Using information from other sources

Assignment writing often involves incorporating information from published sources into your own work to support your ideas.

There are three main ways to do this:

  • Quotes – where you use someone else’s exact words.
  • Paraphrasing – when you include ideas from a source in your own words without changing the original meaning.
  • Summarising – which involves putting the main ideas from a source into your own words.


Quotations can be used for:

  • Definitions or part of a definition.
  • Principle, laws or regulations.
  • Including information that's very important, well expressed or difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning.

When using a quotation in your assignment:

  • Make sure it is necessary. As a general rule, try not use more than one direct quote per 500 words.
  • Place the quote inside quotation marks ('...' or "...") to show you're using someone else's words.
  • Acknowledge the source in the body of your assignment (an in-text reference or citation) and in the reference list. The Open Polytechnic uses the APA referencing system.


Paraphrasing is when you rewrite what someone said or wrote in your own words, without changing the original meaning. When you paraphrase it is important to:

  • Change the structure of the text you are using.
  • Change the words.

Tips for paraphrasing:

  • Ensure you understand the meaning of the text you are paraphrasing.
  • Take note of any specialised words that carry the main meaning or may be subject specific. You will need to include them otherwise you may change the meaning.
  • Note keywords that can be changed, without changing the meaning.
  • Write down the main ideas and concepts in your own words. Don’t include entire sentences. Doing this without looking at the text will help you to write in your own words.
  • Check your work against the original to ensure you have the meaning right.

It is also important to specify where you got your information.


Summarising is when you include the main ideas from a text in your own words. Summaries give a broad overview, so are much shorter than the original text. Like quotes and paraphrasing they must be attributed to the original author.

You can also combine information and ideas from a number of different sources and rewriting them in your own words. This is known as synthesising.

When paraphrasing, summarising or synthesising original texts, you should ensure that:

  • you retain the original meaning.
  • your version isn’t too similar to the original text (otherwise you may be guilty of plagiarism).

More about quotes, paraphrasing and summarising

Quoting - Massey University website (opens in new window)

Quoting, paraphrasing and summarising – Purdue Online Writing Lab website (opens in new window)

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