At last, you are ready to begin writing the rough draft of your research paper. Putting your thinking and research into words is exciting. It can also be challenging. In this section, you will learn strategies for handling the more challenging aspects of writing a research paper, such as integrating material from your sources, citing information correctly, and avoiding any misuse of your sources. First, however, we will discuss the structure of the longest type of research paper you are likely to write in a first-year composition course.
The Structure of a Research Paper
General Structure Guidelines for Research Papers
There are really two types of formal research papers: A scientific style research paper and a literature review style research paper. We will focus on the literature review style of research paper, which is really like an extended essay. However, even a literature review depends more on the research that other people have done than does a regular essay. You still bring in your own ideas, however, make the connections between everything, and come up with new ideas based on how you put together the ideas of other writers.
The structure of a research paper is very much like that of a regular essay except that your main idea may not be as clear early on (check with your instructor about this), the introduction may be longer than usual, the body of the essay is much longer, and you use many more sources. Do not describe your research process of researching and writing in a literature review research paper (scientific research papers have a methodology section where the researcher does describe their research, but that’s not what you generally do in a first year composition course).
Research Paper Introductions
Write the introduction of your research paper last. If you must write it first to get yourself going, be sure to rewrite after you have completed your conclusion. Keep your audience in mind and what they are likely to know about your topic before reading your paper. Research paper introduction may last two or more paragraphs. Because you are writing more, you probably need to provide more background information. As in any paper, you want to move from general information that orients your reader to your topic, to more specific information that focuses more directly on what you are studying. At the end of the introduction, you may want to state your exact research question rather than a thesis.
Introductions may provide some historical background, may discuss the history of a controversy, may introduce the various factors that impact the topic, and probably introduce and define some of the key vocabulary that your reader may not know. Don’t make the mistake of beginning too narrowly. Keep your reader in mind – another student in another class. Think of your research paper as an educational piece of writing that you are creating for another student, but keep the tone and language formal. Remember, they don’t know what you are going to write about, so orient them to your topic by beginning broadly.
Writing Your Introduction
There are several approaches to writing an introduction, each of which fulfills the same goals. The introduction should get readers’ attention, provide background information, and present the writer’s main research question or, perhaps, the thesis.
Many writers like to begin with one of the following catchy openers:
- A surprising fact
- A thought-provoking question
- An attention-getting quote
- A brief anecdote that illustrates a larger concept
- A connection between your topic and your readers’ experiences
For more information, see the "Introductions and Conclusions" sections in Chapter 4.
The next few sentences place the opening in context by presenting background information. From there, the writer builds toward the research question or a thesis, which is traditionally placed at the end of the introduction. Either of these will let your readers know what direction the paper is headed.
Miguel decided to begin his research paper by connecting his topic to readers’ daily experiences. Read the first draft of his introduction. The research question is underlined. Note how Miguel progresses from the opening sentences to background information to his thesis:
The thesis for a research paper may only be implied until the conclusion of your paper. You will hint at it through your topic sentences and the way you discuss the information. However, the stated thesis most likely won’t occur until the beginning of your conclusion. The reason for this is the purpose of a research paper, which is academic inquiry. You don’t want to enter the research process thinking you already know what you want to say with an already determined point of view. You want to enter the process with an open mind of exploration. This is where your research question will really help you. It keeps you objective so that you may say to yourself (or write in your paper), “these authors take xxxx perspective on this topic because…..” Then you can evaluate the merits of that point of view in your paper. It’s not until you’ve discussed all of the relevant opinions and research that you should come to a conclusion. This is what an informed and thoughtful person does – evaluates the various arguments and information and arrives at an informed conclusion. In effect, that’s what you’re doing on paper for your reader.
The Body of the Research Paper
Write the body of your research paper first. The body of the research paper is very much like the body of a regular essay . . . only longer. Each paragraph needs a main idea, to be cohesive, and to discuss and support that idea. Each paragraph needs explanation so that the reader knows why this particular thing or point of view you are writing about is important. You should make it clear how the topic you are discussing in the paragraph connects or helps answer your guiding question. You may organize your research paper into multiple sections, each with its own main idea and multiple paragraphs.
Transitions between ideas can be more important in research papers than in traditional essays because you, as the writer, are synthesizing so much more information. There may be multiple points of view about a topic, different kinds of relationships between ideas and multiple levels of information that you need to deal with. With so much information swirling around, one of your main tasks is to convey to your reader what to think about all of this information and guide them through it. To write transitions, you cannot simply write about one author’s work and then another; you must group and sort the information by theme, and point of view, and then write transitions to lead your reader through the forest of information (see the "they say/I say" discussion on the second video on this page).
The Conclusion of the Research Paper
Write the conclusion after you have written the body of your research paper. Just as in most essays, the conclusion of a research paper should look to the future and broaden out from your particular topic. Also, it should begin with a transition from the last section into your thesis. It can also help to think about what we still need to know about this topic or what we still need to know or understand to answer your central question. To write a conclusion, ask yourself: What might we expect or hope to learn about this topic in the future? What else needs to be examined to answer this question? How will this knowledge help us in other ways? In what areas can this knowledge be applied? What other perspectives might be considered in future research?
Research papers generally follow the same basic structure: an introduction that presents the writer’s thesis, a body section that develops the thesis with supporting points and evidence, and a conclusion that revisits the thesis and provides additional insights or suggestions for further research.
Your writing voice will come across most strongly in your introduction and conclusion, as you work to attract your readers’ interest and establish your thesis. These sections usually do not cite sources at length. They focus on the big picture, not specific details. In contrast, the body of your paper will cite sources extensively. As you present your ideas, you will support your points with details from your research.
Writers often work out of sequence when writing a research paper. If you find yourself struggling to write an engaging introduction, you may wish to write the body of your paper first. Writing the body sections first will help you clarify your main points. Writing the introduction should then be easier. You may have a better sense of how to introduce the paper after you have drafted some of all of the body.
Writing at Work (and in the sciences)
If your job involves writing or reading scientific papers, it helps to understand how professional researchers use the structure described in this section. A scientific paper begins with an abstract that briefly summarizes the entire paper. The introduction explains the purpose of the research, briefly summarizes previous research, and presents the researchers' hypothesis. The body provides details about the study, such as who participated in it, what the researchers measured, and what results they recorded. The conclusion presents the researchers' interpretation of the data, or what they learned.
Using Source Material in Your Paper
One of the challenges of writing a research paper is successfully integrating your ideas with material from your sources. Your paper must explain what you think, or it will read like a disconnected string of facts and quotations. However, you also need to support your ideas with research, or they will seem insubstantial. How do you strike the right balance?
As you can see, using sources involves much more than just including a series of quotations in your essay. To avoid falling into the trap of having strings of quotations and very little else in a research essay, follow a few simple pointers:
- Avoid using strings of long quotations. The overuse of long quotations gives the reader the impression you cannot think for yourself.
- Use summaries and paraphrases in addition to direct quotations. To the reader, the effective use of summaries and paraphrases indicates that you took the time to think about the meaning behind the quote’s words.
- Make sure to comment on any information you quote, summarize, and paraphrase. Remember that your researched information is there to support to your own ideas and logical argument in your research essay, and that incorporating research is like creating a conversation.
- Finally, make sure to identify all of your quoted, summarized, and paraphrased information with citations, so your reader can easily differentiate your sources’ from your own information and ideas.
In the body paragraphs of your paper, you will need to integrate ideas carefully at the paragraph level and at the sentence level. Use topic sentences in your paragraphs to make sure readers understand the significance of any facts, details, or quotations you cite. You will also need to include sentences that transition between ideas from your research, either within a paragraph or between paragraphs. At the sentence level, you will need to think carefully about how you introduce paraphrased and quoted material.
Earlier you learned about summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting when taking notes. In the next few sections, you will learn how to use these techniques in the body of your paper to weave in source material to support your ideas.
When you summarize material from a source, you zero in on the main points and restate them concisely in your own words. If you wrote an annotated bibliography, you have already done this and can incorporate just the parts of those summaries you may need into your research paper. Also, see the "summary" section in this e-book. This technique is appropriate when only the major ideas are relevant to your paper or when you need to simplify complex information into a few key points for your readers.
In his draft, Miguel summarized research materials that presented scientists’ findings about low-carbohydrate diets. Read the following passage from a trade magazine article and Miguel’s summary of the article.
Assessing the Efficacy of Low-Carbohydrate Diets
Adrienne Howell, Ph.D.
Over the past few years, a number of clinical studies have explored whether high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are more effective for weight loss than other frequently recommended diet plans, such as diets that drastically curtail fat intake (Pritikin) or that emphasize consuming lean meats, grains, vegetables, and a moderate amount of unsaturated fats (the Mediterranean diet). A 2009 study by Jones found that obese teenagers who followed a low-carbohydrate diet lost an average of 15.6 kilograms over a six-month period, whereas teenagers following a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet lost an average of 11.1 kilograms and 9.3 kilograms respectively. Two 2010 studies (Kirkhoff and Mashoud, Janus and Beebe) that measured weight loss for obese adults following these same three diet plans found similar results. Over three months, subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet plan lost anywhere from four to six kilograms more than subjects who followed other diet plans.
In three recent studies, researchers compared outcomes for obese subjects who followed either a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-fat diet, or a Mediterranean diet and found that subjects following a low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight in the same time (Howell, 2010).
A summary restates ideas in your own words -- but for specialized or clinical terms, you may need to use terms that appear in the original source. For instance, Miguel used the term obese in his summary because related words such as heavy or overweight have a different clinical meaning.
A paraphrase re-states information and ideas from a source using your own wording and sentence structure. Paraphrasing is similar to summarizing; however, summaries condense the original down to the essential or main ideas, while paraphrases simply re-state the original portion of text in your own words.
So why paraphrase? Paraphrasing offers a way to maintain your own writing style and voice throughout the writing. It helps cut down on the number of different styles from different sources, creating a sleeker, easier reading experience for your reader. Most of all, though, paraphrasing is a means of helping you understand what your sources are saying, in order to incorporate that information into your own writing. You have to understand the source's ideas fully in order to rewrite them clearly.
When you paraphrase, make sure not to simply substitute one word for another, retaining the same sentence structure. Paraphrasing requires you to use your own sentence structures as well as words, so that you are not inadvertently plagiarizing the source.
In general, it is best to paraphrase when:
- There is no good reason to use a quote to refer to your evidence. If the author’s exact words are not especially important to the point you are trying to make, you are usually better off paraphrasing the evidence.
- You are trying to explain technical information or complicated language to a more general reading audience.
- You are trying to explain a particular a piece of evidence in order to explain or interpret it in more detail. This might be particularly true in writing projects like critiques.
- You need to balance a direct quote in your writing. You need to be careful about directly quoting your research too much because it can sometimes make for awkward and difficult to read prose. So, one of the reasons to use a paraphrase instead of a quote is to create balance within your writing.
But before we can go into the "how to" of paraphrasing, we should examine the sometimes fine line between paraphrasing and plagiarism. Doing so is important because many fields (especially in the sciences) very rarely or never use quotation, exclusively using paraphrasing instead. Second, not paraphrasing well is the cause behind many if not most cases of plagiarism, so to avoid accidental plagiarism, you should learn how to paraphrase well. Finally, almost everyone needs to paraphrase sometimes; in fact, you most likely already do, at least in conversation.
How Plagiarism Often Happens
Plagiarism is the act of misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own. Sometimes a writer plagiarizes work on purpose—for instance, by purchasing an essay from a website and submitting it as original course work. In other cases, a writer may commit accidental plagiarism due to carelessness, haste, or misunderstanding. To avoid unintentional plagiarism, follow these guidelines:
- Understand what types of information must be cited.
- Understand what constitutes fair use of a source.
- Keep source materials and notes carefully organized.
- Follow guidelines for summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources.
Plagiarism is usually not the obvious kind of cut-and-paste theft you might associate with cheating on a research paper. Rather, writers think about what they want to communicate and what’s important to them. They usually develop a theme on their own, research it, and find a number of sources to draw from. The result of this research is a bunch of fragments from all over the place. One of those fragments, if not properly paraphrased and cited as the fragments coalesced into a paper, becomes an example of plagiarism because the writer lost track of its origin.
This video explains it a little more.
Plagiarism . . . Definition, Consequences and Examples. Authored by: NurseKillam. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License
Carefully organizing your time and notes is the best guard against these forms of plagiarism. Maintain a detailed working bibliography and thorough notes throughout the research process. Check original sources again to clear up any uncertainties. Allow plenty of time for writing your draft so there is no temptation to cut corners.
How to Avoid This Mistake
How do you gather your notes? Do you bookmark Web passages, use Evernote or Zotero, or create index cards or sticky notes? No matter your method, you should have a consistent and clear method to keep track of your sources.
Within your writing, you can use sources ethically and avoid plagiarism by identifying or attributing your source, even when you paraphrase. Some students think you only need to cite your source if you quote. That's not true -- any source, whether it's a quote or a paraphrase, must be cited in order to avoid a charge of plagiarism. Your mind can run free, your text can flow, but your attributions must be as fastidious as an accountant’s.
Many courses at college have an online component of the class. In California, this is usually Canvas. Your instructor may set up some of your assignments so that they are run through plagiarism detection software to determine its "originality." Really this means, "how much does what you write differ from sources on the Internet and what has previously been submitted to the institution?". Some instructors will allow you to upload your draft and check the originality report. The report will show what phrases and sentences in your paper match phrases and sentences in other sources. Usually you don't need to worry about sources that are in quotation marks because the software will assume that you are also citing them (though your instructor will notice if the citations are missing). This software is most valuable in seeing how well you paraphrase. If you see sentences highlighted or chunks of sentences highlighted, you will know you need to do a little more work to paraphrase your sources correctly. See below for a video about how to read an example report.
Paraphrasing Check. Authored by: Erika Dyquisto. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.
When to Cite
Any idea or fact taken from an outside source must be cited, in both the body of your paper and the references list. The only exceptions are facts or general statements that are common knowledge. Common-knowledge facts or general statements are commonly supported by and found in multiple sources. For example, a writer would not need to cite the statement that most breads, pastas, and cereals are high in carbohydrates; this is well known and well documented. However, if a writer explained in detail the differences among the chemical structures of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, a citation would be necessary. When in doubt, cite.
In recent years, issues related to the fair use of sources have been prevalent in popular culture. Recording artists, for example, may disagree about the extent to which one has the right to sample another’s music. For academic purposes, however, the guidelines for fair use are reasonably straightforward.
Writers may quote from or paraphrase material from previously published works without formally obtaining the copyright holder’s permission. Fair use means that the writer legitimately uses brief excerpts from source material to support and develop his or her own ideas. For instance, a columnist may excerpt a few sentences from a novel when writing a book review. However, quoting or paraphrasing another’s work at excessive length, to the extent that large sections of the writing are unoriginal, is not fair use.
As he worked on his draft, Miguel was careful to cite his sources correctly and not to rely excessively on any one source. Occasionally, however, he caught himself quoting a source at great length. In those instances, he highlighted the paragraph in question so that he could go back to it later and revise. Read the example, along with Miguel's revision.
Heinz found that “subjects in the low-carbohydrate group (30% carbohydrates; 40% protein, 30% fat) had a mean weight loss of 10 kg (22 lbs) over a 4-month period.” These results were “noticeably better than results for subjects on a low-fat diet (45% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 20% fat)” whose average weight loss was only “7 kg (15.4 lbs) in the same period” (Heinz). From this, it can be concluded that “low-carbohydrate diets obtain more rapid results.” Other researchers agree that “at least in the short term, patients following low-carbohydrate diets enjoy greater success” than those who follow alternative plans (Johnson and Crowe).
After reviewing the paragraph, Miguel realized that he had drifted into unoriginal writing. Most of the paragraph was taken verbatim from a single article. Although Miguel had enclosed the material in quotation marks, he knew it was not an appropriate way to use the research in his paper.
Low-carbohydrate diets may indeed be superior to other diet plans for short-term weight loss. In a study comparing low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets, Heinz found that subjects who followed a low-carbohydrate plan (30% of total calories) for 4 months lost, on average, about 3 kilograms more than subjects who followed a low-fat diet for the same time. Heinz concluded that these plans yield quick results, an idea supported by a similar study conducted by Johnson and Crowe. What remains to be seen, however, is whether this initial success can be sustained for longer periods.
As Miguel revised the paragraph, he realized he did not need to quote these sources directly. Instead, he paraphrased their most important findings. He also made sure to include a topic sentence stating the main idea of the paragraph and a concluding sentence that transitioned to the next major topic in his essay. Even though he paraphrased his sources, he still cited them.
Writing at Work
Citing other people's work appropriately is just as important in the workplace as it is in school. If you need to consult outside sources to research a document you are creating, follow the general guidelines already discussed, as well as any industry-specific citation guidelines. For ore extensive use of others' work -- for instance, requesting permission to link to another company's website on your own corporate website--always follow your employer's established procedures.
The concepts and strategies discussed in this section connect to a larger issue—academic integrity. You maintain your integrity as a member of an academic community by representing your work and others’ work honestly and by using other people’s work only in legitimately accepted ways. It is a point of honor taken seriously in every academic discipline and career field.
Academic integrity violations have serious educational and professional consequences, as noted in the video above. Even when cheating and plagiarism go undetected, they still result in a student’s failure to learn necessary research and writing skills. Students who are found guilty of academic integrity violations face consequences ranging from a failing grade to expulsion from the university. Employees may be fired for plagiarism and do irreparable damage to their professional reputation. In short, it is never worth the risk.
To test your understanding of how to use sources ethically, take SUNY Empire State College’s Academic Integrity Quiz.
Take SUNY Empire State College's Academic Integrity quiz, linked in the previous paragraph. After taking the quiz, discuss with a classmate what you knew and what you learned when taking a quiz. Together, write down two questions to ask your instructor in class about academic integrity.
Paraphrasing well is one of the most important skills you can learn in a college writing class. You will use it throughout your academic--and very likely your work--career. Not only do we paraphrase to convey information smoothly, in many academic and work fields, paraphrasing, rather than quoting, is the standard way of conveying other people's information. It is important to learn to paraphrase well in order to avoid plagiarizing and to be able to change other people's ideas into your "voice." Paraphrased passages are always cited, just as quotes are. A paraphrased source differs from a summarized source in that you focus on restating the ideas, not condensing them. Paraphrasing is also a good writing technique to make ensure you understand your reading thoroughly. If you struggle to create a paraphrase, it may be that you don't fully understand the reading and should work more on that.
Writing a Paraphrase Properly
Make sure that you understand the original text that you intend to paraphrase. Rewrite that text at least twice, in your own words. It can help to read it, turn the reading over so you can't see it, and then write it in your own words. After the first rewriting, set the paraphrase aside for a short time. When you go back to it, you’ll most likely see that you’ve tended to retain some of the original text’s wording and sentence structure. On a second (or third, or fourth) rewriting, try to make the language and sentence structure your own, while retaining the meaning of the original text. If you find that the original text uses a key word or phrase that you don’t want to rewrite, know that you can always include it in quotation marks within your paraphrase. Finally, make sure to attribute the paraphrase at the start (e.g., “According to…”) and include a citation at the end. Your readers should be able to distinguish your own information from paraphrased information, and the attribution and citation signal the beginning and end of the paraphrase.
The original passage, from Benjamin Franklin’s “Speech to the [Constitutional] Convention”:
|Mr. President, I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it; for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change my opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.|
Here is the initial try at a paraphrase:
|Benjamin Franklin tells the president of the Constitutional Convention that he does not entirely approve of the Constitution at the present time, but that he is not sure he will never approve it. He points out that he has lived a long time, and in his experience there have been many instances when better information of fuller consideration of a topic have made him change his opinions on important subjects that he had originally thought to be correct. He points out that he finds himself more likely to doubt his own judgment the older he gets, and contrasts his knowledge of his own fallibility with other people's conviction of their infallibility.|
The problem with this paraphrase is in the way that it reproduces distinctive phrasing, sentence structure, and ordering of ideas. Note that the bolded parts of the paragraph actually reproduce Franklin’s wording exactly, and that the order of information in the paraphrase is essentially the same as in the original. Notice the end of the paraphrase also contains extra information that is not present in the original passage.
Now consider this GOOD revised version:
|Benjamin Franklin tells the president of the Constitutional Convention that although he is currently uncertain about the Constitution they have created, he may eventually acknowledge its effectiveness. This is due, he explains, to new information or a different understanding of similarly important topics that have cause him to change his mind in the past.|
This paraphrase is strong because of the way that it captures the main ideas and important details of the original passage without reproducing phrasing or sentence structure too exactly. There are still similarities of phrasing and structure, but they deviate in notable ways from the phrasing and structure of the original passage. Also unlike the first paraphrase, this one does not include information not found in the original passage.
Use the following checklist to help you create an appropriate paraphrase.
- Have you used your own words and sentence structures?
- Even though the wording is your own, have you carefully retained the meaning of the original text?
- Did you attribute the paraphrase at the start, using language in some way that explains that you’re paraphrasing another’s text? (e.g., “Smith states that…”)
- Did you cite the paraphrase correctly at the end, using a standard citation format for in-text citations?
- Did you cite the paraphrased source in the Works Cited list at the end of the essay?
When you paraphrase material from a source, restate the information from an entire sentence or passage in your own words, using your own original sentence structure. It can help to not look at the source material while you do this.
Again, it is important to check your paraphrase against the source material to make sure it is both accurate and original. Inexperienced writers sometimes use the thesaurus method of paraphrasing—that is, they simply rewrite the source material, replacing most of the words with synonyms. This constitutes a misuse of sources. A true paraphrase restates ideas using the writer’s own language and style. If you are writing a paper, and your instructor uses plagiarism detection software, consider asking your instructor if you can use the software to make sure your paraphrase is in your own words well enough. Passages that are not paraphrased well enough will have color highlighting in various places in the passage. This means that the paraphrase needs to be improved to be considered (and maybe that you need to understand the material better) an appropriate paraphrase.
In his draft, Miguel frequently paraphrased details from sources. At times, he needed to rewrite a sentence more than once to ensure he was paraphrasing ideas correctly. Read the passage from the website source, below. Then read Miguel’s initial attempt at paraphrasing it, followed by the final version of his paraphrase.
Dieters nearly always get great results soon after they begin following a low-carbohydrate diet, but these results tend to taper off after the first few months, particularly because many dieters find it difficult to follow a low-carbohydrate diet plan consistently.
People usually see encouraging outcomes shortly after they go on a low-carbohydrate diet, but their progress slows down after a short while, especially because most discover that it is a challenge to adhere to the diet strictly (Heinz, 2009).
After reviewing the paraphrased sentence, Miguel realized he was following the original source too closely. He did not want to quote the full passage verbatim, so he again attempted to restate the idea in his own style.
Because it is hard for dieters to stick to a low-carbohydrate eating plan, the initial success of these diets is short-lived (Heinz, 2009).
Paraphrase the following passage from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website, and ensure it follows the guidelines for a good paraphrase, above.
Origins of Earthquake Early Warning
Wherever people live with earthquakes, there is a desire for an early warning system that shaking is imminent. Even as far back as 1868, following a magnitude 6.8 earthquake on the Hayward fault, the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin published an editorial proposing an early warning system. Calls echoing that desire continued throughout the 20th century in countries as far off as Iran, Italy, Japan, and Mexico.
In the United States, the first serious proposal for such a system came from USGS geophysicist Tom Heaton in 1985. Dr. Heaton’s pioneering insight was ahead of its time, but the technology available in 1985 was not adequate for the system he proposed.
However, a few years later, other USGS scientists would temporarily use some of Heaton’s innovative ideas after the Loma Prieta earthquake to try to safeguard the lives of rescue workers in the Bay Area. The intense shaking from the mainshock of Loma Prieta collapsed a 1.6-mile (2.5-kilometer) section of the Nimitz Freeway (referred to as the “Cypress Structure”) along I-880 through Oakland. As rescuers worked to free people trapped in the rubble, the risk of aftershocks damaging the freeway further and injuring the workers became apparent. So USGS scientists set up a temporary system that radioed alerts to the workers whenever there was a significant aftershock that might shake the Nimitz. During its six months of operation, the system sent warnings for 12 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.7.
1. From a source related to your research topic, choose a 7- to 12-sentence long passage. Avoid introductory or concluding paragraphs, as these are often very general.
2. Paraphrase the original and include the citation in the text as well as in a Reference List. Add exercises text here.
Quoting Sources Directly
Most of the time, you will summarize or paraphrase source material instead of quoting directly. Doing so shows that you understand your research well enough to write about it confidently in your own words. However, direct quotes can be powerful when used sparingly and with purpose.
Quoting directly can sometimes help you make a point in a colorful way. If an author’s words are especially vivid, memorable, or well phrased, quoting them may help hold your reader’s interest. Or if you need exact words to be able to support your assertion, a quote can be an important type of evidence. Direct quotations from an interviewee or an eyewitness may help you personalize an issue for readers. And when you analyze primary sources, such as a historical speech or a work of literature, quoting extensively is often necessary to illustrate your points. These are valid reasons to use quotations.
Less experienced writers, however, sometimes overuse direct quotations in a research paper because it seems easier than paraphrasing. At best, this reduces the effectiveness of the quotations. At worst, it results in a paper that seems haphazardly pasted together from outside sources. Use quotations sparingly for greater impact.
When you do choose to quote directly from a source, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you have transcribed the original statement accurately.
- Represent the author’s ideas honestly. Quote enough of the original text to reflect the author’s point accurately.
- Never use a stand-alone quotation. Always integrate the quoted material into your own sentence with a signal phrase that provides context.
- Use ellipses (…) if you need to omit a word or phrase. Use brackets [ ] if you need to replace or add a word or phrase to make the quote flow grammatically with your own sentence.
- Make sure any omissions or changed words do not alter the meaning of the original text. Omit or replace words only when absolutely necessary to shorten the text or to make it grammatically correct within your sentence.
- Remember to include correctly formatted citations that follow the assigned style guide.
Miguel interviewed a dietician as part of his research, and he decided to quote her words in his paper. Read an excerpt from the interview and Miguel’s use of it, which follows.
Personally, I don’t really buy into all of the hype about low-carbohydrate miracle diets like Atkins and so on. Sure, for some people, they are great, but for most, any sensible eating and exercise plan would work just as well.
Registered dietician Dana Kwon (2010) admits, “Personally, I don’t really buy into all of the hype.…Sure, for some people, [low-carbohydrate diets] are great, but for most, any sensible eating and exercise plan would work just as well.”
Notice how Miguel smoothly integrated the quoted material by starting the sentence with an introductory phrase. His use of ellipses and brackets did not change the source’s meaning.
Documenting Source Material
Throughout the writing process, be scrupulous about documenting information taken from sources, whether they are quotes or paraphrases. When you document sources within your writing, they are called "in-text citations." The full documentation of all of your sources (each only entered once) is in the Bibliography or Works Cited page at the end of your paper. The purpose of doing so is twofold:
- To give credit to other writers or researchers for their ideas
- To allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired, which is part of the "conversation" or research.
Two of the most common documentation styles in academic writing are the Modern Language Association (MLA) style and the American Psychological Association (APA) style. The latter of these is used for documenting most social sciences and educational research also. Since this book is for English classes, we will use MLA style. Do not feel like you need to memorize a style; rather, use the various guidebooks and resources that are out there to help you document your sources in your writing.
Citing Sources in the Body of Your Paper ("in-text" citations)
In-text citations document your sources within the body of your paper. These include two vital pieces of information: the author’s name and the page number (if there is one) of the source material. Page numbers are necessary only when content has been directly quoted, not when it has been summarized or paraphrased.
Within a sentence, the in-text citation information may appear as part of your introduction to the material or as a parenthetical citation at the end of a sentence. Read the examples that follow.
Leibowitz found that low-carbohydrate diets often helped subjects with Type II diabetes maintain a healthy weight and control blood-sugar levels.
The introduction to the source material includes the author’s name followed by the year of publication in parentheses.
Low-carbohydrate diets often help subjects with Type II diabetes maintain a healthy weight and control blood-sugar levels (Leibowitz).
The parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence includes the author’s name and the page number (if any) with only a space in between. The period at the end of the sentence comes after the parentheses. If you are quoting a source, it should look like this:
Herman Melville, in his first volume of poetry, wrote, "it is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation" (1).
"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation" (Melville 1).
Creating a List of References
Each of the sources you cite in the body text will appear in a references list at the end of your paper. While in-text citations provide the most basic information about the source, your references section will include additional publication details. In general, you will include the following information:
- The author’s last name followed by his or her first (and sometimes middle) initial
- The year the source was published
- The source title
- For articles in periodicals, the full name of the periodical, along with the volume and issue number and the pages where the article appeared
Additional information may be included for different types of sources, such as online sources. For a detailed guide to APA or MLA citations, see Chapter 13. A sample reference list is provided with the final draft of Jorge’s paper later in this chapter.
Incorporating Primary and Secondary Research
As you write your draft, be mindful of how you are using primary and secondary source material to support your points. Recall that primary sources present firsthand information. Secondary sources are one step removed from primary sources. They present a writer’s analysis or interpretation of primary source materials. How you balance primary and secondary source material in your paper will depend on the topic and assignment.
Incorporating Primary Sources Effectively
Some types of research papers must use primary sources extensively to achieve their purpose. Any paper that analyzes a primary text or presents the writer’s own experimental research falls in this category. Here are a few examples:
- A paper for a literature course analyzing several poems by Emily Dickinson
- A paper for a political science course comparing televised speeches delivered by two presidential candidates
- A paper for a communications course discussing gender biases in television commercials
- A paper for a business administration course that discusses the results of a survey the writer conducted with local businesses to gather information about their work-from-home and flex time policies
- A paper for an elementary education course that discusses the results of an experiment the writer conducted to compare the effectiveness of two different methods of mathematics instruction
For these types of papers, primary research is the main focus. If you are writing about a work (including non-print works, such as a movie or a painting), it is crucial to gather information and ideas from the original work, rather than relying solely on others’ interpretations. And, of course, if you take the time to design and conduct your own field research, such as a survey, a series of interviews, or an experiment, you will want to discuss it in detail. For example, the interviews may provide interesting responses that you want to share with your reader.
You are already familiar with incorporating quotations and paraphrases from primary sources that people other than yourself have produced. But you may not be familiar with how to incorporate your own primary research. When Miguel was writing his paper, he decided to give a survey to people he knew about whether and why people the author knew participated in low-carb diets. he also asked questions to determine how effective they were. When gathering your own data like this, it is best to summarize the data that you found before writing about it. In other words, you must analyze the data you gathered and summarize it. You then refer to your overall findings. To incorporate his findings, Miguel wrote:
|Survey data show that not many people seem to be committed to staying on a low-carb diet, as -- after only a week -- most survey respondents had already given up on the diet (Ramirez).|
Note that Miguel cited his own last name when quoting his own research. That's really the only difference between incorporating a primary source that you collected versus primary research that someone else said.
Incorporating Secondary Sources Effectively
For some assignments, it makes sense to rely more on secondary sources than primary sources. If you are not analyzing a text or conducting your own field research, you will need to use secondary sources extensively.
As much as possible, use secondary sources that are closely linked to primary research, such as a journal article presenting the results of the authors’ scientific study or a book that cites interviews and case studies. These sources are more reliable and add more value to your paper than sources that are further removed from primary research. For instance, a popular magazine article on junk-food addiction might be several steps removed from the original scientific study on which it is loosely based. As a result, the article may distort, sensationalize, or misinterpret the scientists’ findings.
Even if your paper is largely based on primary sources, you may use secondary sources to develop your ideas. For instance, an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s films would focus on the films themselves as a primary source, but might also cite commentary from critics. A paper that presents an original experiment would include some discussion of similar prior research in the field.
Miguel knew he did not have the time, resources, or experience needed to conduct original experimental research for his paper other than a little additional complimentary research. Because he was relying on secondary sources to support his ideas, he made a point of citing sources that were not far removed from primary research.
Some sources could be considered primary or secondary sources, depending on the writer’s purpose for using them. For instance, if a writer’s purpose is to inform readers about how the No Child Left Behind legislation has affected elementary education, a Time magazine article on the subject would be a secondary source. However, suppose the writer’s purpose is to analyze how the news media has portrayed the effects of the No Child Left Behind legislation. In that case, articles about the legislation in news magazines like Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report would be primary sources. They provide firsthand examples of the media coverage the writer is analyzing.