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.
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:
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).
For Charles Dickens, the eighteenth century was both "the best of times" and "the worst of times" (35).
Direct Quotes (APA format)
As Ali Akbar Hamemi remarked, "There is no doubt that America is a super-power in the world and we cannot ignore them" (Vick, 2017, p. 13).
Sometimes it may be necessary to include long direct quotes (of over 40 words) in your work if you are unable to paraphrase or summarize. A long quote is treated differently as a block quotation with a .5 inch margin from the left but still double-spaced. Notice that there are no quotation marks around the block quotations even though these are direct quotes. Here are two examples:
Block quotation with parenthetical citation:
Researchers found when studying gray wolves that coloring around eyes may change over the lifespan:
Facial color patterns change with growth in many American canid species, although no studies have directly examined such developmental changes. For example, all newborn gray wolves observed in the present study had dark-colored bodies and C-type faces with dark-colored irises. (Ueda et al., 2014, p. 4)
Ueda, S., Kumagai, G., Otaki, Y., Yamaguchi, S., & Kohshima, S. (2014). A comparison of facial color pattern and gazing behavior in canid species suggests gaze communication in gray wolves (canis lupus). PLoS One, 9(6) doi:https://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098217
Block quotation with narrative citation:
Manning and Kaler (2011) describe the difficulties of using survey methods when observing owls:
Survey methods with observers outside the vehicle were 3 times more likely to displace an owl than a single vehicle stop where observers remained inside the vehicle. Owls were displaced farther distances by all survey methods compared to control trials, but distances and time displaced did not differ among survey methods.
Manning, J. A., & Kaler, R. S. A. (2011). Effects of survey methods on burrowing owl behaviors. Journal of Wildlife Management, 75(3), 525-530. Retrieved from https://proxy154.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/925615280?accountid=13601
For more information, see page 272 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed.
If a quote runs more than four lines long, you must block the quote with a .5 margin on the left. Do not use quotation marks even though it's a direct quote.
At the conclusion of Lord of the Flies, Ralph, realizing the horror of his actions, is overcome by
great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. his voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (Golding 186)
So, when using quotes:
As Thompson (2020) makes clear, Youtube's algorithms "can’t distinguish between true and false data, except in the most crude way" (para. 5).
Often, long paraphrases continue for multiple sentences. Usually you'll intext cite the source in the first sentence. It is not necessary to cite every single sentence IF you've made it clear in the narrative that the information discussed is from the before-mentioned source.
*Note that the bold words show where the information is coming from. Students should NOT bold the words.
Here's an example:
Tucker and Maddey (2020) found that predatory behavior in dogs is due to many different factors. One of the factors is the physical territory of the alleged threat. The research found that "dogs are more willing to attack or defend territory that is considered to be their own" (Tucker & Maddey, 2020, p. 81). Another factor they discovered is that dogs are more willing to prey on a threat if their human owners are nearby. In an experiment conducted over multiple days using cameras, Tucker and Maddey discovered that dogs were shown to be much more protective with predatory behavior when their owners were in the vicinity they when the owners were away. In conclusion, the research shows that dogs have innate predatory behavior traits which are enhanced by the dogs' desires to protect their human owners (Tucker & Maddey, 2020).
If you're using information from a source more than once in a row (with no other sources referred to in between), you can use a simplified in-text citation. The first time you use information from the source, use a full in-text citation. The second time, you only need to give the page number.
Cell biology is an area of science that focuses on the structure and function of cells (Smith 15). It revolves around the idea that the cell is a "fundamental unit of life" (17). Many important scientists have contributed to the evolution of cell biology. Mattias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, for example, were scientists who formulated cell theory in 1838 (20).
*Thank you to the Library at Columbia College for this example.
Reasons why you would want to paraphrase from a source:
Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because:
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:
When you decide to summarize or paraphrase, avoid the following:
What about Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using someone's words and passing them off as your own. Plagiarism is dishonest and unethical and can cause serious repercussions for students in a college setting. Plagiarism can be intentional or accidental, however most students plagiarize by not summarizing or citing correctly. Here are tips for avoiding plagiarism:
Academic articles, books, and other sources often 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 Anderson that is referred to in an article written by Robb. You read the article by Robb; NOT the paper by Anderson. This is what you write:
According to Anderson's 2013 study (as cited in Robb, 2019), learning APA "can be difficult, especially when students are focusing on content area and not writing styles" (p. 33). In addition, some elements of APA seem subjective to students (Anderson, 2013 as cited in Robb, 2019).
In the reference list, you include the article you read; not the article you read about.
Robb, L. (2019). Librarianship in community colleges. Journal of Libraries, 110(2), 31-35. https://doil.something/something/000000.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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”)
“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.
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).