Tertiary teaching in New Zealand/Academic skills/Academic writing/Using other people’s work

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Using other people's work

There are two principle ways that you can incorporate the work and writing of others to support the premises of your argument: quotations and paraphrasing.

  • A quotation is a group of words taken from an essay, article, or book written by someone else and incorporated into your essay.
  • A paraphrase is the rewriting of someone else's ideas or words using your own words rather than theirs.

However, you must be mindful of two things when using quotations or paraphrases.

  • The external work must be carefully crafted so that it supports YOUR work.
  • The authorship of the external work must be properly acknowledged (or you may be accused of cheating!!)


Quotations can be very powerful. They lend authority to your argument, provide insights from established researchers, and illustrate the prevalence or pervasiveness of your position. BUT, a quotation needs to be worked in to your own argument.TO DO THIS YOU WILL NEED TO.... (see three headings below)

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Key points
Demonstrate why the quotation has the authority to support your claim.

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Glenn Gaesser, sport physiologist from the University of Virginia, maintains that "weight loss may be detrimental, rather than helpful, even in obese individuals." (Gaesser, 1997, p. 47).

How is authority demonstrated here?

Explain how the quotation fits into your argument.

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One example of the benefits of an interpretive approach to outdoor guiding is described by Lucy Egmont from the Ecotourism Association of Australasia, who writes "there is much more to outdoor tourism than just ensuring client safety. Encouraging a full experience of the wilderness is an imperative for New Zealand's guiding industry." (Egmont, 2003, p. 21)

Do you see how this quote is threaded into the essay?

Make the quotation fit grammatically into the essay. If the language doesn't "fit" - fix it!

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Example of a quotation that doesn't fit grammatically: Dr Collins describes the effect of alcohol as "have a strong effect on national identity." (Collins, 1997, p. 22)

Example of a quotation that fits grammatically: Dr Collins describes the effect of alcohol as as "hav[ing] a strong effect on national identity." (Collins, 1997, p. 22) What did the writer do here to fix the quote?


When should you paraphrase?

  • the quotation is long and wordy
  • the words in the quotation are not powerful
  • the source of the quotation is unknown or dubious

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An example of a good use of paraphrasing:

Rather than: Graham Mourie said that the main emphasis of his talk was "stressing to players" the importance of team work.
Paraphrase: Graham Mourie felt that stressing the importance of team work to the players was the main emphasis of his talk. But remember, even if you paraphrase, you must acknowledge the person whose work you are paraphrasing!

Acknowledging the authors of external work

There are two reasons for acknowledging the authors of external work.

  • To acknowledge and or protect intellectual property
  • To provide resources for readers

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A note about academic style.

Every discipline has particular conventions about how citations and reference lists should be prepared. While on the one hand, it might be easier if all disciplines did things the same way, on the other, it's clear to see that each discipline has a different history, and different requirements, explaining why the conventions are specific to each group.

There are two ways that the acknowledgment must be made:

  • The citation: CITATIONS are the way of flagging a quotation or a paraphrase, and identifying where someone else's work or views are being reproduced. Usually, a citation contains brief information about the origin of the quotation or paraphrase. Citations may be made by footnote, endnote, or by placing the authors' names in brackets after the occurrence of their work. Deciding the form of citation you should use depends on the instructions your lecturer has given you.
  • The reference list: REFERENCE LISTS are lists containing detailed information about the origin of the quotation or paraphrase. It is placed at the end of the essay, and will either be in alphabetical order or in order of citation, depending on the academic style used in your course.