How to Paraphrase a Quote Without Plagiarizing

Before learning how to paraphrase a quote, you must understand its context, cultural, political, and hidden connotations. When paraphrasing, it is your responsibility to portray the author’s meaning and any subtext accurately.

Note down everything that catches your eye. If you believe that a particular aspect (word, phrase, or thought) contributes to the quotation’s central theme, note it. Search them up if there are any obscure words, concepts, or meanings.

One method writers employ to avoid plagiarism is paraphrasing. In addition to straight quotations and summaries, paraphrasing is acceptable to incorporate another person’s work into your writing.

Sometimes, paraphrasing a quotation is more effective than quoting it directly. Let’s see what the different terms mean and how to paraphrase quotes effectively.

When paraphrasing, it is your responsibility to accurately portray the author's meaning and any subtext.
How to Paraphrase a Quote

What Does it Mean to Quote?

The author’s precise words are repeated in a quote. In certain HASS fields, such as literature studies and history, quotations are regularly utilized to bolster an argument. In other subjects, especially STEM, it’s rarely used.

Importantly, selecting pertinent quotations and presenting them accurately usually strengthens the credibility of your arguments and preserves your academic integrity.

When to Use Quotes

When an author proposes a new theory, model, concept, method, or scale or defines a notion, direct quoting may be suitable. Other reasons to use quotes include where:

  • It would be difficult to communicate the author’s thoughts in any other manner.
  • The author is a recognized expert on the topic, and their remarks will offer credibility to your argument.
  • You are asked to justify your interpretation or analysis of a literary work with examples.

Keep the quotation as concise as feasible, and include it into your argument or discussion. This involves contextualizing the quotation and commenting on it to demonstrate its relevance to your argument. All citations must include page numbers for all quotations.

How to Properly Cite Short Quotations

Different citation styles define short and long quotations differently.

For a brief quotation (two or three lines or fewer), enclose the necessary words in quotation marks and integrate them into your phrase.

Consider the following brief quotation examples. Note the format of the quotations within the sentences and the contextualization information.

Citing Long Quotations

According to the citation style, quotations longer than 30 or 40 words should be formatted as follows:

  • Separated from the remainder of the text by a blank line before and after
  • Have five spaces of indentation which may be printed in a reduced font size (Without quotation marks).

When Should You Paraphrase a Quote?

Directly quoting a source can be effective, but occasionally paraphrasing is preferable. Typically, paraphrasing makes greater sense when:

  • It’s a lengthy quote
  • The quote is poorly written, technical, or outdated.

How to Paraphrase a Quote Without Plagiarizing

1. Grasp the original quote

Before paraphrasing, grasp the quote, its context, and any cultural, political, or hidden meanings. You must express the author’s intention and subtext.

Note anything interesting. Note every word, phrase, or thought that contributes to the quote’s main point. Look up unclear terms, concepts, or meanings. If you’re paraphrasing someone from a foreign culture or time, check up on unfamiliar individuals, places, events, etc. 

2. Avoid the original words

Ensure your words convey the same idea. Use quotation marks to show that a term or phrase is not your own. Credit the quote’s author, source, and date in the text. 

Paraphrased words are yours, but the idea isn’t. Plagiarism involves not mentioning the author.

Additional Guide to Quote Effectively

1. The use of Ellipses

You must put ellipses (…) to denote where content has been removed. Your deletions should not affect the original quotation’s meaning. Where your deletions affect the original quotation, it is known as misquotation which is a grave violation of academic honesty.

2. Use square brackets []

You may need to add a word or phrase to a quotation so that it makes sense.


“Modern conceptions [of socialism] differ substantially from those of the 17th century.”

3. Inaccuracy in a Quotation.

Utilize [sic] to denote this. Do not fix problems in quotations.

Example: Clemsworth (2015) claimed “there [sic] was no proof from the office staff interviewed.”

To Wrap Up

Properly paraphrasing a quote is essential to ensure you don’t hurt the original author’s feelings or cause a reputation to plummet. Begin by understanding the original quote, and then put it in a way that makes sense to your reader. If there is a certain style of quotes you should avoid, it would be ones with a tone of certainty.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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