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Research Process: Integrating Sources

This guide focuses on the skills and resources needed to complete a research project.

Before You Begin - Tips

To use your sources (books, articles, interviews, blogs, etc.) in a research paper, there are three main techniques. 

Direct Quotes

Paraphrasing

Summarizing

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.

 

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Direct Quotes

Guidelines for Direct Quotes

Direct Quotes is using the exact words of a source. 

Think of the quote as a rare and precious jewel. 

Quotes can be super-effective in getting your point across to the reader. Just be sure you’re not stringing a bunch of quotes together – you want your voice to be stronger than the voice of your sources. You always need to interpret, analyze, add to and explain more about the quote to your reader.  

Here are some guidelines to help you decide when to use quotes:

  • Wording that is so memorable, unforgettable or powerful, or expresses a point so perfectly, that you cannot change it without weakening the meaning.
  • An important passage is so dense or rich that it requires you to analyze it closely. This requires that the passage be quoted so the reader can follow your analysis.
  • A claim you are making is such that the doubting reader will want to hear exactly what the source said. This is mostly when you criticize or disagree with a source. You want your reader to know you aren't misrepresenting the source.
  • Your attempts to paraphrase or summarize are awkward or much longer than the source material.

Examples

You may choose to quote an entire passage from a source or just words or phrases. Make sure to use signal words (see below) to move between your ideas and the words of your source and avoid wordy or awkward introductions to a quote. Also, always cite your work. See examples below for ideas on how to use quotes.

Direct Quotes (MLA format):

As one of Obama's deputy assistants Yohannes Abraham explains, "It's really important to remember to just be a good person" (Scherer, Miller, and Elliott 36). 

As William Kneale suggests, some humans have a "moral deafness" which is never punctured no matter what the moral treatment (93).

Direct Quotes (APA format)

As Ali Akbar Hamemi remarked in 2005, "There is no doubt that America is a super-power in the world and we cannot ignore them" (Vick, 2017, p. 13). 

So, when using quotes:

  • Always have a good reason for using a direct quote. Otherwise, paraphrase or summarize.
  • Do not allow quotes to speak for themselves. Your research paper is about communicating YOUR IDEAS.  Your research simply helps prove or support those ideas.
  • Always make sure you provide an analysis of the quote.  Show your readers that you understand how the quote relates to your ideas by analyzing its significance.
  • Do not use quotes as padding. If quotes do not have adequate analysis, readers will feel that you don’t have a grasp on what that quote means, and they also might feel that you are using quotes as “filler” to take up space.
  • Use no more than 2 direct quotes per paragraph.
  • Carefully integrate quotations into your text so that they flow smoothly and clearly into the surrounding sentences. Use a signal phrase or signal verb, such as those in the following example:

As Eudora Welty notes, "learning stamps you with its moments. Childhood's learning," she continues, "is made up of moments. It isn't steady. It's a pulse" (9).

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Paraphrasing and Summaries

Guidelines for Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Think of Paraphrases and Summaries as your foundations

Paraphrase and summarize long passages where the main point is important to the point you are making, but the details are not. You should use paraphrasing and summarizing much more often than direct quotes. A good balance would be 75% paraphrasing and summarizing and 25% direct quotes.

Paraphrase: You are paraphrasing when you take someone else’s words and rewrite them in your own words without altering the meaning or providing interpretation. Paraphrases are about the same length as the original. Always cite your paraphrase.
Summarize: You are summarizing when you condense the author's words or ideas without altering the meaning or providing interpretation using your own words -- basically, you’re presenting the original information in a nutshell. Always cite it.

Examples of Paraphrases

Introduce paraphrases clearly in your text, usually with a signal phrase that includes the author of the source. Here is original text and paraphrased text.

Original:

Volunteers feel more socially connected, they're less lonely, and suffer from depression less, studies show. Volunteering creates physical benefits too: Regular volunteers are less likely to develop high blood pressure and live longer, some studies show. (text is from "Dalai Lama: 5 Things to Keep in Mind for the Next Four Years" from CNN.com, written by Jen Christensen)

Paraphrased text in APA style:

Volunteering has psychological and physical benefits, according to studies. Along with being less depressed and lonely, volunteers also live longer and are less likely to have high blood pressure (Christensen, 2017).

Paraphrased text in MLA style:

Volunteering has psychological and physical benefits, according to studies. Along with being less depressed and lonely, volunteers also live longer and are less likely to have high blood pressure (Christensen).


Examples of Summaries

Summaries, too, need to be carefully integrated into your text. Make sure to signal the reader that you are summarizing and include the correct citation.

Here is an example of a summary in APA format:

In Christensen's article, she explores Dalai Lama's advice to people who want to find happiness in an uncertain world. His Holiness believes that people should focus on developing compassion, letting go of anger, self-reflecting, helping others, and being playful like children (Christensen, 2017). 

Here's the summary in MLA format:

In Christensen's article, she explores Dalai Lama's advice to people who want to find happiness in an uncertain world. His Holiness believes that people should focus on developing compassion, letting go of anger, self-reflecting, helping others, and being playful like children (Christensen). 

Whenever you include summaries, paraphrases, or quotations in your own writing, it is important that you identify the sources of the material; even unintentional failure to cite material is plagiarism. Be especially careful with paraphrases and summaries, where there are no quotation marks to remind you that the material is not your own.

Paraphrasing will allow you to maintain your voice and style while showing your understanding of the source material.

Reasons why you would want to paraphrase from a source:

  • To change the organization of ideas for emphasis. You may have to change the organization of ideas in the passages you pull from your sources so that you can emphasize the points  most related to your paper.  Be sure to restate in your own words, but don’t change the meaning.
  • To simplify the material. You may have to simplify complex arguments, sentences, or vocabulary.
  • To clarify the material. You may have rewrite to clarify technical passages or put specialized information into language your audience will be better able to understand.

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because:

  • It is better than quoting information from a passage that doesn't have memorable or important words or phrases
  • It helps you control the temptation to quote too much
  • It allows the writer to put the idea of a source into their own voice (but always cite it to show it is someone else's idea).

Tips on Summarizing:

A summary is a condensed version of someone else’s writing. Like paraphrasing, summarizing involves using your own words and writing style to express another author’s ideas. Unlike the paraphrase, which presents important details, the summary presents only the most important ideas of the passage. For example, you could summarize a book in a sentence, or in several paragraphs, depending on your writing situation and audience. You may use the summary often for the following reasons:

  • To condense the material.You may have to condense or reduce the source material to pull out the  points that relate to your paper.
  • To omit extras from the material.You may have to leave out extra information from the source material so you can focus on the author’s main points.
  • To simplify the material. You may have to simply the most important complex arguments, sentences or vocabulary in the source material.

When you decide to summarize or paraphrase, avoid the following:

  • keeping the same structure of ideas and/or sentence structure
  • just changing some of the words
  • adding your ideas into the summary - be faithful to the meaning of the source material.
  • forgetting to cite your sources and use signal words.
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Plagiarism

What about Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using someone's words and passing them off as your own. This can be intentional or accidental, however most students do not intend to plagiarize but instead make mistakes by not summarizing or citing correctly. By following the information above, the writer should be able to incorporate sources into their own work without plagiarizing. Here are some more tips for avoiding plagiarism:

  • Plan your paper and allow yourself time. By creating an outline and focusing on your purpose you are less likely to heavily copy another writer's work. Without the pressure of time, you'll be less likely to carelessly copy others' work.
  • Choose credible sources that contain the information that you'll need for your citations.
  • Keep up with your sources.
  • Take good notes (that include the source).
  • Read in chunks and don't try to paraphrase and summarizing sentence by sentence. By reading a chunk of information and pulling out the most relevant or important information, you are able to summarizing or paraphrase what is most important to your purpose.
  • Use in-text citations throughout planning and writing of your paper.
  • Even when you change words, do not imitate the sentence structure of your source.
  • No matter what you think, it is NOT ok to copy; even if you think your teacher doesn't care or won't notice.
  • When in doubt, cite your source. 

Citing a Source Within a Source

In APA, articles, books, and other sources refer to previously published articles, books and other sources. You'll usually see the author of the previous source in the sentence or in the intext citation.

You will NOT include this source as if you read the study yourself.

For example, there is a paper written by Culver that is referred to in an article written by Jones. You read the article by Jones; NOT the article by Culver.

According to Culver (as cited in Jones, 2009), learning APA "can be tough, but like any skill, it just takes practice" (p. 23). In addition, the mastery of APA increases an author's chance of scoring well on an assignment (Culver, as cited in Jones, 2009).

Source Synthesis

To successfully synthesize (or integrate, or put together, or blend) your sources into your own writing, you need to think about balancing the amount of your own writing with the other sources you are using. For example, look at the following texts. The highlighted text is from other sources.

 

Writing #1     

     Composting is a great way to use grass clippings, shredded leaves, and even discarded food items to add nutrients to your yard or garden. The key to composting is to have brown materials (shredded dry leaves, twigs, and branches) and green materials (grass clippings and kitchen scraps) as well as water to keep the mixture moist.  Willi Evans Galloway writes in Organic Gardener that the right equation for composting is “Compost = Air + Water + 2 Parts Browns + 1 Part Greens” (2004). The brown materials contain carbon and the green materials contain nitrogen which are necessary for bacteria and fungi, as well as larger organisms such as worms, to live and speed up the decomposing process (USDA, n.d.). The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) also suggests using a tarp over the compost pile to increase the heat and speed up the decomposition process (2017). Although creating a compost pile does require a little maintenance and an occasional toss to keep good air flow, the benefits are reducing food waste as well as putting yard waste to good use.  


Writing #2     

     Composting is a great way to use yard and food waste to add nutrients to the yard. “Composting speeds the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria and other decomposing microorganisms. The final product, humus or compost, looks and feels like fertile garden soil. This dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling stuff works wonders on all kinds of soil and provides vital nutrients to help plants grow and look better” (USDA, n.d.). The brown materials contain carbon and the green materials contain nitrogen which are necessary for bacteria and fungi, as well as larger organisms such as worms, to live and speed up the decomposing process (USDA, n.d.). According to the USDA (n.d.), “compost can be used for all your planting needs. Compost is an excellent source of organic matter to add to your garden or potted plants. It helps improve soil structure which contributes to good aeration and moisture-holding capacity. Compost is also a source of plant nutrients” (USDA, n.d.). Although creating a compost pile does require a little maintenance and an occasional toss to keep good air flow, the benefits are reducing food waste as well as putting yard waste to good use. 


Writing #3     

     Composting is a great way to use grass clippings, shredded leaves, and even discarded food items to add nutrients to your yard or garden. The key to composting is to have brown materials (shredded dry leaves, twigs, and branches) and green materials (grass clippings and kitchen scraps) as well as water to keep the mixture moist. There is an equation for compost that is air+water+2 parts browns + 1 part greens. Carbon is in the brown materials and nitrogen is in the green materials. Both of these are important to support worms, bacteria and other organisms that break down materials. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) also suggests using a tarp over the compost pile to increase the heat and speed up the decomposition process (2017). Although creating a compost pile does require a little maintenance and an occasional toss to keep good air flow, the benefits are reducing food waste as well as putting yard waste to good use. 


Citations

Signal Words

Signal Verbs to Help you Introduce the Quote

Signal phrases introduce the material, often including the author's name. Remember that the signal verb must be appropriate to the idea you are expressing.

acknowledges * concludes * emphasizes * replies * advises * concurs * expresses * reports * agrees * confirms * interprets * responds * allows * criticizes * lists * reveals * answers * declares * objects * says * asserts * describes * observes * states * believes * disagrees * offers * suggests * charges * discusses * opposes * thinks * claims * disputes * remarks * writes

MLA Citations - Overview

Contributors' names. "Title of Resource." Name of Container, Publisher, Last edited date.

Russell, Tony, et al. "MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2 Aug. 2016.

In-text is (Author page#) or if no author (“Title” page#)

(Taylor 55) or (”Price of Freedom Museum”)

MLA 8 Citation for Websites with No Author

“Title of Web Page.” Title of Website, Publisher, Date published in Day Month Year format, URL.

“One Health and Disease: Tick-Borne.” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 12 June 2018, https://www.nps.gov/articles/one-health-disease-ticks-borne.htm.

APA Citations - Overview

Author, I. (Date). Title. Container, page#.

Berndt, T. J. (2002). Friendship quality and social development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 7-10.

In-text is (Author, date, p. #)

According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners.

APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).