19. Adding Other People’s Ideas

Li boHere are three ways to use other people’s ideas in your own essay: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

Quotations must be identical to the original. Choose a quotation that sounds very special, descriptive, or has a very important or interesting fact or idea. Identify your source, then write the quotation. Here’s an example from way back in the 700s of two Chinese poets and friends who wandered the vastness of their country putting their stories into poems something like Dillon, the Beatles, or Willie Nelson have done with their music and songs:

The famous Chinese poet Li Bo once told his old friend Du Fu, “I send you this letter across a thousand miles of longing.”

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. In a paraphrase you don’t change your source’s original idea or meaning, but you use your own words and explanations to express your source’s message. Here’s an example:

In my own experience living in another country, I understand even better why the Chinese poet Li Bo told his friend Du Fu that the longing he felt to see him was as wide as the great distance in miles that separated them.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material. Example:

Li Bo’s long letter to his friend, Du Fu, is a wonderful example of several poetic techniques while also communicating his deep admiration of his friend and sadness he felt because they were separated by a great distance for a long time.

Why use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries?
Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries serve many purposes. You might use them to:

  • Provide support for claims or add credibility to your writing
  • Give you own interpretation about what you believe an author really means
  • Refer to work that leads up to the work you are now doing
  • Give examples of several points of view on a subject
  • Call attention to a position that you wish to agree or disagree with
  • Highlight a particularly striking phrase, sentence, or passage by quoting the original
  • Distance yourself from the original by quoting it in order to cue readers that the words are not your own
  • Expand the breadth or depth of your writing

*See https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/563/01/