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Helping Students Use Source Material in Their Writing

  1. Introduce your source in the present tense. Introducing your source allows you to integrate source material with your own writing. It also allows you to provide evidence of your source’s credibility. Read the following examples:
    • Clinical psychologist John Doe...
      • argues that...
      • points out that...
      • suggests...
      • believes...
    • According to Jane Doe, an expert in medical ethics, this law...
    • Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (NAME??) show that...
  2. Use your introduction to demonstrate your source’s credibility. Notice the three examples above. In each, the writer tells us where the information or ideas come from: a clinical psychologist, an expert in medical ethics, and a widely known and well respected institution. This information helps us recognize the source’s authority, or credibility.
  3. Quote or paraphrase your source accurately. Quotes require you to use exact language, while paraphrasing requires you to convey borrowed ideas or information in your own words. Consult an appropriate text and/or your instructor for help with this.
  4. Use parenthetical citations effectively. Parenthetical citations provide the information necessary for allowing your readers to identify the source on your Works Cited page you’re quoting or paraphrasing in your essay. Read the following examples (using MLA—APA format will be slightly different):
    • John Doe, a clinical psychologist, points out that "diagnoses in this area are difficult to make, and incorrect diagnoses can yield serious consequences."
    • One noted clinical psychologist points out that "diagnoses in this area are difficult to make, and incorrect diagnoses can yield serious consequences" (Doe).
    NOTE: In the first quote the source itself, John Doe, is mentioned and therefore his name is not included in the parentheses at the end of the quote. It’s essential to have his name in one spot or the other, but not both.

    NOTE: The examples above illustrate internal citations for an electronic source. However, there are several other ways to provide these citations. See an appropriate reference for more information.
  5. Respond to the source material in your essay. You might elaborate on it, explain it, refute it, and so on. Just be sure you respond. Read the following paragraphs, with the author’s response in bold print.

    Direct Quote

    Of course, the big question is whether executing convicted murderers is ever really justifiable. And some believe it is not. Noted ethicist Jeremy Anderson, for example, argues that "killing people who have killed is never appropriate in a society that deems itself civilized; no matter how we rationalize it, it compromises us as a people" (43). Anderson’s argument cannot be overlooked or cast aside, for it provides us with a fundamental truth about capital punishment—it requires the conscious taking of another human life and thus diminishes us as human beings.

    Non-quoted Information

    Capital punishment, however, may well be an effective deterrent. Recent statistics indicate that the murder rate in each of the seven states adopting capital punishment in the last nine years has decreased, and these decreases adding up to a collective 27.3% ("The Death Penalty: A Raging Debate" 2). While the death penalty itself may not account for this entire decrease, it certainly seems apparent that it has been a contributing factor—that it is indeed serving as a deterrent.
  6. Create a Works Cited entry for each source you use. Follow your instructor’s guidelines and/or consult a good handbook (preferably published in 2009 or later) for help formatting works cited.

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