Using secondary sources effectively in your writing is an important academic skill to develop. It can be done by paraphrasing ideas from others or by using direct quotations from original sources. In either case, the source must be cited, and each referencing style has its own guidelines. Let’s take a closer look at these two approaches: paraphrasing and using direct quotations.

The majority of your assignments will be written in your own words, but in some cases you will want to quote information word-for-word when you find that you cannot summarize the ideas or if you want to place extra emphasis on your ideas to support your point of view. With direct quotations, the information must be copied exactly and attribution to the author and source must be provided. Be sure to follow the referencing style requirements specified for your course to ensure you properly format your quotations. Review our Cite it Right blog for an overview of the main referencing styles.

When you research and re-work information into your own words, don’t forget that the ideas in the source you are using are protected and must be credited.

Extracting important details from a source and putting them in your own words is called paraphrasing. This was covered in more detail in our blog post on Effective Study Skills.

So, why do we need to reference?

You know that you must acknowledge others’ ideas by providing references, and that by doing so you avoid academic misconduct, but why else might you want to use sources in your work? Using credible sources in your assessments will:

  • Distinguish your ideas from someone else’s and demonstrate your understanding of the concepts.
  • Show that you are informed and can present various points of view on a given topic.
  • Validate and provide support for your own ideas.
  • Give the readers access to the resources that you used so that they can learn more should they be interested.

Aside from following Virtual High School’s academic honesty rules, using proper research and referencing practices will allow for more in-depth learning opportunities and growth as a student. These skills are transferable and will be put to use in all future academic endeavours, especially in college and university courses. As you research and incorporate credible sources into your assessments, use direct quotations when you cannot reword the work, summarize all other ideas into your own words, and always give credit to the original source.



Caitlin Carr is the English, French, and ESL Department Head at Virtual High School. She has been working in education for six years and is passionate about providing equitable learning opportunities for all students. She enjoys creating media projects to engage students in conversations about complex topics such as Academic Integrity.



Jessica Bickell has spent the majority of her time as an educator in the online space, and currently works for VHS as the Vice Principal. When she isn’t busy signing report cards, she enjoys working with the departments and multimedia team to create instructional videos. In her time off, she likes to stay active, travel the world, and play with her nieces and nephews.