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The content on this page is from the online SkillShop Writing With Sources, which is a one-hour tutorial on properly using sources to avoid plagiarism and academic dishonesty. If you complete the SkillShop, you'll earn a badge that can be shared with your instructors or included in your resume.
The video below demonstrates a strategy to use a source by quoting it directly (8 mins). If the assignment you are working on allows you to quote your sources, this can be a very effective way to use a source -- as long as you follow some simple guidelines.
While it might feel intimidating at first, these guidelines (see below for a summary) and some practice doing it will get you comfortable with the process and ensure that you avoid plagiarism. And if you're feeling like you need more support, there are many free resources on campus to help you with effective quoting, including the Writing Studio ConsultantsLinks to an external site. and LibrariansLinks to an external site., who are truly excited to talk to you about your project (we're not just saying that).
Here’s the situation: I have an assignment. I need to write an essay using at least one source- an article about some aspect of the internet. I’m thinking of writing something about cats and memes. I do a quick internet search and find an interesting looking article that I’m going to use: How Cats Evolved to Win the Internet, by Abigail Tucker.
The first step in using a source is to get familiar with it. In this case, I need to read the article. After taking a look, I have found a passage that I want to use for my essay.
Now that I’ve picked a passage that I want to use, how can I include it in the essay that I’m writing?
First, I want to take a look at the passage and get familiar with it so that I understand what is being conveyed by the author.
Next, I will try to link it to the topic of my essay. Here is a rough draft of what I might write.
But is this a good way to use the original source? Am I quoting it properly? Does this look good to you?
Well, no - this is not an effective way to use this source. There are really two main issues to highlight: there is no citation -- no indication that this idea came from someone else; and it is a verbatim, word-for-word, copy and paste of the original source.
Because of these issues, this is a very clear example of plagiarism. There is no citation and there are no quotation marks. Someone reading my essay would not know that this idea comes from someone else or that the text itself was written by someone else. They might think that I’m trying to pass this off as my own idea and my own writing [ad libbed here].
To be very clear: this would be a violation of HSU’s Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy and not only would I get a very poor grade on the assignment, I might end up facing large consequences such as being put on academic probation or even suspension.
However, I’m on the right track and with a couple of tweaks, I can turn this debacle into a very effective use of the source. It’s important to remember that although it takes some more work, with a little practice, it becomes fairly easy to properly and effectively use sources.
So how could we improve this?
The first thing is to add a citation so that it is clear to my readers that I am using someone else’s idea and how they can learn more about that idea by finding the original source on their own.
Here is an example of an in-text citation that follows the APA (American Psychological Association) style manual. I can simply add the last name of the author and the year the article was published in parentheses at the end of the passage.
But am I good to go or do I still need to do some work?
Well, it’s still a word-for-word copy of the original article. So while my reader will know that I’m using someone else’s idea, it is not clear that I’m also using their writing. Again, my reader may think that I’m trying to pass this off as my own writing.
So while I’ve added the citation and I’ve made it clear that I’m referencing another author’s work, it’s still not clear that I’m using their writing. To indicate that I’m quoting them, I will need to add quotation marks.
Without those quotation marks, I’m still in violation of the HSU Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy because I’m not indicating that I’m using someone else’s writing.
However, I’m still very much on the right track and can do a very simple thing to avoid getting in trouble here: adding quotation marks.
This really is as simple as it sounds- enclose the entire passage that I’m quoting in quotation marks. This makes it very clear that I’m using Tucker’s own wording and am not trying to pass it off as my own.
And now I’m no longer in violation of the HSU Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy.
But… there is more to effective quoting than just avoiding getting in trouble. The passage that I have now is still not very great. I’m taking a huge amount of Tucker’s work and not really integrating it into my own. Most instructors won’t be impressed with this effort and I’ll likely get a poor grade.
However, yet again, there are some small tweaks that I can do to make this much more effective and get myself a better grade.
Before we get into the mechanics of effective quoting, let’s look at some guidelines to follow when trying to determine when it is appropriate to quote.
The first consideration is that some assignments will specifically require that you not quote. Instead, you will be expected to paraphrase the sources that you use. This means that you will put the other author’s idea in your own words.
Another useful consideration is to only quote when it is especially important to use the exact wording of the original source. This is fairly subjective and may not be very obvious until you have practiced it a bit. If you ever have questions about whether or not to quote, you can make an appointment with a Writing Studio Consultant.
In this example, I am going to quote a shorter passage that conveys the exact idea that is relevant to my topic and would be very difficult for me to put in my own words in a way that isn’t just a word-for-word find a replace. To learn more about paraphrasing, watch the next video about effective paraphrasing.
Now let’s look at one strategy for effective quoting: quote sandwiches. This is when you wrap a quote within your own writing and ideas.
First, I will add the top bun, which is the introduction to the quote. I want to use a signal phrase and reporting verb, like: Abigail Tucker (2016) explains that…
Next, I will insert the quote, using quotation marks. Also note that I’ve included the citation, using the author’s name, the year of publication and the paragraph in which the quote appears. This is all following APA style and will vary if you are following another style, but will include similar information.
Lastly, I will explain why the quote is important and how it connects to my topic.
So let’s go back to my paper. How does this look to you now?
I’ve got the citation that indicates that I’m using someone else’s idea.
I’ve also used quotation marks to show that I’m also using the author’s exact words.
Lastly, I’ve integrated the quote into my own ideas by using the quote sandwich method.
Now I have a passage that not only isn’t in violation of the HSU Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy, it is also written in a way that is effective for my essay.
The next question you may have is how and when to paraphrase instead of quote. Most often, you will want to paraphrase big ideas in order to summarize a large concept or to accentuate one part of a larger concept that is relevant to your topic.
You can learn more about paraphrasing from our video about effective paraphrasing.
Quotations should include the following components to ensure that you are following the HSU Academic Honesty PolicyLinks to an external site.:
Effective quotes will also follow these guidelines:
The videos below demonstrate a strategy and some tips on how to effectively use a source by paraphrasing. The first video is an in-depth demonstration and overview (8 mins). The second video is a review of the tips shared in the longer video (2 mins, 30 seconds).
Sometimes your assignment requirements will not allow you to quote your sources. Even when you are allowed to quote, it might be more effective to paraphrase than quote. Paraphrasing is a little more complicated than quoting, but following a few simple strategies can help you create effective paraphrases and with some practice, it will often even feel pretty easy!
But as with all of the other topics in the tutorial, if you ever feel like you can use some more help or need some questions answered, we are here to help! There are many ways to get in touch with the Writing StudioLinks to an external site. and LibrariansLinks to an external site..
Okay - here’s the scenario: I’ve found a passage from a source that I want to use in my paper. I decided not to quote it directly because it’s too long. Instead, I’m going to paraphrase and write my own summary that fits what I need for my topic.
[Passage from Abigail Tucker's 'How cats evolved to win the Internet,' 2016, October 15. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/opinion/sunday/how-cats-evolved-to-win-the-internet.html:
Their virtual success is rooted in their real biology. Cats are solitary, asocial hypercarnivores built to do one thing: get meat. The famous cat meme I Can Haz Cheeseburger, in which a gaping gray cat demands a quarter-pounder, had the right idea. Every fiber of the feline being is evolved to hunt, and cats employ a distinctive stalk-and-ambush approach, in which they sit very still and watch for prey to innocently wander by, then explode from the underbrush to slaughter it.
This stalking and pouncing is perfect for a six-second Vine or a pithy tweet. Think of your favorite YouTube cat videos: A cat springs into a box, or bops a baby on the head without warning, or rockets out from beneath the bed. What you’re watching is an ambush.
If you haven’t yet watched the video on quoting, you may want to take a look at that first. In that video we already reviewed this passage and how to effectively quote it in a paper.
So let’s say I’ve never paraphrased before. I know that I can’t quote the entire passage directly but haven’t had any experience with paraphrasing. I might write something like this:
The reason cats have become so popular on the internet is rooted in their biology. The humor behind the meme, I Can Haz Cheeseburger, is in the distinctive way cats approach their prey in a serious and deliberate manner. Think of your favorite YouTube video and you will probably notice that what is driving the humor is the cat’s instinctive desire to ambush.
What do you think? Does this look like a good paraphrase?
Well, hopefully you remember from the last video that we need to cite the sources we use. In this case, I haven’t included any indication that I’m using an idea from someone else. This is a direct violation of the HSU Academic Integrity and Honesty policy. Someone reading my paper might think that I intentionally was trying to pass of this idea as my own.
So how I can we improve this?
Just as with quotations, I need to include in-text citations. This example follows APA (American Psychological Association) formatting and includes the author’s name and year of publication. Other style guides may have slightly different requirements but they will include this basic information in some format.
Now it is clear that I’m using someone else’s idea and I’ve identified the original source, do you think I’m good to go?
I’ve still got some work to do because even though I’m not directly quoting the passage in its entirety, I am using very similar language and am following the same order and structure of the original source.
Again, this is a violation of the HSU Academic Integrity and Honesty policy. Let’s look at the comparison again: there are phrases that are exact copies of the original and phrases that are too similar. To paraphrase properly and avoid plagiarism, I need to write about the author’s ideas in my own words. Most often, it’s not even helpful for my topic to just try to reword the original because I haven’t linked it to my topic. One of the main values of paraphrasing is that I can put it in the context that best helps me make my point for my topic and my assignment.
So how can I do this? How can I improve my paraphrase?
The main way to accomplish this is to look away from the original source. It’s often too difficult to think about the idea in my own words and in the context of my topic if I’m concentrating on the original too much.
There are many ways to look away from the original source and different strategies might work best for you after you’ve had some practice. But here is a simple method that I’ve found works for me and illustrates the main concepts involved in paraphrasing effectively.
First, take some brief notes about the original passage. Only write down what is most important to you.
In this case, I’m noting that:
Now hopefully I’ve written these notes in my own words, but there is another step that can really help with this. Take these notes and simplify them to just the very basic concepts. Try to strip all of the descriptive language and adjectives out when you’re writing these simplified notes. Now I’ve got:
Okay, now let’s take a break. This will help to reset my mind and help me come up with some more creative approaches to writing. Study breaks are very important for improving creativity, problem solving, and retaining information. It doesn’t need to be a long break -- maybe just 2 to 5 minutes. Get up from your computer and stretch, grab a snack or something to drink, pet your cat -- anything to help you switch gears.
Once you’ve taken that quick break, come back to your work and don’t even look at the original at all. Hide the paper or close the tab. Just look at your notes and write up a quick draft in full sentences. Don’t worry about it being perfect, this is just a first draft.
I’ve come up with:
People enjoy watching cat videos online. They often become viral because cats can be both viscous hunters and silly playful friends. People tap into this when posting videos of their cat. For example, a cat playfully swiping at an infant shaking a toy.
Now that I have a draft, I’m going to think about my topic and how this fits in with my paper. The topic of my paper is:
Including a citation here helps to strengthen my point and provides some evidence for why cat videos are important on the internet.
Now with my topic in mind, I’m going to revise my draft:
People particularly enjoy watching cat videos online. The juxtaposition of cats being both viscous hunters and silly playful friends helps the videos go viral. For example, a cat playfully swiping at an infant shaking a toy.
And I’ll revise again:
People particularly enjoy watching cat videos online. The juxtaposition of cats being both viscous hunters and silly playful friends, such as a cat playfully swiping at an infant shaking a toy, can help these short videos go viral.
I can revise a few times and even in the later stages of writing my paper may make a few more changes. For now, I’m going to see how this fits in with the rest of my paper.
Once I add it to my paper, I end up with this paragraph:
Cat videos are a phenomenon that have spawned books and numerous articles analyzing their appeal. One author interested in this subject is Abigail Tucker, who researched cats and social media for years. Tucker (2016) argues that the juxtaposition of cats being both viscous hunters and silly playful friends, such as a cat playfully swiping at an infant shaking a toy, can help these short videos go viral.
This is a short and succinct paraphrase that helps to substantiate and illustrate my topic. It may still need some improvement, but it’s much better than my original.
However, I need to do at least one more thing: check to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently include too many similarities to the original. Let’s go back and look at the original side by side with my draft.
And sure enough, this looks quite different from the original. The terms I use are different from the original and it’s not at all a simple rewording of the entire passage but a summary of the parts most relevant to my topic. The biggest similarity is my draft uses an example with a baby and so does the original. This is okay because I have cited the original and so it is clear that I will be using ideas from the original.
Another good approach might be to just quote that one phrase like so. Note that I’ve enclosed the quote in quotation marks and have added the paragraph where that quote comes from to meet the APA requirements.
But I like the version without the quote, so let’s go back to that. This is an effective paraphrase because it is not a simple rewording of the original and my paraphrase is substantially different from the original.
All right! I’m done! I’ve got my draft and can continue with the rest of my paper. And now you’re an expert right?
Oh, well, this is just a starting off point. If you’re feeling confused or have a bunch of questions that’s because it will take some practice before you can paraphrase effectively. And even then, you’ll have questions from time to time.
The good news is that you’ve already learned some tips and you have a lot of support at HSU to help you in the process.
Now that we’ve gone through the steps to writing an effective paraphrase, it’s time for you to try this on your own. Don’t forget about all of the great resources on campus to help with this. There are many people who are excited to answer your questions and help you with your writing and research. Contact a friendly librarian or make an appointment with a Writing Consultant if you find yourself stressed out or frustrated over this process. Better yet- get in touch with us before you have any problems! We’d love to hear from you.
These strategies can help you with your paraphrasing (watch the video below for a more in-depth review):
For a review of the strategies and takeaways in the above video, watch this quick (2:30) video review on creating effective paraphrases.
Let’s review the tips covered in the ‘Creating an Effective Paraphrase’ video:
Students tell us that they often feel rushed to get their assignment done on time and avoid citing or properly quoting because it's too much work. This is understandable, but is not an acceptable reason to plagiarize someone else's work. And while it certainly often feels like there isn't time to properly cite or quote, once you've practiced it a couple of times you may come to feel that it's one of the easier parts of completing an assignment.
Students have also reported that they've been quoting incorrectly for years. Don't feel embarrassed or worried about this- it is confusing and that's a big reason why we're here to help! This is a skill that is often overlooked or not fully addressed in high schools and college. You're also not alone- we've developed this tutorial to help everyone become better with using outside sources because it is such an important and complicated thing to learn -- while you're also earning a degree and living your life. You've got a lot on your plate and we are here to help if you need us!
You have a lot of people on campus who can provide feedback and guidance for your assignments. The Writing Studio and the Library are available for everyone no matter your skill level or experience. Take advantage of the free resources in your academic support network. If you already have some knowledge about common research and writing skills, they can help you brush up on knowledge and be a second pair of eyes to look over your writing and citation.
The Writing Studio (a program of the Learning Center) provides free, friendly writing support for HSU students at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to final touches. Writing consultants are undergraduate and graduate students from a range of majors who have been trained to support their peers with their writing.
Time management, accurate note taking, and planning are strategies that will help you avoid plagiarism, but we know developing and practicing those skills can sometimes be challenging if you've got to figure it out on your own. Academic peer coaches at the Learning Center are here to support you in developing those skills and you can check in with them throughout the semester. Make an appointment with them to get support from your fellow students.
You can also get support from fellow students and professional staff via the HSU Learning Center Discord by sending messages or joining a video chat group on one of the channels. You can find a study group, share tips, and learn from other students who are collaborating and sharing in the various channels in this Discord server.
Contact a Librarian for support on your research assignments. You can email us your questions, or ask to set up a live appointment on Zoom. You can also get to know the HSU librarians and what they do by watching their profile videos or browse the Librarians website to find each librarian's contact info!