Quick Tips Part 8: When to Quote, Paraphrase, and Summarize in Your Papers

Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are all crucial to writing a persuasive, well-reasoned paper. But do you know when and how to use each one? The chart below can help with that.

Citation Technique Key Points When to Use It
Quoting
  • Use exact language of original source
  • Put quotation marks around original language
  • Use proper attribution
  • Avoid using quotes too often
  • Indent quotes of several lines (block quotes)
  • The language of the original text is important
  • The quote lends authority to the argument you are making
  • Paraphrasing or summarizing the text would make it lose some of its meaning or power
  • There is no other way to say something
Paraphrasing
  • Restate the original text in your own words
  • Restated text should have approximately same level of detail as original
  • Wording, sentence structure, and order of ideas should be significantly different from original
  • Faithful to the original meaning of the text
  • Use proper attribution
  • While quotes can be distracting, paraphrasing preserves continuity of style in your paper
  • You want to simplify or clarify vocabulary, sentence structure, or arguments of original text
  • You want to put technical language into language more appropriate for your audience
  • You want to show you’ve understood the text by stating it in your own words
Summarizing
  • Restate the original text in your own words
  • Should be much more condensed than the original
  • States only the main ideas
  • Wording, sentence structure, and order of ideas should be significantly different from original
  • Faithful to the original meaning of the text
  • Use proper attribution
  • The text you are summarizing supports your argument or provides background information
  • You want to draw attention to the points that are relevant to your paper
  • You want to leave out extraneous material
  • You want to simplify the material

Want more tips on how to write a paper?  Check out The Secrets of Top Students!

Quick Tips Part 5: How to Come Up with a Thesis

By Stefanie Weisman

If you’re a high school or college student, you probably dread having to come up with a thesis.  A thesis is the argument you make in your paper based on research and/or your own experience.  Sometimes a thesis will come to you very quickly, in a flash of inspiration.  But most of the time, it takes a lot more work.

When writing a research paper, consider yourself part of a scholarly debate.  It’s perfectly acceptable – even encouraged – to challenge the ideas you read in a book or heard from your teacher.  A thesis should be your own unique, original contribution to the debate.

To come up with a thesis, think critically as you read books, articles, and other sources.  You should constantly ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did a person or character do something?  What motivates him/her?
  • Who/ What is responsible for an event or action?
  • What is the cause of something?  What is the effect of something?
  • What is the significance of an action or event?
  • What are some potential flaws in an author’s argument or idea?  Are there other possible explanations?
  • What do you think about an issue?  Do you agree with the given interpretation?  Why or why not?
  • How did an event or action take place?  Why did it take place the way it did?
As you do research, try thinking like a reporter – always ask “who, what, where, when, why, and how?”

Do you have any tips for coming up with a thesis?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 3: Common Grammar Mistakes All College Students Should Avoid

Make sure you know the difference between . . .

  1.  Your vs. You’re
    • “Your” is the second person possessive adjective and describes something as belonging to you.
      • Ex.: Your paper is written very well.
    • “You’re” is the contraction of “you are.”
      • Ex.: You’re going to do very well on this test.
  2. Its vs. It’s
    • “Its” is a possessive adjective meaning “of it” or “belonging to it.”
      • Ex.: I love that bakery.  Its bread is to die for.
    • “It’s” is the contraction of “it is” or “it has.”
      • Ex.: It’s also got amazing coffee.
  3. There vs. Their vs. They’re
    • “There” can indicate a place, introduce a noun or clause, or be used for emphasis.
      • Ex.: I’m going to be sitting over there.
    • “Their” is the third-person plural possessive adjective meaning “of them” or “belonging to them.”
      • Ex.: I don’t like our new neighbors.  Their dog was barking all night.
    • “They’re” is the contraction of “they are.”
      • Ex.: They’re buying a house.
  4. Who’s vs. Whose
    • “Who’s” is the contraction of “who is” or “who has.”
      • Ex.: Who’s going to the baseball game tonight?
    • “Whose” is the possessive form of “who.”
      • Ex.: Whose baseball bat is this?
  5. Who vs. Whom
    • “Who” is a subject, the person performing the action of the verb.
      • Ex.: Who wants ice cream?
    • “Whom” is an object, the person to, about, or for whom the action is being done.
      • Ex.: To whom should I send this letter?
  6. Then vs. Than
    • “Then” can mean “at that point in time,” “next,” “in addition,” “also,” “in that case,” “therefore.”
      • Ex.: The man opened the door.  Then he turned off the light.
    • “Than” is a conjunction used in comparisons.
      • Ex.: He is taller than his brother.

For more tips on grammar and writing, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 2: How to Use Citations in Your Papers

By Stefanie Weisman

Writing a paper and need help with citations?  Can’t choose between APA, MLA, and Chicago Style?  Here’s a quick overview to help you decide:

The three most common citation styles are APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style).  Your teacher may tell you which one to use, but MLA is used most often in humanities courses; APA is generally used in social sciences, engineering, and business courses; and CMS tends to be used in history courses.

All of these citation styles consist of two parts:

  1. A section at the end of your paper, in which you list all the sources you used for your paper, in alphabetical order.  In MLA style, this is called the “Works Cited” page.  In APA style, this is called  the “References” page.  And in CMS style, this is called the “Bibliography.”  In this list, you will usually have to include the author of the work, the title, the journal or anthology it comes from (if applicable), the editor or translator (if applicable), the publisher, the publisher’s location, and the date of publication.  If your source is a website, you will probably have to list the web address and the date you accessed it.
  2. Attribution for each quote, paraphrase, and summary in your paper.  Whenever you use someone else’s words or ideas, you must state the source and the page number(s) where they come from.  This may occur in the form of in-text citation, which appears within the body of the paper (as in the case of APA and MLA); or in the form of footnotes or endnotes (as in the case of CMS).
You do NOT need attribution when:

  • You state your own, original ideas.
  • You state something that is common knowledge.

If you’re in doubt about whether something needs attribution, however, you’re better off citing it just to be on the safe side.

 

Here are some great online resources to help you with citations.

Online Guidelines:

  1. Bedford/ St. Martin’s Website guide to researching and documenting sources
  2. The OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab

Online Citation Generators:

  • Griffith University provides a free online referencing tool in which you select what citation style you are using and the type of source you are citing.  It then shows you an example of how to format that citation.
  • Son of a Citation Machine is another free online source in which you choose your citation style and enter information about your source in order to view the correctly formatted citation.
  • EasyBib provides a free citation generator for MLA format.
  • You can also use Zotero to organize your research and generate citations automatically.  This requires you to download some free software.

What are some tools you like to use?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

 

Update on The Secrets of Top Students: First Translation!

I’m excited to announce that my book, The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College, is now available in Chinese!  It’s being sold in Taiwan and you can find it here.  According to Google Translate, the title is “Gifted students do not stay up late! To get into elite precision Learning: time management, note and sit secret.”  I’m sure in Chinese it sounds a little more elegant.

The Secrets of Top Students in Chinese!

The Secrets of Top Students in Chinese!

In other news, my book is now available on the Staples website.

I’d also like to thank The Study Dude for highlighting my book in The Voice Magazine.

Secrets of Top Students (and Other) Updates

Many thanks to Nancy Ruhling for writing an article about me that appeared in the Huffington Post!  I am now officially an “Astoria Character.”  Check out the article here.

In other news, I’m super excited to be giving a talk about academic success at Stern College/ Yeshiva University next week.  I’ll be introducing the SMARTER system (SMARTER is an acronym for some of my top studying strategies).

I also recently went on a trip to Turkey.  Did you know that the city of Istanbul is full of beautiful, friendly cats?  It was like I had died and gone to heaven!

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4 Ways to Survive School Even If You Don’t Have a Time Machine (Guest Post)

Alexandra Harmening is a recently graduated writer who loves avocados and is currently living 365 Days of Pride and Prejudice.

While trying to squeeze my undergraduate degree into three years, things often seemed more than a little bit hectic. I frequently informed professors that I was working on discovering how to be in two places at once. But that one never really panned out.

Sometimes it is hard to keep your sanity as a student. From homework to internships to some semblance of a social life squeezed in between, the undergrad years brim with busyness. Fortunately, there are four healthy habits that can help students survive school and still succeed, even without a time machine.

The author giving her valedictory speech.

The author giving her graduation speech.

1. Jumpstart Projects

One of the only ways that I made it through school with my grades intact was starting papers and projects as soon as they were assigned. For my senior these this meant breaking ground on research six months early. For end of the semester papers, this typically meant checking out resources from the library during the first or second week of school.

Working ahead is probably the inverse of a common collegiate plague called procrastination. Where procrastinating leaves you sleepless and stressed for the last month of school, completing projects ahead provides time for editing, sleeping every night, meeting to consult your professor, time to print out the paper and freedom from stress during finals week. (In fact, finals week used to be my favorite because by then everything was almost wrapped up—well, except for exams. Sound crazy? I dare you to try it.)

2. Sleep  

“There’ll be time to sleep when we graduate,” friends and I would tease as we typed furiously. Unfortunately, sleep is easily overlooked in the long list of assignments to check off during the day. But most of the time, it is easier to pause in the middle of a project, go to sleep and wake up with a fresh brain and new ideas in the morning.

Complex brain functions such as updating working memory, planning, attention, sense of time, dealing with novel situations and verbal fluency are dramatically affected by sleep-deprivation because the brain is forced to overwork, notes Jim Horne, PhD, who directed a sleep research laboratory at England’s Loughborough University.

“Sleep deprivation is bad for your brain when you are trying to do high-level [thinking] tasks” confirms University of California, San Diego researcher and author Dr. J. Christian Gillin. And sleep deprivation “may have serious consequences both on performance and on the way your brain functions.”

The lesson here: sleep is probably more valuable than we give it credit for being as college students. And in some cases, the key to success on that test tomorrow morning might actually be crashing on your pillow rather than enduring a caffeine induced all-nighter.

3. Know When to Say No

The trickiest thing about college for me was all of the amazing opportunities that sprang up each and every week. I wanted to grab them all in case it was the last time anyone ever asked me to be on the library committee or go on a hike or play in the pit orchestra for the spring musical or work as a part-time tutor or join student government or go out for coffee or—you get the picture. But one of the greatest life lessons that you can start learning while still in school is when and how to say, “No.”

Not to sound like a homework Nazi because it really is important to work towards a balanced life with fun activities and breaks, but there are too many possibilities to answer yes to them all. Unless, of course, you have a time machine.

Identifying your goals for coming to college is a realistic way to begin checking your list of commitments and deciding what are valuable priorities and what can actually be cut. This might be painful, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever be involved in amazing and enriching extracurriculars. It just means that you can’t be a member of every single school club or work three and a half jobs while taking 18 units. 

 

4. After a Hard Day of Writing, It’s Good to Write Some More

When you’ve spent the last seven hours writing, memorizing, reading and then writing some more, it is great to relax with a little more writing. Yes, that does sound crazy, but if you are a writer, then you probably know what I mean.

The idea here is to make time for your passion because sometimes, in the midst of pursuing a degree in the subject you love, it becomes easy to forget why it matters and what there is to like about it.

For me, this manifested itself in scribbling out thoughts for my own blog once a week called My Year with Elizabeth Bennet. It was a great way for me to unwind and process while remembering why I was majoring in English.

Now, an engineering major might feel that sitting down to write is one of the most stressful activities I could suggest. But taking an afternoon to pull apart a VW Bug and then reassemble it on the roof of the dorm building might sound amazing. Finding a creative outlet, one that won’t be graded by your professor at the end, is a positive way to unwind and rest. It’s any kind of practical return to your first love that you can invent.

There is probably no one formula for success that any student at any school can download to automatically work. But remembering the basics or sleep, planning ahead, setting priorities and returning to your interests will hopefully help you to find an efficient balance for your college years. And maybe after graduation, you will have developed the skills to start building that time machine.


Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Eight Rules for Writing a Great Paper (Guest Post)

Lois Weldon is a professional writer at the dissertation writing service Uk.bestdissertation.com.  She is an ESL teacher.  Her hobbies are decoupage and writing poetry.  She loves Marvel comics and homeschooling her 7-year-old son.

If you’re a college student, you’ve probably completed hundreds of writing assignments and become intimately familiar with the writing process.  But writing does not stop with graduation – you’ll have plenty of opportunities to write even after you finish school. No matter how much writing you’ve done, it never hurts to learn a few tips and tricks to facilitate the writing process.

Read these tips before writing that paper.  Photo by gudmd.haralds via Flickr.

Does this look familiar to you? Read these tips before writing that paper! Photo by gudmd.haralds via Flickr.

  1. Make an outline. The importance of having an outline can never be overstated. An outline is a blueprint for your assignment. Developing an outline will help you organize your ideas, conduct better research, and estimate the word count for every section.
  2. Take note of the structure. When doing your writing assignment, make sure it has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. An introduction should introduce your topic and provide background information, while the body of the paper should contain the supporting evidence for your paper. Lastly, provide a conclusion by summarizing your argument and putting it in context. Remember: the conclusion is your last chance to impress your readers, so make it memorable!
  3. Ensure continuity of ideas. Imagine if your paper is all over the place – that is, you discuss a certain topic in one paragraph, then introduce an entirely unrelated topic in the next paragraph. Your reader will not be pleased. It’s important to maintain continuity so your readers will be able to follow your train of thought.
  4. Keep it objective. When it comes to academic writing, what really count are facts and relevant information. While your opinion does matter, refrain from incorporating it on your writing assignment. It is imperative that you present a clear and unbiased picture based on evidence and expert studies. Unless your opinion is being asked, don’t include it in the paper.
  5. Use bullets and numbering. In some academic writing, bullet points are preferable to long-winded paragraphs. This will allow you to discuss each point in an efficient and organized manner. Plus, it’s easier on the eyes.
  6. Take note of the word count. When writing your assignment, keep in mind that too few words means you won’t be able to express your ideas effectively, while too many words can lead to superfluity or duplication of ideas. If you are given a required word count, stick to it! In your outline, indicate how many words you should allot per section.
  7. Use examples. In a writing assignment, you must show that you understand the resources and materials you gathered from research. Use concrete examples to apply what you’ve learned and support your arguments.  You should also make use of tables, statistics and figures in your paper.
  8. Cite your sources. When it comes to academic writing, citing your sources, especially when you’re borrowing an idea or theory, is a must. Plagiarism is a form of stealing and you don’t want to compromise your future just because you did not acknowledge someone else’s work.

For more tips on how to write a paper and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

How Stuyvesant Influenced My Writing Career

On Sunday, June 23, I was honored to participate in the “Writer’s Block” event at the Stuyvesant High School all-class reunion, along with eight other writers who are Stuy alumni: Richard (R.B.) Bernstein, Robert Timberg, Joe Dorinson, Peter Wortsman, Eugene Schlanger, Rebecca Pawel, Richard Herschlag, and Becky Cooper. They asked us to talk about things like the road to publication and the impact Stuyvesant has had on our writing careers. I thought I would include the questions that were asked, along with a summary of my answers.

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

(1) Tell us a little bit about your work (most recent or favorite) and what inspired you to write the book? Include why you choose the genre you did.

I just came out with my first book, The Secrets of Top Students. It’s an advice book for high school and college students on how to succeed in school. I was inspired to write this book because I felt like I had so much to share with other students. I’ve been a top student all my life – I was valedictorian of Stuy, class of ’99. I graduated from Columbia with the highest GPA in my class. I also have experience in a wide range of subjects – I have a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Art History, and a B.S. in Computer Science. Over the years I developed lots of techniques that helped me excel in school, and it just felt natural for me to write this book and share those techniques.

(2) What is your writing practice?

I just write whenever I can. My mind is usually the clearest in the morning, so I’m most productive then. I usually write at home, but I write outside whenever I can. I’m a pretty slow writer. I write a few pages, and then I spend a lot of time editing. Some days I’m much more productive than others.

(3) Describe the road to publication, from idea to release.

This idea started when I was getting my last degree, a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia. I started writing down all the techniques that I was using, and all the things that my classmates were doing wrong – things like cramming for tests, not taking enough notes, not managing their time well, not asking for clarification, etc. After I graduated I wrote the first three chapters, did a lot of research, and surveyed forty-five other top students to get their insight into what it takes to be a top student. These people are Rhodes scholars, Goldwater scholars, Fulbright recipients, students at top law and medical schools, and even a National Spelling Bee winner. A few months later I got an agent, Coleen O’Shea, and she helped me find a publisher/ get a book contract. It then took me a few more months to finish the book, which came out in May. The whole process, from idea to publication, took 4 or 5 years – but the idea was gestating for a long time.

(4) Describe how you went about finding an agent and how you went about finding a publisher or decided to self-publish?

I got a book called The Writer’s Market, which has a great listing of literary agents. I sent query letters to agents who accepted non-fiction books, and luckily I got one! She helped me work on my platform and create a book proposal. Then she submitted my proposal to a couple of publishers. I had phone interviews with a few of them, and Sourcebooks gave me a contract! I was really happy because Sourcebooks has a great education division. They publish books like The Fiske Guide to Colleges and Gruber’s Test Prep series.

(5) Was there a Stuyvesant Muse? Describe whether attending Stuyvesant High School had an impact on your writing endeavors.

I wouldn’t be here today without Stuyvesant. I learned how to be a great student here. Stuyvesant has such high standards, and the student body is so talented, that I had to develop powerful techniques to succeed. I’m sure many of you will agree with me that college was relatively easy compared to Stuyvesant. And of course, being valedictorian of Stuyvesant has a certain cachet that helped me get a book contract in the first place.

I’m not sure if I would use the term muse, but I was really inspired by Dr. Nikol, who taught AP European History. He was a great story-teller and made history come alive, as they say. I remember I did pretty poorly on the first few tests in his class because they were so detailed, and I had to readjust/ refine my study habits. He was one of the most demanding teachers I had here, but I learned so much. He was a big part of the reason why I specialized in medieval European History at Columbia. I still have a love of history, and that’s why I’m writing a historical fiction novel set on Crete during the time of the Minoans, which is currently a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Contest.