To quote, or to paraphrase, that is the question

When you are writing the literature review chapter of your PhD dissertation, you will confront this question several times. Since you will be using the works of other authors to build a base for your study, you will need to frequently refer to what they have said about the concerned issue. Ideally, there must be a balance between quoting verbatim and paraphrasing. The former will present the exact words of the author, while the latter will demonstrate your own understanding of the matter and ability to present the idea clearly. Following the rule I suggest here will definitely help:

  • Verbatim quotes must be used when you want to state exactly what the author says. In case the terminology or vocabulary used is significant, or the style used by the author uses a particular tone that you wish to convey, then quoting will be advisable. For studies in language and literature using quotes is preferred, since the style and vocabulary is of essence.
  • Paraphrasing must be done when you need to present the content in a crisp and precise manner. You can simply take the core idea and express it in your own words. Also, when the actual text is complicated and needs to be simplified for your project, then you must paraphrase.

You have to decide whether you want to paraphrase or use quotes. Correct and balanced use of both these elements in the review chapter will leave a positive impression on the examiners. You must be able to choose and use the most relevant quotations. Also state clearly how the quotation or the statements you are paraphrasing relate to your argument. Correct positioning of the quotes is vital and the readers must be explained why a specific quote is required.

Another factor that must be remembered when quoting or paraphrasing text is citation. You have to acknowledge the authors, whether you are using their words or ideas. Simply using a number of quotations in your review will not make it strong unless you are able to justify their use. It will be a good idea to consult your research guide before you make the crucial decision about quoting or paraphrasing.

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