When you are buried under a mountain of textbooks, journals, and printouts, it is impossible to choose the right sources for your paper. Every publication seems promising, every passage worthy of quoting. If you are struggling to cram all your sources into a standard five-paragraph essay, this guide is exactly what you need. Follow it step-by-step, and you will finally get the hang of using sources in your academic writing.
Step 1. Choose Good Sources
Using the Internet, you can get your hands on any information you need for an essay or a research paper. However, you should think carefully before choosing the sources to use.
First of all, they should be credible. It is preferable to use articles published in respected peer-reviewed journals. If there are several sources published years apart, choose the data from the latest publications, though you can reference earlier research to support your arguments.
Ask your instructor which sources are recommended to use. You might be able to intersperse scientific articles with fiction books, documentaries, movies, etc. Your professor will also dictate the number of sources to use.
Step 2. Determine The Purpose Of Each Source
In the course of your research, you will find many appropriate sources, however, dont use all of them thoughtlessly. Each source should be considered carefully. Determine the purpose of every article, book or movie before referencing it in your essay.
Your sources may serve several purposes:
- The source provides context and background information. If your topic is very specific and may be difficult to understand, sources can provide the necessary background for your readers. In this case, sources will most likely be used in the introduction or the first body paragraph.
- The source supports your argument or provides evidence. Many students use their sources for this specific purpose, supplying facts, figures, statistics and other data that can support their point.
- The source lends expert credibility to the argument. If the source text was written by an expert or a person with authority in the field, it might make your paper look more credible and your points more trustworthy.
- The source provides a counterargument. Addressing the opposing viewpoint is important to make the paper well-rounded, your arguments will seem stronger. It is not advisable to avoid the counterargument, it might suggest that you cannot refute the opposing claim. Your work will look weaker.
Analyze each source and decide, which purpose it might serve. If you cannot determine the reason for using the source, leave it and find another.
Step 3. Choose The Way To Incorporate The Source
There are three ways you can use your sources: quote, paraphrase and summarize. It is important to choose appropriate form for every argument, so as not to overuse quotations and keep your paper at a manageable length.
Use the direct quote, if:
- The wording of the text is very strong and effective.
- The author possesses authority, and his or her words hold considerable weight.
- The text you quote is the object of your analysis.
- The direct quote is more concise than your summary or paraphrasing can be.
Paraphrasing is essentially a rewriting of an original piece of text to convey the same meaning. Paraphrased passages are usually the same length as the original excerpts. Paraphrasing is appropriate, if:
- The language of the original text is not as important as its meaning.
- Specific details are required for better understanding of your arguments.
- You wish to simplify the sources wording to make it more understandable for your readers.
Summarizing is the way to capture the key points of a larger text briefly. Summaries are much shorter than the original passages and are widely used to:
- Condense the meaning of the source in as few words as possible.
- Highlight certain points, while omitting unimportant or unrelated arguments.
- Simplify the authors message.
Step 4. Integrate and Balance Sources
If you wish to get an A for your paper, remember to analyze instead of simply quoting and summarizing your sources. Books and articles are there for you to form your own opinion or vision, to develop a new point of view.
There should be a careful balance between a number of source material and your own thoughts. It might be difficult to separate them, so use a simple this trick. Highlight the information you borrowed from your sources with one color (i.e. red) and your take on the topic using the second color (i.e. green). There should be more green parts in your paper, than red. If that is not the case, either add analysis or delete some the inessential information from the sources.
Step 5. Double Check Your Source Usage
To make sure you use your sources right and get the well-deserved A, go through this short checklist:
- Are you selective? If there are only two sentences pertaining your topic in the source, you should not include whole passages to artificially increase the papers word count. Use only those phrases that are necessary for your essay.
- Do you overuse any of the sources? It is perfectly acceptable to use the same source several times, however, the number of citations should be limited. If you use the same source over and over, it might seem like you were too lazy to look for other materials to support your claims.
- Do you use more than one source per paragraph? The standard paragraph structure calls for the topic sentence, source introduction, usage, and citation, as well as your analysis. However, several sources can be referenced to support each argument and lend more credibility to your research.
- Do you always quote instead of paraphrasing? Quotes are powerful writing devices to be used sparingly. In most cases, paraphrasing and summarizing can provide necessary information without making your writing look sloppy and disjointed.
Now you know how to choose the right sources for your essays and research papers. These easy steps will make your arguments indisputable, and your writing strong and convincing, worthy of the highest grade. But if you are short on time, you are always welcome to reach out for help. Our writers will gladly take on the task of selecting sources and writing the papers for you.