One of the fundamental skills emphasized in this class is the ability to use outside sources in writing an argumentative essay.
This lesson will teach you some of the basic principles about how to use sources in your own writing; at the end is an exercise testing your abilities.
Basic Principles for Using Documented Sources
- Student writers should learn to use sources as evidence, as specific examples that support their generalizations. Poorly written research papers are often characterized by over-use of sources strung together in an attempt to let the sources write the paper.
- Student writers should learn to introduce sources, providing smooth transitions between the writer's own words and the words of others.
- Students should learn to paraphrase, to summarize, and to quote and to use each method of citation appropriately.
To paraphrase, writers use their own words to restate the ideas of the original source. The paraphrase changes word choice and sentence structure but maintains the approximate length of the original.
To summarize, writers condense the source, restating only the main ideas usually by paraphrasing. Summaries are always much shorter than the original source.
To quote, writers preserve the exact words, punctuation, and capitalization, and even the errors, of the source.
In practice, writers nearly always mix all three methods of citation. In order to summarize a paragraph, a writer may paraphrase the topic sentence but choose to retain, in quotes, the source's most vivid word choice.
Sources cited in this lesson are as follows:
- Hodges, John C., Winifred Bryan Horner, Suzanne Strobeck Webb, and Robert Keith Miller. The Harbrace College Handbook. Twelfth Edition. Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace, 1994.
- Silverman, Jay, Elaine Hughes, and Diana Roberts Wienbroer. Rules of Thumb: A Guide for Writers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.
Begin LessonRevised January 9, 1999