Writing with Sources

  • Learn how to introduce and correctly summarize, paraphrase, and cite sources.
  • Explore conventions for weaving others’ ideas and words into your prose without destroying your focus and voice.

Sub-Sections in Writing-with-sources:

  1. Paraphrases
  2. Quotations
  3. Summary, Synthesis & Flow

Writing with Sources concerns the ethical and artful use of sources.


Over the years, conventions have evolved regarding how writers should acknowledge and integrate the ideas and works of others.

As discussed at Information Literacy educated readers expect writers to cite their sources. In part people cite sources because Information Has Value and because the practice of generating and testing knowledge claims is built on the assumption that Scholarship is a Conversation, Plus, adding sources provides authors Ethos when they are not subject-matter experts.

This doesn’t mean your readers want to read miscellaneous quotations that are thrown together one after another. The problem with texts 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.

Plus, it’s important to note that there are instances when sources are provided exteremely

See Also: Information Literacy
See Information Literacy for to explore the rationale for providig sources. Information Has Value and because the practice of generating and testing knowledge claims is built on the assumption that Scholarship is a Conversation, educated readers expect writers to cite their sources.

Analyze Sources from the Perspective of Genre & Rhetoric, particularly Audience

They Say

In higher education, professors routinely assign annotated bibliographies, book reviews, and reviews of literature. Gerald Graff and and Cathy Birkenstein insightfully characterize these genre of writing as They Say in their hugely popular book They Say, I Say. In other words, the voice of the author is insignificant in such texts. The rhetor’s personal responses to the texts are unimportant to the readers. Instead, the spotlight remains on the primary texts under discussion–i.e., the original text, the canon, the foundational texts (AKA canonical texts), and the important interpretations of those texts by distinguished scholars.

I Say

In contrast to They Say, at times professors assign I Say texts–that is, genres that permit authors to weigh in on knowledge claims.

Patch Writing

Regardless of whether the aim is They Say or I Say, writers must be attentive as to whether the reader will be able to discern at what points the rhetor is quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing sources. Moreover, because Authority is Constructed and Contextual, writers need to contextualize sources. They need to explicitly address the ethos of the sources. And, for sophisticated audiences, they need to ground the knowledge claim in the lifecycle of an idea (see Information Creation as a Process).

Regardless of details about where you drop the publication dates for individual citation styles, the takeaway here is that in the western world citation matters. A lot.

And, most importantly, these values were inscribed into law and policy back in the day. We’re talking before the internet, practically prehsitoric times. Beginning with Britain’s Statute of Monopolies in 1624 and the Statute of Ann in 1710, governments in the west adopted laws to protect inventors and writers from theft of their ideas and w

Additional articles on Writing-with-sources:

  1. Avoid Dropped Quotations

    Why is it important to avoid dropped quotations? A dropped quotation—a quote that appears in a paper without introduction—can disrupt...

  2. Avoiding Plagiarism: A Checklist for Student Writers

    After you understand what plagiarism is, as well as how to avoid it, consider using a plagiarism checklist as you...

  3. Connecting Source Material to Claims

    One of the three sides of the rhetorical triangle is ethos. Ethos refers to the writer’s credibility and authority as...

  4. Double-Entry Response Format

    The double-entry format is a useful technique to help you extend your thinking about a source or to critique an...

  5. Executive Summary

    A summary uses the writer’s own words to concisely explain the main point(s) or major argument(s) of a source or...

  6. Exercise: Analyzing Evidence

    Exercise: Analyzing Evidence Take whatever project draft on which you’re currently working and underline all of your quotes and paraphrases....

  7. Exercise: Figurative Language

    "Exercise: Figurative Language" was contributed by Allison Wise. Examine a famous speech or essay (political pieces and sermons work particularly...

  8. Flow: Mix Quotes with Paraphrasing

    As with most other skills, practice is the best way to become effective at paraphrasing. Also, you may need to...

  9. How Much of this Quote is Vital to Your Point?

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

  10. Incorporate Evidence into a Research Paper

    When you think of the term “evidence,” what comes to mind? CSI? Law and Order? NCIS? Certainly, detectives and law enforcement officers use...

  11. Inserting or Altering Words in a Direct Quotation

    What punctuation should be used when words are inserted or altered in a direct quotation? When writers insert or alter...

  12. Introduce Evidence

    Can the reader distinguish between your ideas and those of your sources? You don’t want to take credit for the...

  13. Omitting Words from a Direct Quotation

    What punctuation should be used when words are omitted from a direct quotation? Dot com. Dot org. Dot edu. Dots...

  14. Paraphrase Accurately to Preserve the Source’s Ideas

    What does it mean to paraphrase? When paraphrasing, a writer uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s...

  15. Provide Background Information About the Researcher’s Methods

    By definition, critical readers are skeptical. They do not take the results of research as the final word on the...

  16. Provide Support for Claims

    Why is it important to provide reliable support for claims? When a writer makes a point or claim, his or...

  17. Relate Sources to Thesis/Research Question

    Even if the connection is readily visible, authors should still follow up a piece of sourced material with an explanation...

  18. Relevance of a Source in relation to Claims

    How is this source relevant to your thesis and purpose? Many emerging writers struggle with connecting sourced material to their...

  19. Summarize & Paraphrase Sources

    Learn how to integrate the words and ideas of others into your documents without losing your voice and focus. Over...

  20. Summary

    Summaries tend to be interpretive. They give the author's critical evaluation of the source. Would your summary differ, for example,...

  21. Synthesis Notes: Working With Sources To Create a First Draft

    Synthesis notes are a strategy for taking and using reading notes that bring together—synthesize—what we read with our thoughts about...

  22. Synthesizing Your Research Findings

    Synthesis is something you already do in your everyday life.  For example, if you are shopping for a new car,...

  23. Tell Your Readers When You Are Citing, Paraphrasing, or Summarizing

    While documentation styles differ in their formats and procedures, they all agree on one point: You must ensure that your...

  24. Use Solely Your Own Words to Paraphrase

    What does it mean to paraphrase? When paraphrasing, a writer uses his or her own words to restate someone else’s...

  25. When Is Paraphrasing Preferable to Quoting?

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

  26. When is Quoting Preferable to Paraphrasing?

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

  27. When to Paraphrase

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

  28. When to Quote

    Direct quotes should be used sparingly, but when they are used, they can be a powerful rhetorical tool. As a...

  29. When to Quote

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