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Using Sources Effectively A Guide to research & writing

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  1. Using Sources EffectivelyA Guide to research & writing Writing Center – Irvine Campus

  2. Why Research?Research-based writing is an amazing opportunity during your educational experience. This type of writing improves your ability to frame a research problem, discover relevant sources, use those sources effectively, and write a persuasive paper with them. The benefits of research-based writing will last for the rest of your life. It is a mental exercise that develops your skills in writing, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking. • Writing is a thinking process • It requires a deeper thought process of critical analyses and research. • Research sources provide context • Context is crucial to interpretation. In order to have a proper understanding of the events and thought processes, you must have knowledge of the surrounding information environment. • Research sources add interest and provide you with new ideas • Researching and using sources enriches your paper with stories, personal experiences, unique data, experimental results and other items. Research provides you with several different ways of thinking about an issue, and develops your ability to refine your own thinking by discovering the various ways of conceptualizing an idea. • Research sources strengthen arguments • They demonstrate the research performed and the integration of the findings and ideas of others into your own argument. Discussing quotes or references of sources demonstrates your awareness of other writers’ positions on the topic, that your ideas have support, and your ability to think and argue alongside with scholars and other professionals connected to your subject. • Research sources reveal controversy • “There are two sides to every argument” and you should know both. By responding reasonably to these disagreeing points, you demonstrate that you are aware of the opposing sides, maintain the ability to respond reasonably, and that your conclusions are based on a full contemplation of all evidence, pros and cons. • Research sources identify how reasoned argument works • The more you research and work with sources for your papers, the more information literate you will become. This means that you will strengthen your ability to locate, evaluate and use information appropriately. • Writing develops lifelong skills • Writing represents mental work within the fixed form of printed text so that others can access it and make use of it. • Writing is a learning process • It involves the collection and organization of ideas, thoughts, of analysis, and of comparing and contrasting conflicting claims.

  3. Citing Your Sources:You must cite the source of each idea of item of information used in your paper, whether you quote, paraphrase, summarize, or simply refer to it.

  4. Sooo…Are sources the main part of the paper? Your ideas count. It is incorrect to think that research paper is only exceptional if it is filled with sources elegantly tied together. Sources support your thoughts and ideas. The most important part of a research paper is not the sources themselves but what you do with them. They should support your line of argument, conclusions and ideas. In addition, simply citing sources is not enough. They need clarification through explanation and discussion. You must tell the story that the sources have helped you to discover.

  5. Working with Your Sources:Understanding how to work properly with your sources will make the writing much easier and cohesive. As you evaluate each source, take notes about important points and then select passages for possible quotation, paraphrase or summary. Taking notes makes working with sources easier. Knowing when and what to quote, paraphrase and summarize will help you prepare the construction of your paper better. Learning how to paraphrase and summarize accurately will help you avoid plagiarism. • Take Careful Notes • Include the full bibliographic citation at the beginning of your notes in order to create a shortened format for subsequent references from the same source. • Use quotation marks around all word-for-word copying. Include a clear citation. • Label paraphrases with a distinguishing mark. Include a clear citation. • Label summaries with a distinguishing mark. Include a clear citation. • Label your own ideas with the word Mine. Your ideas are valuable too. • Quote Exactly. • There is always a chance for errors when copying text by hand or even copying and pasting from an electronic source. Double check to ensure that the text have been copied accurately. • Keep Copies of Each Source • Archive Your Notes • Do not throw anything away. If any confusion should arise later, you can always refer back to your archive for consultation and clarification.

  6. Quoting Your Sources:Direct quotation is beneficial to the quality of your paper • Expert declaration. Using the exact words of an authority is more powerful than a summary or a paraphrase, even if the exact words are not remarkable. Readers can see exactly what the expert says without any concern that some meaning has been lost during paraphrase or summary of the words. • Direct support. Supplying a direct quotation is an effective way to reinforce a point or an idea. Quotations possess a sense of immediacy that paraphrases and summaries lack. • Effective language. The quality, elegance, clarity, directness, use of metaphor or other imagery, exactness, aptness, etc., of a writer’s language may make it highly quotable. The quote may add interest to your paper by adding another voice to the discussion and providing impact. • Historical flavor. Older sources often have a different writing style and vocabulary. These quotations can offer a particular zest or rhetorical flourish to your paper. • Specific examples. Some anecdotes are impossible to paraphrase or summarize without losing meaning or color. In these cases, direct quotations are essential. • Controversial statement. Directly quoting controversial statements will remove the reader’s skepticism about the authenticity of the source’s words and distance you from responsibility for the idea or words used to express it. • Material for analysis. Before commenting on, explaining, analyzing or criticizing an idea, quoting the exact issue before the reader for reference is beneficial. This allows you to make your analysis using short phrases or single words without confusing the reader about the context of those words.

  7. Cautions about Quoting • Quoting too often. Excessive quoting will push your ideas into the background and take over your paper. Remember, quotes should support your ideas not bury them. However, if you explain, discuss, or apply most of your quotations, you should be able to avoid this. • Quoting one source too many times. Some of your instructors may specify particular source requirements to avoid the overuse of a single source. The overuse of one source implies too much dependence on it and ill-balanced research. • Quoting too long. Lengthy quotations are considered padding within papers. In addition, lengthy quotations are ineffective. • Vicious abstraction. This occurs when a quotation takes on a different meaning than intended because it is taken out of context. This occurs when: • The source author is presenting someone else’s position. • The source author’s words require the source context for an accurate understanding. • Some words are omitted from the quotation, and the abbreviated quotation takes on a different meaning than intended by the full quotation.

  8. Paraphrasing:Paraphrasing research is another way to incorporate a source’s ideas into your research paper. Guidelines to Paraphrasing: • The paraphrase must be almost entirely in your words using new vocabulary (synonyms) and new phrases. • Use a different sentence structure from that of the source. • Rearrange the order of ideas. Include all of the points and ideas of the source, but rearrange or reconvey them. • Put quotation marks around any exact words you retain from the source. • Always provide a citation that clearly gives credit to the source for the ideas in the paraphrase. When to Paraphrase: • Arrangement for emphasis of the ideas important to your paper. • Simplifying the material if it is too technical or specific and the complexity of the argument is too difficult to follow. Paraphrasing here will also increase your own understanding of the source material, and in addition to increasing your reader’s understanding. • Clarifying the material when the source has a complex style or technical vocabulary. Paraphrase to eliminate unnecessary language while maintaining the meaning of the quotation.

  9. Summarizing:Citing your research by restating or rewriting a source’s ideas in a more focused or shorter way than quoting or paraphrasing would allow. Guidelines for Summarizing: • The summary must be almost entirely in your words using new vocabulary (synonyms) and new phrases. • Use a different sentence structure from that of the source. • Rearrange the order of ideas. Include all of the points and ideas of the source, but rearrange or reconvey them. • Put quotation marks around any exact words you retain from the source. • Always provide a citation that clearly gives credit to the source for the ideas in the summary. When to Summarize: • Simplify the source when an argument or discussion lasts several pages. • Eliminate the extras such as unneeded examples, digressions, or explanations. Keep the main points or the main argument. • Condense the source when fewer details are needed than a paraphrase would provide. • Make a minor point or briefly refer to minor point within the source.

  10. Putting It Together:After selecting and preparing your sources, you must put everything together in a way that makes your writing clear and effective. Your sources should be smoothly built into the flow of your paper and clearly distinguished from own writing. • One Simple Rule: Mark the boundaries • Distinguish carefully between your own words and ideas and those of the sources you use. Place boundary markers around the source material to set it apart from your own writing. Indicate clearly when you begin to draw upon a source and when you have finished. • For short quotations, boundaries are marked by a lead-in, opening and closing quotation marks, and a citation. • (APA Style): The practice of blood letting to cure disease, writes Doe (2000), was derived from “the medieval theory of the four humours, which supposed that many ailments arose from an excess of blood in need of reducing to its proper level” (p.224). • For long quotations, boundaries are marked by a lead-in, a block indentation, and a citation. • (APA Style – indent five spaces or one-half inch): Maheu and Gordon (2000) suggest that even as on-line technologies are being used increasingly for counseling and therapy purposes, these new modes of contact need to be assessed carefully: Each interactive technology raises new concerns related to its particular strengths and limitations. For instance, the use of videoconferencing involves both similar and different issues than does E-mail interaction with patients. Each technology needs to be examined separately for its related risk management issues. Likewise, each patient should be assessed for the need for and the suitability of on-line services, should be clearly Informed of the nature and the limitations of the services, and should be given plans for possible equipment failures and crises. (p. 487) • For unquoted sources, such as paraphrase or summary, boundaries are marked by a lead-in and a citation or other close. • (APA Style): A product recall might be more accurately known as a product repair. As Doe (2000) notes, most recalled products never leave the consumer’s home. In many cases, when a defect is discovered by the manufacturer, a repair kit is sent to the consumer. In other cases, the product must be taken in for repair. Rarely will the product be called in and exchanged for another (p.456). For example, recalled automobiles are never returned to the factor and replaced; they are simply repaired at the dealer.

  11. Effective Use:Selecting, preparing and incorporating your sources are crucial steps within your research. It is especially important to know how to effectively use these sources within your research paper. • Introduce the source thoroughly. • Establish credibility of the source. • Depends on: how much of the source you use; the nature of the source material; importance of the source to your argument. • Example: As John Doe, author of Poisonous Plants of South America, says, “These South American plants are dangerous.” • Provide needed background or context. • Explanation, history, contrasting ideas, the set-up of an experiment, or other information will be useful for helping the reader understand the source. • Recommend the source. • It can be useful and effective to recommend to the reader that particular attention to a source is desirable. • Example: Interestingly enough, John Doe reports that…. • Discuss or apply the source: Be sure that the connections between elements are clear. • The purpose of the source is not always self-evident. • Sources do not explain themselves. Your task is answer the “so what?” for your reader. • Explain the source. • Explain or demonstrate how your lead-in is correct. Sources need clarification, interpretation, commentary, or some other explanation. The longer the source, the longer the explanation. Do not restate or paraphrase the source. Avoid saying the same thing the quotation says. • Be reasonable about the effect of the source. • An argument is built by offering multiple reasons and by appealing to evidence. Instead of claiming that a source proves a point or provides overwhelming evidence, you might say that it lends weight to the argument. • Provide an example for further clarification. • An example creates an image in the reader’s mind and makes the concepts more easily grasped.

  12. Effective Use, cont’d • Blend-in your sources. • Blending sources can produce an effective and well-written research paper. By artfully moving back and forth from source to discussion, you demonstrate your understanding and ability to work with the source’s ideas easily and fluidly. • Example (APA): During an investigation of the site, Doe (2004) found evidence of “early disturbances in most of the graves” (p. 233), with seven of them “plundered and virtually destroyed” (p.254) by grave robbers. As a result of this activity, he concludes that the “entire site is largely compromised” (p.221). • Combine quoting with summarizing. • Combing these two modes of use can regulate the temp of the borrowing, speeding up and slowing down as the importance of the material warrants. • Use one long quote, many short quotes for powerful persuasion. • A successful strategy is to quote and discuss one source at some length to demonstrate its support, and then quote or refer to two or three other sources very briefly as additional examples of support. • Avoid ineffective use. • Beware of long quotations. • It is important to keep your reader interested in your discussion and focused on its central idea. Lengthy quotations, or several of them, prevent these goals. Remember that long quotations, and too many of them, can look like padding and readers often lose focus when reading too many of these. • Avoid overuse of one source. • Be careful not to rely excessively on a single source. Be wary of citing the same source several times in a row creating the appearance that the source is merely being summarized and transferred into your paper. Collect all your sources and arrange them in the most useful order before you begin writing. • Begin and end each paragraph with your own words. • Be sure citations match the references.

  13. Need Further Assistance? Contact the Writing Center @ the Information Resource Center for further guidance and assistance. Phone: (949) 812-7454 Email: This guide was created with the information provided by Harris, Robert A. (2005). Using sources effectively: Strengthening your writing and avoiding plagiarism. California: Pyrczak Publishing.