Whether working on an internal report, blog post, or manuscript of an oral presentation, you may find that you need to include information written by another author. This blog explains how to integrate that information smoothly into your writing.
The building blocks for smooth integration include (1) understanding the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing and (2) following the three-step process of introducing, inserting, and interpreting.
Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing
Writers and speakers use three general techniques when integrating sources into their communication: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
Quoting involves using exact words or phrases from another person’s unique material. As writers integrate quotations into their own writing, they should enclose the quotations in quotation marks and cite the source of the material. Here is an example quote:
“Effective communication skills are critical in business. Across all organizations people exchange millions of texts, emails, telephone calls, letter, proposals, and reports each day.”
Paraphrasing conveys the content of the other original author’s unique material, but the writer uses his or her own words. As writers integrate paraphrases into their own writing, they don’t need to enclose the material inside in quotation marks, but they should cite the source of the material. Here is an example paraphrase of the previous quotation:
The ability to communicate is extremely important in the business world. In all companies, employees engage in communication in various forms, including on phones, on computers, and in print.
Summarizing is similar to paraphrasing except that summary generally condenses the original author’s material into its main points. As writers integrate summaries into their own writing, they don’t need to enclose the material inside quotation marks, but they should cite the source of the material, as follows:
Business professionals need to know how to communicate because they engage in many types of communication every day on the job.
In some cases, a writer might need to utilize more than one of these three options for integrating outside material. For example, a writer might choose to summarize a four-page report into a single paragraph, but include a key quotation to emphasize a certain finding from the report.
The following chart summarizes the main points from the previous paragraphs:
Introducing, Inserting, and Interpreting
Building on the knowledge of quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, you need to know how to effectively integrate quotes, paraphrases, and summaries into your business message. Here are three steps that can help.
Introducing: Lead your audience into your quote, summary, or paraphrase by providing a context for the outside material. Here is one example of an introduction:
Contrary to popular opinion, one author suggests that…
Inserting: Once you introduce the outside material, insert the appropriate quotation, paraphrase, or summary (be sure to insert quotation marks when using an exact quote.) Building on the previous example, the following example inserts a summary and the citation in APA (American Psychological Association) format:
Contrary to popular opinion, one author suggests that business professionals need to know how to communicate because they engage in many types of communication every day on the job (Baker, 2013, p. 2).
Interpreting: Once you introduce and insert the outside material and its citation, interpret the outside material for your audience. In other words, help your audience understand why you included the material in your communication. Building on the previous examples, this example interprets a summary:
Contrary to popular opinion, one author suggests that business professionals need to know how to communicate because they engage in many types of communication every day on the job (Baker, 2013, p. 2). With such frequent opportunities to communicate, employees must know how to communicate professionally.
The next time you need to integrate outside material in your business communication, I invite you to include quotes, paraphrases, or summaries and then to integrate the material, using some form of the introduce, insert, interpret process. Feel free to be flexible, such as including quotations in your paraphrases or interpreting before you insert. Effective integration of outside material can add credibility and power to your work, making you a more effective communicator.
Baker, W.H. (2013). Writing and speaking for business. Provo, UT: BYU Academic Publishing.
We're Bill, Matt, and Vince, and we hope these posts will help you more effectively teach business communication. If you like what you read, please consider teaching from our business and professional communication textbook.