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Evidence & Documentation

Why is it important to avoid dropped quotations?

A dropped quotation—a quote that appears in a paper without introduction—can disrupt the flow of thought, create an abrupt change in voice, and/or leave the reader wondering why the quote is included.

Instead of creating an unwelcome disruption in their paper’s cohesiveness with a dropped quotation, thoughtful writers should employ strategies for smoothly integrating source material into their own work.

What does it mean to paraphrase?

When paraphrasing, a writer uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s ideas. Paraphrasing does not mean simply changing a few of the original words, rearranging the structure of the sentence, or replacing some words with synonyms. A paraphrase should explain a borrowed idea in the writer’s own voice but must also remain true to the message of the original text.

Learn how to introduce and correctly summarize, paraphrase, and cite sources. Clarify the research methods employed by your sources.

Your instructors do not want to read miscellaneous quotations that are thrown together one after another. The problem with essays that use extensive direct quotations is that they tend to lack voice, continuity, or authority. If you offer quotations every few lines, your ideas become subordinate to other people's ideas and voices, which often contradicts your instructor's reasons for assigning research papers—that is, to learn what you think about a subject.

Why is it important to use only the most vital part of a quote to support your point?

Although the use of direct quotations from reliable sources contributes to the credibility of the writer, the use of lengthy quotes can dilute the writer’s voice as well as remove attention from the writer’s point.

Judicious writers should concern themselves not only with the quality of quoted material, but also with the quantity. Careful selection of the most vital words and phrases from a quotation can contribute to the writer’s ability to support their ideas clearly and concisely.

What does it mean to paraphrase?

When paraphrasing, a writer uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s ideas. The borrowed idea should be presented in the writer’s own voice but must remain true to the message of the original text. A paraphrase should clearly and accurately communicate the most important points of a text without integrating outside ideas.

Academic writing requires authors to connect information from outside sources to their own ideas in order to establish credibility and produce an effective argument.

Sometimes, the rules surrounding source integration and plagiarism may seem confusing, so many new writers err on the side of caution by using the simplest form of integration: direct quotation. However, using direct quotes is not always the best way to use a source. Paraphrasing or summarizing a text is sometimes a more effective means of supporting a writer’s argument than directly quoting. Taking into consideration the purpose of their own writing and the purpose of utilizing the outside source, authors should seek to vary the ways in which they work sources into their own writing.

Sample Contextualizing for the Source

Being Fluent with Information Technology explores why people need to understand and utilize information technology. Published by The National Academies in 1997, the book is written by the Committee on Information Technology and Literacy, including Lawrence Snyder, University of Washington, Chair; Alfred V. Aho, Lucent Technologies, Inc.; Marcia Linn, University of California at Berkeley; Arnold Packer, Johns Hopkins University; Allen Tucker, Bowdoin College; Jeffrey Ullman, Stanford University; Andries Van Dam.

As with most other skills, practice is the best way to become effective at paraphrasing. Also, you may need to write several drafts before developing one that accurately reports the author's intentions in your own words.

Note also that if you cite three or more words from the original or even one word that was coined by the author, you should acknowledge your indebtedness by placing quotation marks around the borrowed terms.

While documentation styles differ in their formats and procedures, they all agree on one point: You must ensure that your readers know when you are borrowing from secondary sources. Remember, in particular, that readers read from left to right.

They should not–and truly cannot–be expected to read backwards to determine just how much of a paragraph or section is borrowed from a secondary source. For example, note the confusion a reader would have in evaluating Theresa Lovins's interesting essay, "Objectionable Rock Lyrics":

Paraphrasing, on the other hand, involves rearticulating someone else's ideas. As a student, you routinely paraphrase your instructors' lectures and the contents of textbooks.

Exams, in one sense, are one large paraphrase in that they require you to review and restate material from assigned readings and lectures. Of course, when you paraphrase, you want to be careful that you do not alter the author's original message, eliminate any significant background information, misrepresent the author's intentions, or copy the original wording too closely.

When is it appropriate to rely on a direct quote? You might want to directly quote a source

  1. If the quoted material goes to the heart of your discussion or argument.
  2. If it is so well-written that it cannot be condensed further.
  3. If it contains a dramatic eyewitness account of an event.
  4. If it is written by a prestigious author or philosopher.
  5. If it contains relevant statistics.
  6. If you cannot paraphrase or summarize the quote more effectively in your own words.

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Placement

As the first major section of the document, the title page appears at the top of the first page.

Components

The title page is comprised of a few key elements:

  • Running head (or shortened title) and label
  • Page number
  • Full title of the paper

Learn how to format the References page of your paper in APA style (open article to view the full image):

Placement

The abstract acts as the second major section of the document and typically begins on the second page of the paper. It follows directly after the title page and precedes the table of contents and/or main body of the paper.

The abstract is a succinct, single-paragraph summary of your paper’s purpose, main points, method, findings, and conclusions. It is often written after the rest of your paper has been completed.

Placement

Beginning at the top of a new page, the main body of the research paper follows the abstract and precedes the References page. Comprised of the introduction, method, results, and discussion subsections, the main body acts as the third major section of the document and typically begins on the third page of the paper.

How should section and subsection headings be formatted in APA style?

A research paper written in APA style should be organized into sections and subsections using the five levels of APA headings. APA recommends using subheadings only when the paper has at least two subsections within a larger section. Notice how sections contain at least two smaller subsections in the example below:

When should footnotes be used?

The APA suggests two instances in which footnotes may be used:

  • Content Footnotes: to offer further information on a topic that is not directly related to the text. As content footnotes should be concise, avoid writing lengthy paragraphs or including extraneous information.
  • Copyright Permission Footnotes: to cite adapted or reprinted materials in the paper, especially data sets, tables, and quotations that exceed 400 words. Consult the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) for more information about copyright permissions.

How should a paraphrased passage be cited?

When paraphrasing a passage, it is essential to express the ideas of the author in your own original words; however, the author’s message and meaning should always be preserved.

Charges of plagiarism can be avoided by including the proper citation of the work you are drawing from in your paraphrase.

What punctuation should be used to indicate omitted words from a direct quotation?

When a portion of a sentence (or sentences) is not included in a quotation, three ellipsis points should be typed in place of the omitted material. However, ellipsis points do not need to be included at the beginning or end of a quotation; the reader will assume that additional material is present in the original text before and after the quotation.

When should a short quotation be used?

Whether they are used to provide evidence, support for an argument, or to illustrate an idea using another writer’s words, short quotations are valuable tools that can enhance any essay. Because short quotations contain fewer than 40 words, they should be integrated into the surrounding paragraph using introductory phrases that provide some context for the quoted material.