The following section on integrating evidence into your writing follows citation rules detailed the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020), which we discuss in much more detail in Chapter 5. However, these approaches to integrating other people’s works into your own work through quoting and paraphrasing apply regardless of which citation style you use.
When you quote a source, you must indicate that you are taking an author’s exact words by using quotation marks (“__”):
Quotations are helpful in many situations, such as when an author has said something so well that including their exact words would add insightful emphasis to your point, or when you are using the exact words that a research subject shared in a study you or someone else has conducted. However, many students rely too heavily on quotations in their papers, which can disrupt the flow of their writing because their paper starts to look like a big mashup of soundbites from different authors.
Another rookie mistake is assuming that quotations are self-explanatory, when in fact, they usually require some explanation so that the reader understands the context of the quotation and how it connects to the argument. See how in the following example, the quotation is contextualized and explained by the sentences before and after it:
Another mistake some students make is that they use quotations that, when taken by themselves, do not accurately represent what the author intended. A classic case of this would be when an author makes a statement, which a student uses as evidence in their paper, but in the actual article, that statement was followed by a big BUT or another key piece of information that changes the context of the remark.
Before using quotations in your paper, ask yourself:
- Is this quotation taken and used in the proper context?
- Is the author’s wording important?
- Can the passage be summarized instead?
- Will the quotation require further explanation?
- Is the connection to my argument clear?
Much of the time, instead of quoting all of your sources, you should try to paraphrase them. Paraphrasing is a valuable skill to learn because it allows you to maintain consistent tone and flow in your writing, and it demonstrates that you have understood what you have read.
When you paraphrase an idea, you do not use quotation marks, but you do still include an in-text citation. For example:
Where many students go wrong in paraphrasing is when they simply change a few words but essentially use the same sentence as the original source did but with a few synonyms thrown in. That is sometimes referred to as patchwriting, and it can be an academic integrity issue. For example:
Original Passage: “The translation of one English sentence into another, however, is not merely verbal. The new sentence you have formed is not a verbal replica of the original. If accurate, it is faithful to the thought alone. That is why making such translations is the best test you can apply to yourself, if you want to be sure you have digested the proposition, not merely swallowed the words. If you fail the test, you have uncovered a failure of understanding. If you say that you know what the author means but can only repeat the author’s sentence to show that you do, then you would not be able to recognize the author’s proposition if it were presented to you in other words.” (Adler & Van Doren, 1972, p. 126)
Patchwriting: Paraphrasing a sentence is not only about words. The paraphrase is not a duplicate of the first sentence. If correct, it conveys only the thought. Therefore, making paraphrases is the best assessment you can do to ensure you have understood the idea, not just repeated it. If you do not pass the assessment, you will discover a misunderstanding. If you claim to understand the author but can only reproduce the same sentence to prove it, you would fail to identify the same argument if it were worded differently.
In the example above, the second passage may look slightly different than the original, but it follows the same sentence structure and syntax as the original, and words and phrases have simply been replaced with very similar words and phrases. Properly paraphrased, this passage would look more like this:
When paraphrasing, focus on paraphrasing ideas, not sentences, and try following these steps:
- Avoid paraphrasing individual sentences as much as possible, as these are harder to paraphrase without using very similar wording to the original. Instead, try paraphrasing an entire paragraph, passage, or argument.
- Read the passage a few times until you are sure you understand what the author is saying.
- Without looking at the original passage, jot down the main points you want to highlight, using your own words.
- Draft a paraphrase from your notes.
- Compare with the original to ensure you have properly paraphrased and change any portions that look like patchwriting.
Remember, paraphrasing is a skill that takes time to develop, so keep trying. Also, remember to cite your quotations and your paraphrases.