While writing a review article as an undergraduate student, can I directly copy some information from another article or book? Or should I summarize it in my own words to illustrate a topic?

2 Answers 2


In most fields verbatim copying of sources is frowned upon. You should usually paraphrase what you need to convey and adapt it to the flow of ideas in your own publication.

And of course, you need to properly attribute any material you took from any source - paraphrasing does not absolve you from the duty of proper attribution. Your university will likely offer some guidance on proper citation and attribution, and there are lots of textbooks on academic writing that cover this.

So, that's the general answer. I'd say that your situation of a review article specifically offers one added wrinkle.

A review article is supposed to condense and organize the state of the art on a particular topic. You will typically read, summarize and organize a large number of primary research articles to pull together the common strands along which you can build a coherent semantic structure. Review articles routinely have reference lists 100 or more entries long. (If this is an undergraduate project, your particular review article will likely not be that all-encompassing.)

Therefore: if you are even tempted to copy a whole passage out of one source for a review article, you can immediately deduce that you are likely going into too much detail for this one particular source. Take a big step back and concentrate on the larger picture again.


You can find guides on the internet on how to quote and cite in a scientific paper. For example, this guide by Timothy T. Allen: http://tim.thorpeallen.net/Courses/Reference/Citations.html

DRTL Always make sure you refer to the sources you have used, regardless whether you verbatim copying or paraphrasing. When verbatim copying, make sure that this is apparent, e.g. by using quotation marks.

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