Skip to Main Content

Chicago Style (17th Edition) Citation Guide: Quotations vs Paraphrases

A citation guide for Chicago Style 17th Edition. Includes Author-Date style and Notes & Bibliography style.


A quote is the exact wording of the source material (either written or spoken). Quotes match the original source word for word.

When should you use quotes?

Using quotations is the easiest way to include source material, but quotations should be used carefully and sparingly. There are a few very good reasons that you might want to use a quote rather than a paraphrase or summary:

  • Accuracy: You are unable to paraphrase or summarize the source material without changing the author’s intent.
  • Authority: You may want to use a quote to lend expert authority for your assertion or to provide source material for analysis.
  • Conciseness: Your attempts to paraphrase or summarize are awkward or much longer than the source material.
  • Unforgettable language: You believe that the words of the author are memorable or remarkable because of their effectiveness or historical flavor. Additionally, the author may have used a unique phrase or sentence, and you want to comment on words or phrases themselves.


A paraphrase is a detailed restatement in your own words of a written or sometimes spoken source material. Apart from the changes in organization, wording, and sentence structure, the paraphrase should be nearly identical in meaning to the original passage. It should also be near the same length as the original passage and present the details of the original.

When should you paraphrase?

You will want to paraphrase or summarize when the wording of the source is less important than the meaning of the source. You may use the paraphrase often for the following reasons:

  • To change the organization of ideas for emphasis. You may have to change the organization of ideas in source material so that you can emphasize the points that are most related to your paper. You should remember to be faithful to the meaning of the source.
  • To simplify the material. You may have to simplify complex arguments, sentences, or vocabulary.
  • To clarify the material. You may have to clarify technical passages or specialized information into language that is appropriate for your audience.