneficial to mention author’s position or authorship of a relevant book, which establishes him as an expert in the field.

The useful patterns are:

In the 2004 article “What You Eat Is Your Business”, Radley Balko argues…

Radley Balko, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, in “What You Eat Is Your Business” argues…

According to Radley Balko in “What You Eat Is Your Business”, …

Radley Balko argues in his prominent article “What You Eat Is Your Business” that …  

To emphasize that you still discuss author’s ideas rather than give your own, use “author tags” – last name or a pronoun (he/she) with a relevant verb.

List of Author Tags Verbs
arguesremindshelps us understand
concludespresents the ideacreates the impression
observespoints outemphasizes

How to paraphrase?

As it has been mentioned, a paraphrase may be of a particular sentence and summative, of a whole passage. The latter is very close to a summary, the difference being that a summary should present all main points of the author, while a paraphrase is the rendering of those ideas, which suit your own purpose only.

It is beneficial, but not necessary to introduce the author and the title of the work, where the idea can be found, as long as you provide a citation.

How to quote?

Direct quotations are used to give a feel of the author’s style or present a particular term or unexpected word choice. The quoted words and phrases should naturally fit into your own sentence not interrupting its flaw.

If you quote the whole sentence – it should appear after the introductory phase explaining the relevance of the quotation (essentially, how it is linked to what you have said previously, how it supports the points you are making).

It is not recommended to directly quote more than one sentence. However, in a longer paper, you may quote a longer passage to give a full idea of author’s argument on the point. Any larger pieces (more than 40 words) should be presented in a block quotation.

Note it is important not to overuse direct quotations – they should take up not more than 10% of the paper.


To get a better idea of summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting, read a short argumentative article concerned with the debate on fast food regulation by Radley Balko. Therefore, you will have a chance to observe actual summary example, paraphrase example and quote example based on one text!

What You Eat Is Your Business

by Radley Balko

This June, Time magazine and ABC News will host a three-day summit on obesity. ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who last December anchored the prime time special “How to Get Fat Without Really Trying,” will host. Judging by the scheduled program, the summit promises to be pep rally for media, nutrition activists, and policy makers — all agitating for a panoply of government anti-obesity initiatives, including prohibiting junk food in school vending machines, federal funding for new bike trails and sidewalks, more demanding labels on foodstuffs, restrictive food marketing to children, and prodding the food industry into more “responsible” behavior. In other words, bringing government between you and your waistline.

Politicians have already climbed aboard. President Bush earmarked $200 million in his budget for anti-obesity measures. State legislatures and school boards across the country have begun banning snacks and soda from school campuses and vending machines. Sen. Joe Lieberman and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, among others, have called for a “fat tax” on high-calorie foods. Congress is now considering menu-labeling legislation, which would force restaurants to send every menu item to the laboratory for nutritional testing.

This is the wrong way to fight obesity. Instead of manipulating or intervening in the array of food options available to American consumers, our government ought to be working to foster a sense of responsibility in and ownership of our own health and well-being. But we’re doing just the opposite.

For decades now, America’s health care system has been migrating toward socialism. Your well-being, shape, and condition have increasingly been deemed matters of “public health,” instead of matters of personal responsibility. Our lawmakers just enacted a huge entitlement that requires some people to pay for other people’s medicine. Sen. Hillary Clinton just penned a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine calling for yet more federal control of health care. All of the Democrat candidates for president boasted plans to push health care further into the public sector. More and more, states are preventing private health insurers from charging overweight and obese clients higher premiums, which effectively removes any financial incentive for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

We’re becoming less responsible for our own health, and more responsible for everyone else’s. Your heart attack drives up the cost of my premiums and office visits. And if the government is paying for my anti-cholesterol medication, what incentive is there for me to put down the cheeseburger?

This collective ownership of private health then paves the way for even more federal restrictions on consumer choice and civil liberties. A society where everyone is responsible for everyone else’s well-being is a society more apt to accept government restrictions, for example — on what McDonalds can put on its menu, what Safeway or Kroger can put on grocery shelves, or holding food companies responsible for the bad habits of unhealthy consumers.

A growing army of nutritionist activists and food industry foes are egging the process on. Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest has said, “we’ve got to move beyond `personal responsibility.’” The largest organization of trial lawyers now encourages its members to weed jury pools of candidates who show “personal responsibility bias.” The title of Jennings special from last December — “How to Get Fat Without Really Trying” — reveals his intent, which is to relieve viewers of responsibility for their own condition. Indeed, Jennings ended the program with an impassioned plea for government intervention to fight obesity.

The best way to alleviate the obesity “public health” crisis is to remove obesity from the realm of public health. It doesn’t belong there anyway. It’s difficult to think of anything more private and of less public concern than what we choose to put into our bodies. It only becomes a public matter when we force the public to pay for the consequences of those choices. If policymakers want to fight obesity, they’ll halt the creeping socialization of medicine, and move to return individual Americans’ ownership of their own health and well-being back to individual Americans.

That means freeing insurance companies to reward healthy lifestyles, and penalize poor ones. It means halting plans to further socialize medicine and health care. Congress should also increase access to medical and health savings accounts, which give consumers the option of rolling money reserved for health care into a retirement account. These accounts introduce accountability into the health care system, and encourage caution with one’s health care dollar. When money we spend on health care doesn’t belong to our employer or the government, but is money we could devote to our own retirement, we’re less likely to run to the doctor at the first sign of a cold.

We’ll all make better choices about diet, exercise, and personal health when someone else isn’t paying for the consequences of those choices.

Summary example :

In the article “What You Eat Is Your Business”, Radley Balko argues that obesity should be tackled by transforming the system of health care and making people responsible for their food and lifestyle choices. He demonstrates that the “collective ownership of private health” benefits those who make unhealthy choices and, thus, works as a disincentive to leading a healthy lifestyle. In addition, Balko emphasizes that state regulations infringe on the rights of citizens. Therefore, the author concludes with the discussion of actual policy measures, which could solve the problem of obesity, such as introducing insurances rewarding healthy lifestyle and providing the ability to transfer money reserved for health care into a retirement account.    

Paraphrase example:

According to Radley Balko (2004), a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, moving away from personal responsibility is a growing, yet harmful trend.

In the article “Don’t Blame the Eater”, David Zincenko (2002) demonstrates many hidden manipulations fast food chains use to make people consume more without even realizing it. Nevertheless, people might have been more eager to recognize and make informed food choices if they knew they would pay more, not less, for health care once their lifestyle choices are poor (Balko, 2004).

Quotation example:

Balko claims that “collective ownership of private health” benefits those who make unhealthy choices.

Nevertheless, Radley Balko, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, contests the popular view that fast food chains should be regulated. “The best way to alleviate the obesity “public health” crisis is to remove obesity from the realm of public health,” claims the author (Balko, 2004).

Now, it’s your turn! )

Read the following article presenting the opposing view on tackling obesity and summarize it in 4 to 6 sentences including one direct quotation.

Don’t Blame the Eater 

by David Zinczenko

If ever there were a newspaper headline custom-made for Jay Leno’s monologue, this was it. Kids taking on McDonald’s this week, suing the company for making them fat. Isn’t that like middle-aged men suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

I tend to sympathize with these portly fast-food patrons, though. Maybe that’s because I used to be one of them.

I grew up as a typical mid-1980’s latchkey kid. My parents were split up, my dad off trying to rebuild his life, my mom working long hours to make the monthly bills. Lunch and dinner, for me, was a daily choice between McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut. Then as now, these were the only available options for an American kid to get an affordable meal. By age 15, I had packed 212 pounds of torpid teenage tallow on my once lanky 5-foot-10 frame.

Then I got lucky. I went to college, joined the Navy Reserves and got involved with a health magazine. I learned how to manage my diet. But most of the teenagers who live, as I once did, on a fast-food diet won’t turn their lives around: They’ve crossed under the golden arches to a likely fate of lifetime obesity. And the problem isn’t just theirs — it’s all of ours.

Before 1994, diabetes in children was generally caused by a genetic disorder — only about 5 percent of childhood cases were obesity-related, or Type 2, diabetes. Today, according to the National Institutes of Health, Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 30 percent of all new childhood cases of diabetes in this country.

Not surprisingly, money spent to treat diabetes has skyrocketed, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that diabetes accounted for $2.6 billion in health care costs in 1969. Today’s number is an unbelievable $100 billion a year.

Shouldn’t we know better than to eat two meals a day in fast-food restaurants? That’s one argument. But where, exactly, are consumers — particularly teenagers — supposed to find alternatives? Drive down any thoroughfare in America, and I guarantee you’ll see one of our country’s more than 13,000 McDonald’s restaurants. Now, drive back up the block and try to find someplace to buy a grapefruit.

Complicating the lack of alternatives is the lack of information about what, exactly, we’re consuming. There are no calorie information charts on fast-food packaging, the way there are on grocery items. Advertisements don’t carry warning labels the way tobacco ads do. Prepared foods aren’t covered under Food and Drug Administration labeling laws. Some fast-food purveyors will provide calorie information on request, but even that can be hard to understand.

For example, one company’s Web site lists its chicken salad as containing 150 calories; the almonds and noodles that come with it (an additional 190 calories) are listed separately. Add a serving of the 280-calorie dressing, and you’ve got a healthy lunch alternative that comes in at 620 calories. But that’s not all. Read the small print on the back of the dressing packet and you’ll realize it actually contains 2.5 servings. If you pour what you’ve been served, you’re suddenly up around 1,040 calories, which is half of the government’s recommended daily calorie intake. And that doesn’t take into account that 450-calorie super-size Coke.

Make fun if you will of these kids launching lawsuits against the fast-food industry, but don’t be surprised if you’re the next plaintiff. As with the tobacco industry, it may be only a matter of time before state governments begin to see a direct line between the $1 billion that McDonald’s and Burger King spend each year on advertising and their own swelling health care costs.

And I’d say the industry is vulnerable. Fast-food companies are marketing to children a product with proven health hazards and no warning labels. They would do well to protect themselves, and their customers, by providing the nutrition information people need to make informed choices about their products. Without such warnings, we’ll see more sick, obese children and more angry, litigious parents. I say, let the deep-fried chips fall where they may.