When you express an opinion or make a statement, you improve your credibility with your reader by supporting what you say with research findings and examples. Using these findings along with other outside sources lends credence to your point of view. When you research topics, you will need to find out who the reliable sources are in the area of study. Some signs of reliability will be apparent to you when you first start your project. In the sciences and in technology especially, older sources should be given less credence than new ones because the older sources tend to be less reliable in areas where new discoveries are continually being made.
Chapter 4, "The Research Process," discusses the research process for writing research papers. As you learn more in a subject area, however, you will begin to cite research findings even in less formal writing assignments. You may, for example, refer to a book on cryogenics you have read recently in answering a question on an ethics exam. You can use your research to strengthen your writing and provide credibility whenever it seems appropriate. In general, when you casually cite such references in exams or course assignments, teachers may not expect you to offer full documentation. If you are unsure how formal your citation of sources should be, ask your teacher to clarify his or her expectations.
The following example shows how one economics student integrated references to support her point of view in an informal assignment.
Why I Believe in Enterprise Zones
In this assignment, I will defend the statement that "enterprise zones are a viable method for creating growth sectors in urban economies where they would not otherwise appear." My defense is based on the premise that enterprise zones recover the costs of lost tax revenue by generating growth and expanding the business tax base in urban centers.
Enterprise zones are specially protected areas of a city reserved for business growth. They are traditionally created in areas of low growth and offer incentives to businesses locating there. The critics' argument that the loss of potential tax revenue negates their value is specious. Enterprise zones offer the potential for growth where it had not previously been realized, thereby offering real, as opposed to speculative, opportunity for growth.
Last week's Post article on growth in Washington, DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood offers tangible proof that the concept of enterprise zones can work for cities. The Post related that this area, once inhabited by prostitutes and drug dealers, was set aside as an enterprise zone after the 1960s riots and has continued to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs. Enterprise zone status has spurred a new wave of investment there and has attracted many middle-class residents.