Need help with Research?
Chat with a Librarian 24/7
To use your sources (books, articles, interviews, blogs, etc.) in a research paper, there are three main techniques.
For each of these techniques, you will need to Signal, Cite, and Comment. Signaling allows the reader to know that you are incorporating another writer's ideas, the citation gives information about where the information came from, and the comments will show your reader how this information supports your ideas. For more information about how this works, check out the the strategies on this page.
Remember, sources are important to strengthen your argument, show contradicting opinions, share statistics, and lead your reader to more information about your topic. Using and citing sources allows your excellent research to show through and help to establish you as a credible writer.
Tip #1: Read your assignment carefully. Understand what your teacher expects. Pay attention to the instructions about types of sources that are acceptable.
Tip #2: Plan your paper using the assignment instructions. Choose a topic, angle, or perspective that meets the criteria for the paper. Do some preliminary research or critical thinking and create an outline to guide you to explore, argue, or explain your topic.
Tip #3: Choose credible resources that will support your paper. Make sure the content of the sources will support or argue the points in your outline. For more information about credibility, see the links at the top of this page for help in finding sources and also check out the Identify and Evaluate link to make sure your source is legit.
Tip #4: Follow your instructors' assignment guidelines carefully but do not over-rely on your sources. A research paper requires that you choose a topic to explore and find sources to support your ideas. Therefore, you should expound upon or explain how your source further strengthens your argument or idea. Instructors expect that no more than 20-30% of your paper will be comprised of material from other sources. Too much material from other sources will overpower YOUR writing.
Tip #5: When you use the three strategies (direct quotes, paraphrasing, summarizing), you must use an in-text citation and also include that source in your bibliography or works cited page. For more information about formatting, see the tab for Citations.