The exercise below provides students with a text and asks them to paraphrase,
summarize, and cite it. The instructor must then evaluate their work. To give students
more control over the assignment, instructors can ask them to work with an Internet text
of their own choosing. Students must understand the difference between paraphrasing and
summarizing before attempting the assignment.
Pretend that you are writing an essay on how the frontier experience shaped the
development of the United States. While researching, you come across the following
passage written by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner:
“From the conditions of frontier life came intellectual traits of profound
importance. The work of travelers along each frontier from colonial days
onward describe certain common traits, and these traits have, while
softening down, still persisted as survivals in the place of their origin, even
when a higher social organization succeeded. The result is that to the
frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That
coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness; that
practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful
grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great
ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for
good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes
with freedom—these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere
because of the existence of the frontier. ”
Source: (Frederick Jackson Turner, “The
Significance of the Frontier in American History,” The Frontier in American
History (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1920), 37.)
You decide to include a paraphrase or summary of the entire passage in your essay.
Remember that a paraphrase records all the important details of a passage, and a
summary condenses a passage to the main ideas.
1. In your own words, write the best paraphrase you can of Turner’s passage.
Write a citation for your paraphrase.
2. In your own words, write the best summary you can of Turner’s passage. Write
a citation for your summary.
3. Rewrite your summary or paraphrase to include a quotation from Turner’s
passage. What is the best way to cite both the summary or paraphrase and the
4. Purposely write a poor paraphrase and summary of the above passage with
poor quotations and citations, and make a short list of the characteristics that
make them poor.
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