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Humanities Libertexts

5.4: Exercises

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    1. Here is a passage from a world history textbook:14

    Like so many things desired by Europeans and supplied by Asians—at first luxury items for the elite such as silk or porcelain, but increasingly products like tea from China for the mass market—cotton textiles were produced well and cheaply in India. The British textile manufacturers focused on the “cheap” part and complained that with relatively higher wages, British manufacturers could not compete. India had a competitive advantage in the eighteenth century, being able to undersell in the world market virtually any other producer of textiles. Some thought the reason for cheap Indian textiles was because of a low living standard, or a large population earning depressed wages, but all of those have been shown to not be true: Indian textile workers in the eighteenth century had just as high a standard of living as British workers. So, if it was not a low standard of living that gave India its competitive advance, what did?

    In a word: agriculture. Indian agriculture was so productive that the amount of food produced, and hence its cost, was significantly lower than in Europe. In the preindustrial age, when working families spent 60-80 percent of their earnings on food, the cost of food was the primary determinant of their real wages (i.e. how much a pound, dollar, a real, or a pagoda could buy). In India (and China and Japan as well), the amount of grain harvested from a given amount of seed was in the ration of 20:1 (e.g., twenty bushels of rice harvested for every one planted), whereas in England it was at best 8:1. Asian agriculture thus was more than twice as efficient as British (and by extension European) agriculture, and food—the major component in the cost of living—cost less in Asia.

    Drawing on this passage, try out different quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing options:

    1. Quote a key phrase or part of a sentence, naming the source and incorporating the quote within your own logic.
    2. Quote an entire sentence or two, providing context and incorporating the quote within your own logic.
    3. Construct an unacceptable paraphrase of part of the passage; copying a couple sentences and change just a few of the key words.
    4. Construct a successful paraphrase of part of the passage; describing it in your own words.
    5. Write a sentence, with a citation, that summarizes the general point of the passage.

    2. Rewrite your responses to 1a and 1b, above, changing the verbs of attribution. How do the new verbs change the meaning or tone of your sentence?

    other resources

    1. Graff and Birkenstein’s little book, They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 2009) is a gem and well worth reading. They offer a series of templates that can help you visualize new ways of relating to sources and constructing arguments.
    2. Another excellent resource is Gordon Harvey’s Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2008), In it, he discusses the key principles for incorporating sources, the stylistic conventions for quoting and paraphrasing, and the basics of common citation styles. That’s all information you want to have at the ready.
    3. Many university writing centers have nicely concise on-line guides to summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting. I found some especially good ones at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Washington, and, as always, the Purdue Online Writing Laboratory.


    1Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2009).

    2 Recommended read: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (New York, Scribner, 2010).

    3 The sources cited in this example: Daniel T. Willingham, “Can teachers increase students’ self control?” American Educator 35, no. 2 (2011): 22-27. Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow.Suzanne Perkins and Sandra Graham-Bermann, “Violence exposure and the development of school-related functioning: mental health, neurocognition, and learning,” Aggression and Violent Behavior 17, no. 1(2012): 89-98. David William Putwain and Natalie Best, “Fear appeals in the primary classroom: Effects on test anxiety and test grade,” Learning and Individual Differences 21, no. 5 (2011): 580-584.

    4 A side note: You may have noticed that the verbs used in referencing tend to be in present tense: so-and-so “writes” or “claims” or “argues”. That’s what academic writers do, even if the piece and author are from far in the past. It’s called “the historical present” and it’s just one convention of academic writing.

    5Jennifer C. Lee, J.C. and Jeremy Staff, “When Work Matters: The Varying Impact of Work Intensity on High School Drop Out,” Sociology of Education 80, no. 2 (2007): 158-178.

    6Ibid., 159.

    7 It took me a long time to stop abusing block quotes. They made me feel like my paper was an unassailable fortress of citation! With the friendly but pointed feedback of my professors, I gradually came to see how they took too much space away from my own argument.

    8Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 416-7.



    11Ibid, 416.

    12Ibid, 417.

    13 Google “verbs of attribution” to find other suggestions.

    14Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 95.

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