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.
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
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.
In contrast to They Say, at times professors assign I Say texts–that is, genres that permit authors to weigh in on knowledge claims.
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 works.
- Be conscious of when you need information.
- Learn to adeptly research information to inform and solve problems, entertain, or persuade.
- Critically evaluate information (e.g, distinguish fake news from real news).
- Be aware of ethical and unethical uses of information, including plagiarism.
- Strategically weave sources into your text without undermining your purpose or losing your intended voice or tone.
- Establish the credibility of your sources for your audience. Avoid patchwriting.
- Cite sources correctly.
In order to avoid inadvertent plagiarism or academic dishonesty, you must understand intellectual property and copyright. In our digital age, where users can easily download information, we must consider these issues from an ethical perspective as well.
- 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.
Consider using a plagiarism checklist as you draft and edit your work.
Understand the ethical responsibilities of authors. Avoid plagiarism and academic dishonesty.