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How to Write a College Paper: Using Your Sources

BEAM - How will you use your sources?

Think about how you're going to use your sources as you read and research. Are they good for background information, is it evidence or an exhibit that you can analyze, or is it a statement that explicitly agrees or disagrees with your position? 

Plagiarizing, Quoting, and Summarizing - Examples

integrating ideas from your reading


The paragraph to the left was written by Elizabeth Godwin in October of 2015. The following 3 sentences are examples of how a reader might use this paragraph in their own writing.





Godwin states that integration and citation of others' words and ideas is "the whole point of a research paper" (2015). [Direct Quotation]

Plagiarism is a serious offense to academic integrity and citation is the way to properly avoid it (Godwin, 2015.) [Paraphrase]

Ideas and words that are not common knowledge must be cited (Godwin, 2015). [Summary]

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge "is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used... Often, common knowledge does not need to be cited."

If you find a beautifully worded phrase and you want to use it exactly, use quotations and cite. If you find a statistic that really supports your argument, cite it. If you find a smart idea that you want to put into your own words, cite it. If you want to tell everyone that George Washington was born in 1732 (even if you don't know that year off the top of your head), DON'T cite it - that's considered common knowledge. We don't need citations for fundamental concepts or knowledge, like that biology is the study of living organisms. 

Other Ideas...

Try this quick lesson and quiz from UCLA to see if you're ready!

The Writer's Handbook at University of Wisconsin Madison has tips on all different types of writing assingments!

Paper examples, thesis examples, and topic-defining at Roane State OWL.