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Writing Guide: Step 4: Summarizing & paraphrasing

This guide covers: understanding the essay question; searching databases and organising research; the writing process: critical thinking and note-taking; referencing and citing in text, and using academic language.

Step 4

Why do we use other people's work in our writing?

One of the most important learning and assessment tools at university is the writing of essays. These essays differ from the essays you wrote at school. Firstly, they are written in an academic style, and secondly, the content is often a synthesis of ideas you have collected from a wide variety of readings. Using the work of experts and researchers in various disciplines is a large part of our university study. Your lecturers want to see that you have been reading widely and well on your topic. So you will use other people’s work to:

  1. Get information

    Published work contains useful facts and ideas. Use this knowledge to formulate ideas and opinions that in turn will help you to produce your own written work.

  2. Show that you have done the reading you were supposed to do

    Very often, your subject outlines will have a list of readings that you need to do in order to write a particular assignment.

  3. Demonstrate that you have read widely on the topic

    You need to show that you have used a range of authoritative sources.

  4. Set up an argument

    You might use someone else's idea in order to disagree with it, or as a springboard for your own argument. You are expected to provide evidence to support your points.

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarising explained

Summarising & Paraphrasing activity

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Help! There are at least 5 mistakes in the following paragraph. Can you find them?

Writing is a skill and, as such, can be learnt and practised over time. Smith (2012) has shown that students “are able to acquire sufficient writing skills for first-year subjects in a short period of time”. It has been argued, however, that these students were actively supported by key staff and services at university and that it is this element of support, rather than the individual effort of the student alone, that is more integral to a student’s success with writing. Considerable gains have been made with writing success at university by situating the learning within a specific discipline or Faculty. Discipline-specific writing models and support help a student to mor quickly acquire the necessary skills for their chosen area of study (Brown, 2011). Some aspects of effective writing are universal, however, and thus a blend of generic as well as discipline-specific support structures are commonly found at universities.

Paraphrasing and Plagiarism Booklet

This booklet by the Learning Centre is very useful:

Academic Integrity Module

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country