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Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley

Founder
WritingCommons.org

Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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As with most other skills, practice is the best way to become effective at paraphrasing. Also, you may need to write several drafts before developing one that accurately reports the author's intentions in your own words.

Note also that if you cite three or more words from the original or even one word that was coined by the author, you should acknowledge your indebtedness by placing quotation marks around the borrowed terms.

To give you a sample of how writers mix direct quotes with paraphrase, take a look at a short excerpt from Stephen North's influential book, The Making of Knowledge in Composition. As you read the passage, note how North intermixes his own opinions about ethnography along with an occasional direct quote from the work of Clifford Geertz. Note also that North is careful to show readers how Geertz quoted from the work of Paul Ricoeur. Finally, North cues readers that he has not emphasized Geertz's words by italicizing them; he does so by writing "his emphasis" in parentheses. When he felt the need to clarify Ricouer's terms, he placed his clarification in brackets.

Ethnographic inquiry produces stories, fictions. Ethnographic investigators go into a community, observe (by whatever variety of means) what happens there, and then produce an account—which they will try to verify or ground in a variety of ways—of what happened. The phenomena observed are gone, will not occur again, and therefore cannot be investigated again. What remains, then, is whatever the investigators have managed to turn into words. Clifford Geertz perhaps put it best in Chapter 1 of his The Interpretation of Cultures: "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture": "The ethnographer 'inscribes' social discourse, he writes it down. In so doing, he turns it from a passing event, which exists only in its own moment of occurrence into an account, which exists in its inscription and can be reconsulted" (p. 19, his emphasis). This is not to say, as Geertz is careful to explain that the ethnographer transcribes, literally, all of what a community's members say. Rather, the inscribing is an effort to capture what he calls, borrowing from Paul Ricoeur, the "said": "'the noema ["thought," "content," "gist"] of the speaking. It is the meaning of the speech event, not the event.'" (p. 19)

 

See also:

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

 

Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham

Editor-in-Chief
WritingCommons.org

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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