I'm writing a research paper and I'm having difficulty working sources into my paper.

It’s important to note, first, that sources are used in a variety of ways depending on the writing situation. Individual academic disciplines often have specific ways of using sources, so it is helpful to read some scholarship within your discipline to learn its writing conventions before beginning to write. Pay particular attention to whether writers in the discipline tend to paraphrase or quote material from other sources.

In general, when using sources in academic writing, there are some moves that writers tend to make. Usually, whether quoting or paraphrasing, you will want to introduce the source. Often, this takes the form of attributive tags or signal phrases, which let the reader know where the quote or paraphrase is coming from. When paraphrasing, it is especially important to include a signal phrase or tag to signal to the reader that what follows is coming from another source. Because paraphrase involves rewording and does not contain quotation marks or a similar way of marking the text to indicate that the idea is borrowed from another source, it is important to signal to the reader that the material that is paraphrased is not your own, so attributive tags or signal phrases can be especially helpful when paraphrasing.

When using sources in academic writing, it is also important to explain how the information you are borrowing from another source relates to your own ideas. Just as it is important, then, to introduce quotes and paraphrase, it is also important to let the reader know why you are using that information. What do you want the reader to get out of the paraphrase or quote? How does it build on or relate to your ideas?

What can the Writing Center do to help?

Writing consultants are used to working with sources in their writing, so during a session, they can help you to develop effective signal phrases and/or attributive tags and to explain how the quotation or paraphrase relates to your ideas. We also offer useful handouts on using sources, which can be helpful when you are working on your own.