In order to avoid plagiarism and in order to make a clear, effective argument, you need to make sure to distinguish between your ideas and the ideas that come from your sources. In other words, a reader should always know when you are speaking and when your source is speaking. Once you’ve decided whether to paraphrase, summarize, or quote from a source, you should make sure your source material is clearly integrated into your paper.
Begin each paragraph of your paper with a topic sentence that sets up the point of that paragraph, in your voice. Even when you are summarizing source material to provide background for your argument, you should be sure to make it clear what that summary is doing for your argument by introducing a paragraph of summary with a sentence in your own voice. Similarly, when you are analyzing or critiquing source material, your paragraph’s topic sentence should make this clear to your readers.
In his 2008-2009 Exposé essay. Francis Deng uses a number of sources to support his argument about the use of psychostimulants without a prescription. Here’s an example of how he integrates several of those sources into his paragraphs:
Deng begins this paragraph with a topic sentence that makes it clear that the paragraph will provide evidence for the claim that students without ADHD diagnoses have found psychostimulants useful. The paragraph then cites two sources that support this claim.
With the increasing spread of prescriptions, however, even students without ADHD diagnoses have discovered the medications’ efficacy as “study drugs.” Depending on the campus, surveys show that between 5% and 35% of undergraduates have taken Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription (Wilens, et al. 2008).
The psychostimulants increase concentration and alertness regardless of psychiatric diagnosis, serving as “universal enhancers” that offer all students a way to reduce fatigue and cram in more efficient hours studying for an exam or writing a paper (Singh, 2008).
This paragraph follows up on the claim in the previous paragraph by considering the historical context for these drugs. Deng makes it clear that he is making the case for this historical context with his topic sentence. He then carefully lays out what information he’s drawing from each source, while at the same time using the sources to paint a clear picture of how focus drugs have been used in the past.
This phenomenon is not necessarily new. For a half a century, intellectuals have used stimulants to boost cognitive stamina. French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the last of his major works, “Critique of Dialectical Reason ,” while devouring up to twenty pills of corydrane, a mixture of aspirin and amphetamines, per day. “The amphetamines gave me a quickness of thought and writing,” he said, “that was at least three times my normal rhythm” (Sartre, 1975). The most prolific mathematician in history, Paul Erdös, constantly consumed stimulants, too. The stimulant effect was so important to his work that after he successfully completed a friend’s $500 bet to stop taking the amphetamine mixture known as Benzedrine for a month, Erdös told his friend, “You’ve set mathematics back a month” (Hoffman, 1987).
Today, academics in the UK admit to using stimulants and desire even more cognition enhancing drugs (Tysome, 2007).
Framing source material
Make sure that every time you use material from a source, you introduce it in your own words and follow it with your own analysis or discussion so that your readers understand
- What purpose the material is serving in your essay and
- Where your ideas end and the source’s ideas begin. Your paper should never contain a paragraph that is solely based on a source without any commentary from you.
Every quotation you use in your paper should be introduced with a sentence of your own that alerts the reader to your reason for using the quotation. You should then follow the quotation with your own discussion so that your readers understand why you have quoted from the source and what you want them to take away from the quotation. Your paper should clearly focus on your argument, and your readers need to know how each source helps to develop that argument.
In her Exposé essay about the composer Glenn Gould, Lucy Caplan creates clear boundaries between her own voice and the voices of her sources. In the following paragraph, she introduces the theories of two music critics, summarizing their debate in her own words and then following it with her own idea.
Caplan’s topic sentence sets up the debate.
Caplan summarizes Andrew Porter’s point of view and cites her source.
Caplan begins her summary of Richard Taruskin’s point of view in the third highlighted section of this example. She cites her source at the end of the sentence.”. (74).”
Caplan makes it clear here that she is moving beyond her sources to state her own idea.
The question of how to interpret music of the past is a matter of perpetual controversy. Should performers play in a way that recreates the music as the composer would have heard it, or should they adjust to modern conventions? One point of view, represented by longtime New Yorker music critic Andrew Porter, advocates what is known as performance practice, a style based on the premise that the most valuable performances aim to recreate, as exactly as possible, the sounds the composer would have heard (160). According to this theory, musicians should follow a composer’s textual directions about tempo, dynamics and other details of performance; in this sense, performance practice aims for what may be called “historical fidelity,” in which an ideal musical performance attempts to recreate, as authentically as possible, the very sounds a composer intended. But other critics, such as musicologist Richard Taruskin, counter that “authentic” performances do not necessarily have any greater aesthetic value (74). Since musical performance necessarily involves a degree of interpretation on the part of the musician, he argues, performers should be able to interpret music freely, without feeling bound to strict conventions. The debate between these two points of view remains unresolved; indeed, it has only intensified as the music at the center of the debate moves further into the past. The debate over historical fidelity, in other words, becomes more difficult to resolve as modern musical traditions become less similar to its historical predecessors.
Later in her essay, Caplan quotes both Porter and Taruskin. Each time she quotes from one of these sources, she integrates the quotation into a sentence of her own so that her readers will know who is speaking and also what the quotation adds to her argument. If Caplan had simply reproduced the quotations without constructing her own sentences, her readers wouldn’t know why she was sharing the quotations with them.
Caplan embeds the quotation from Porter in a sentence that clearly contrasts Porter’s view with Taruskin’s view. In the next sentences, she expands her discussion of Taruskin’s views. She finishes the paragraph by explaining what these quotations illustrate about the performance practice debate.
Whereas Porter claimed in his New Yorker review that “Beethoven’s music rang outmore beautifullyon the early instruments,” Taruskin suggests that performance practice may yield musicians who passively rather than actively read musical compositions. In a passive interpretation, he writes, “the notes and rests are presented with complete accuracy and an equally complete neutrality” (72). Early music, in this context, can become “a positivistic purgatory, literalistic and dehumanizing, a thing of taboos and shalt-nots” (Taruskin 76). These terms may be extreme, but they do give an idea of the intensity of the performance practice debate; Taruskin’s concerns were shared to some extent by many critics of performance practice.
A signal phrase is an introductory clause that signals to the reader a shift in point of view from you to your source. The appropriate use of signal phrases varies from discipline to discipline. Writers in the humanities often signal a quotation or paraphrase with the author’s name (as in “Korsgaard argues” or “Vendler notes”). The choice of verb in a signal phrase can give your readers information about the disposition of the source. For example, the phrase “Sandel argues” signals that Sandel is making a claim, while the phrase “Sandel notes” signals a more neutral reporting of information.
Social scientists may use signal phrases more sparingly, introducing the names of authors or researchers when they want to place particular emphasis on the credibility of the source or to draw attention to the importance of the source author. Pay close attention to how the authors you read in your courses use signal phrases; these models will provide you with clues about the conventions of a particular discipline. When in doubt, ask your instructor whether you should name authors in the body of your paper rather than leaving that information for your citations.
Here are some examples of signal phrases you might use:
In her 2008-2009 Exposé essay about alienation among McDonald’s workers, Joanna Li quotes from and paraphrases a book by Robin Leidner. In the selection below, Li uses signal phrases to indicate when she is paraphrasing from and quoting from Leidner’s book.
By saying “Leidner reveals,” Li signals that the idea that follows is Leidner’s idea.
This second signal phrase, “Leidner notes,” signals to the reader that the idea and the quotation in this sentence are Leidner’s ideas.
Quick, standard exchanges, Leidner reveals. had the added benefit of protecting workers from intrusive or uncomfortable personal conversations (146). Given the long lines and customer expectation for speedy service, highly personalized conversations were often desired by neither party and workers preferred customers who were “ready to give their order” (Leidner 143). As Leidner notes. McDonald’s management valued a friendly atmosphere but emphasized speed as their first priority; routines helped workers who “prided themselves on their speedy service” (143) to stay efficient and professional.
Quoting and grammatical sentences
When you introduce a quotation with a signal phrase, that quotation becomes part of your own sentence. It’s important, then, to make sure that the sentence is grammatically correct. If you are having trouble molding the grammar of the quotation to the grammar of your paper, you can use brackets to help you. In the following sentence from Peter Bozzo’s 2008-2009 Exposé essay about the documentary film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. Bozzo adds brackets to make the quotation fit grammatically into his own sentence.
In the original quotation, Echols says “a haircut was actually given to me about five minutes before the hearing” In order to make his sentence read smoothly, Bozzo has added the “that” in brackets to fit the grammar of his sentence.
The filmmakers highlight Echols’s vanity by suggesting that it consumed him even when issues of his guilt or innocence and life or death were at stake; in actuality, however, his actions may have represented a typical response to correct for what Echols refers to in the second film as a “haircut [that] was actually given to me about five minutes before the hearing by a woman in the back room with a pair of plastic scissors.”
Be careful not to overuse brackets in your paper. If you find yourself needing to change most words in a quotation to bracketed substitutes, you should reconsider either the quotation or your own sentence.
If you’re quoting from a long passage and you don’t want to use the whole passage, you can omit parts of it by using the ellipsis mark. The ellipsis is three periods, with spaces between them, and indicates to your reader that words have been omitted. Remember that you are obligated to represent a quotation accurately and that you should only omit words if those words do not change the meaning of the quotation. You don’t need to use the ellipsis at the beginning or the end of a quotation since it will be clear to your reader that you have not quoted the entire source.
In his 2008-2009 Exposé essay about the documentary film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. Peter Bozzo quotes from an article about the film by King Adkins. Here is the original passage from the Adkins article:
What is certain is that the hyperreal world that grew out of the media coverage of these murders very quickly replaced the actual town, and that the artificially generated actions of the townspeople seemed designed only to hide the fact that their real emotions had ceased to exist. Ultimately, the murders themselves no longer exist, at least in terms of their impact on our lives, or even on the lives of those actually involved in the case. The image created by the media became the reality, and without any underlying foundation to supply it with referent, it became nothing more than a free-floating sign. (15)
In his essay, Bozzo uses ellipses to indicate that he has not quoted the entire passage from Adkins’s article:
Bozzo uses ellipses to indicate that he has not quoted the entire passage from his source material. In fact, he has omitted part of the first sentence and all of the second sentence.
[T]he hyperreal world that grew out of the media coverage of these murders very quickly replaced the actual town, and. the artificially generated actions of the townspeople seemed designed only to hide the fact that their real emotions had ceased to exist. The image created by the media became the reality, and without any underlying foundation to supply it with referent, it became nothing more than a free-floating sign. (15)
Be careful not to allow your use of ellipses to alter the meaning of a passage. If you omit too much from a quotation you risk misrepresenting the original source. For example, if Peter Bozzo had omitted more of the original passage above, he might have ended up with this:
If the author had cut out the words between “murders” and “had ceased to exist,” the passage’s meaning would have been lost. In the original passage, “the hyperreal world” is what continues to exist, not what has ceased to exist.
[T]he hyperreal world that grew out of the media coverage of these murders. had ceased to exist. (15)
Block quotations should be used when the quotation you have chosen to include is too long to go into the body of your paragraph. If you are using the MLA citation style you should use block quotations for any quotation that is more than four typed lines of prose or three lines of poetry. In the MLA style, block quotations should be indented one inch from the left margin. You do not need to use quotation marks around the quotation. If you are using the APA citation style, you should use block quotations for any quotation that is 40 or more words, and you should indent the passage one-half inch from the left margin. If you are using the Chicago citation style. you can decide whether to set off your block quotations or to run them into the body of your essay. If you do use block quotations in Chicago style, indent the quoted passage one-half inch from the left margin.
When you use a block quotation in any of these styles, you should introduce it with a sentence of your own that sets up the context for the quotation. You should then follow a block quotation with a sentence or more of your own that explains what you want your reader to understand about the quotation. You do not need to put quotation marks around the block quotation because the indentation shows readers that this is a quotation.
In her essay about composer Glenn Gould. Lucy Caplan uses the MLA style of block quoting for this quotation from an article by music critic Andrew Porter.
Caplan introduces her block quotation with a sentence of her own that provides the context for the quotation. This sentence ends with a colon.
The quotation is indented one inch from the left margin but not indented on the right. This quotation does not need to be enclosed in quotation marks as the indentation indicates that it is a quotation. Caplan cites the quotation using an MLA in-text citation.
Caplan follows the block quotation with an entire paragraph of analysis in which she makes it clear to her readers how Porter’s words add to her argument.
Andrew Porter, in a 1986 New Yorker concert review, compared two performances of a Beethoven cello sonata, one of which took place on period instruments and one on modern instruments: Polite discussion followed [the performances], but it was apparent to anyone with ears that Beethoven’s music rang out more bravely, more beautifully, and in better balance on the early instruments. In that direct comparison, the modernized cello sounded chocolate-coated and the little Yamaha piano loud and coarse. (142)
According to Porter, “anyone with ears” could hear the values of performance practice. In this sense, the standards of performance practice were important not only for their historical significance, but for their aesthetic value as well. Whether such standards were achieved with the use of early instruments or through strict interpretation, Porter seems clear: historically faithful performance sounded superior to the “loud and coarse” version offered by modern instruments. Performances on early instruments had more aesthetic value they simply sounded better. For advocates of performance practice, then, period instruments were themselves essential in producing authentic interpretations of music.
Single vs. double quotation marks
You should use double quotation marks when you quote material from a source. If you are also quoting passages from that source that were quoted in the original source, use single quotation marks to indicate that the original source contained the quotation.
If you were writing a paper about Ernest Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants,” and you wanted to quote the dialogue between the two main characters, you would need to indicate both that you were quoting from another text and that the main characters were speaking. Your paper would look like this:
At this point, the man has criticized the girl for her attitude. She responds, “‘I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?'” (182).
In the system of punctuation used in the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks except when you use in-text citations. In those cases, periods and commas go outside the quotation marks.
Because this sentence from Scott Levin’s 2008 Exposé essay, “Peasants in Paradise: A Struggle for Power,” contains a footnote rather than an in-text citation, the period goes inside the quotation marks.
The men later inhabit the hotel without pretension, according to Cole, forgoing the hotel beds to sleep on mats on the floor after “years of bedding down in the hills.” 8
Because this sentence from Ron Serko’s 2009 Exposé essay includes an in-text citation, the period goes outside the quotation marks.
Sheriff argues that this feint of self-delusion is meant to temper “the fact that blackness is constructed through the shared experience of discrimination and prejudice and is thus a product of oppression” (Sheriff 2001: 58).
Exclamation points and question marks go inside the quotation marks when they are part of the quotation, and outside when they are part of your own sentence that contains the quotation. With in-text citations, the question mark or exclamation point goes inside the quotation if it is part of that quotation, and a period follows the parenthetical citation.
The fact that Emerson periodically contradicts his own ideas only further exemplifies his point: “Why drag about a corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place?” (125).
But what are we to make of Harding’s admonition to “write while you can no matter the sacrifice”? 1
Colons and semi-colons go outside quotation marks.
In this sentence from his 2009 Exposé essay, Peter Bozzo weaves a quotation into his own sentence. The semi-colon separating the parts of his sentence goes outside the quotation marks.
This opening conforms to many of the standards of what Karen Halttunen refers to as “the narratological structure of the nonfictional murder mystery”; such tales of murder typically begin “with the corpus delicti, the fact of the crime, usually established by the dead body” (108).
Use the Latin word sic to indicate that a grammatical or spelling error appears in the source that you are quoting and is not your error. Sic should be enclosed in brackets within the quotation. APA style and Chicago style require sic to be italicized; MLA style does not.
In his letter to the editor, Harding admonishes his audience to “rite [sic] while you can, no matter the sacrifice” (23).