Key Creative Differences Between Summarizing and Paraphrasing

Our ideas are all part of shared wisdom that comes from the work of others. Our experiences, interactions, and studies all influence the tone and quality of our ideas.

Some of the best writers aren’t afraid to incorporate the work of others into their own. Two of the most common ways to do this are to quote, paraphrase, and summarize the work of others.

This article will explain the difference between summarizing and paraphrasing.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

But before we start, here’s an overview of the three ways you can incorporate source text into your work.


Quotations are useful when you want to keep the source writing accessible. Quotes are lines lifted directly from the source material. They must be verbatim, and you must credit the original author. 

Quotes are most effective when quoting someone influential or someone who’s an authority on a given subject. Quotes carry a lot of weight because they add credibility to your writing. This is especially true when the quote supports the stance you’re presenting.


Paraphrasing refers to the act of presenting another person’s ideas in your own words. A paraphrased passage shouldn’t be too similar to the source material, and you must acknowledge the person whose ideas you are presenting.

Paraphrasing is useful for clarifying the source passage. This is often the case in academic writing, where much of the source material can be complicated and jargon-filled.


Summarizing is the act of shortening and simplifying a source material so that readers can easily understand its main idea. Summaries must also acknowledge the source material. But unlike paraphrases, summaries cover only the most impactful concepts.

Summarizes are useful for complex source material that is either too long or too complicated for most readers. You can compare summarizing to the way a mother bird feeds her chicks. The mother bird predigests the food, making it easier for the chicks to consume and digest. 

The Difference Between Summarizing and Paraphrasing

The main difference between paraphrasing and summarizing lies in their functions. While both these concepts borrow ideas from another’s work, they differ in that:

Paraphrases clarify a message. This means they must encapsulate the entire source idea. Additionally, paraphrases don’t need to be shorter than their source text.

Summaries retell only the main points of a piece, making it easier for readers to understand the source text. Summaries don’t cover everything a writer mentions, and they are always shorter than their source materials. They focus only on the main idea of the original text.

In Summary

Quotations, paraphrases, and summaries are all techniques that all writers use to incorporate the work of others into their text. Quotations cite an author’s exact words, while paraphrases state them in a clearer manner. Summaries condense and simplify an author’s message to allow for an easier understanding among readers.

All these techniques require writers to attribute the source’s original source to avoid plagiarism. Now that you understand the difference between summarizing and paraphrasing, you are better oriented with your writing techniques. Use them well; use them effectively. Good luck, writer!

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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