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University Writing Center
August 30, 2014

Using Sources

Sources can be used in your research in paper using well-established techniques that have clear conventions, including summary, paraphrase, quotation, and citation.   

 Summary allows you to condense research from a source or sources by rewriting that information in your own words. You condense by selecting what information should be included and excluded based on its importance to your thesis or purpose. A summary may synthesize information from several sources. If that it the case, care should be taken to cite all sources.

 Paraphrase, like summary, is used to restate information from a source by conveying that information in your own words. A paraphrase restates a passage, usually a brief passage, and focuses more on ideas or arguments than information, data, or facts.      

 Care should be taken when summarizing and paraphrasing to avoid unintentional plagiarism or academic dishonesty:

First, always summarize and paraphrase using your own words. Simply accessing a thesaurus and replacing some words with synonyms, or even reversing the clauses in a passage isn’t sufficient. Using your own words also means reorganizing the material so it supports your argument or purpose rather than that of the original author.  

Second, be fair to your source material. Include all pertinent information. Intentionally excluding material that is detrimental to your thesis or purpose is not only academic dishonesty, but also will also detract from the quality of your paper. Clearly addressing disagreement, alternative interpretations, historical anomalies, and counter arguments, though challenging, may also result in the most critical passages in your paper and the crux of your argument.    

 Quotation should be used when the words and phrases from the original source convey the information, ideas, or arguments more clearly than a paraphrase could capture, or the style or flavor of the words themselves is necessary for a clear understanding of their meaning.When a paraphrase or summary will not do justice to the source, quote. Because quotations often provide authority and authenticity to academic writing, they can easily be overused. There are no hard and fast rules for how many quotations to use or how long they should be. Journals in the field have varying guidelines. A good rule of thumb is to use quotations as sparingly as possible and still be true to the source as well as provide the necessary authority to your writing. 

 Quotations should not simply be dropped into a paragraph. They should be introduced and integrated into the paragraph in which they appear. In addition, their contribution to your argument should be clearly stated. Note how Edward W. Clayton introduces two quotations from Aristotle in his article, “The Audience for Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric,” (Rhetorica) by integrating those quotations into his own sentences:

 Rhetoric, Aristotle says, is practiced “among such listeners as are not able to see many things all together or to reason from a distant starting point.”19 This, in fact, is one of the main reasons rhetoric is useful in cities as they now exist, according to Aristotle: “even if we were to have the most exact knowledge, it would not be very easy for us in speaking to use it to persuade some audiences.”20 But things would be different in the ideal city.

 Clayton then briefly but clearly explains how Aristotle’s statements support his own arguments by interpreting those statements:
Rhetoric, Aristotle says, is practiced “among such listeners as are not able to see many things all together or to reason from a distant starting point.”19 This, in fact, is one of the main reasons rhetoric is useful in cities as they now exist, according to Aristotle: “even if we were to have the most exact knowledge, it would not be very easy for us in speaking to use it to persuade some audiences.”20 But things would be different in the ideal city.

Citation is more critical to academic writing, whether in history or any other academic field, than it is in any other genre. A history paper is only as good as its citations. Consequently, you should consistently follow the style manual preferred by your instructor, usually APA or the Chicago Manual of Style. You may be surprised to learn that the citation information in data bases, bibliographies, websites, or the table of contents of a journal, may not follow this or any other style manual. (Note, for instance, this website, which is an instructional document rather than an academic document, does not follow APA or Chicago style.) You will have to convert that information to the appropriate style requirements. See Selected Outside Sources for links to online style manuals.  

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