Take Notes Using Summary, Paraphrase, and Quotation

Information Literacy Module VI: Preparing to Use Information Effectively

Summary: After your first reading of a source, write a brief summary of it. A summary is a brief account of the source’s main idea and supporting points; it’s much shorter than the original source, and it uses your own words. The length of your summary will depend on the length of your source, but a three- to five-sentence paragraph should do the trick to capture the main idea and key supporting points of the source. This summary will come in handy as you prepare and execute your research assignment: first, by helping you remember and process what you’ve read; second, by helping you introduce the source to your audience in an intelligent and confident way.

Quotation: Quotation is a great opportunity to include a well-worded passage from a source or to lend authority to your research project by quoting an expert. Revisit those intriguing passages you made note of (or highlighted) earlier while you were reading, and decide which ones you can’t live without. Are there any you think you’d like to use as evidence in your research assignment? Copy them down word-for-word in your notes, being careful to put them in quotation marks and note their page or paragraph number for future reference. A simple rule to remember is that any time you use four or more exact words in a row, you’ll need to put them into quotation marks.

Paraphrase: Some sources contain useful information but are poorly worded. Other times, specialized sources are written for experts by experts and may use jargon that is specific to the field. After careful reading, you may realize that one of these sources has exactly the information you need, but that it doesn’t use language that would be natural for you or your audience. What to do? Paraphrase! Reword the information in words that your audience will understand. Even though the language is yours, the information still belongs to the source, so make sure you note the page number where you found it so you can cite it when you use it.

Guiding Your Research
Choose one of your sources, and write three sentences: a summary of the source, a quotation you find to be particularly insightful, and a paraphrase of a sentence you’d prefer to communicate in your own words.


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