Planning and Writing a Research Paper
Work Your Sources into Your Research WritingWorking your sources into your writing has at least two aspects you need to consider. First, you need to know what your researcher's stance will be regarding using your sources. Second, a more practical matter, you need to decide whether you will quote or paraphrase. In the first case, the nature and purpose of your research assignment will guide that decision. In the second case, thesis and purpose, as well as good writing principles, will help you make decisions about quoting and paraphrasing.
Depending on their purpose, researchers can take several stances relative to integrating their source material. As a researcher, you need to know what your teacher expects of you as you present your research. Does he or she want your opinion of the research resources or, at the other extreme, only the content of your sources? What is the level of involvement for you, the writer? How does your teacher expect you to use your judgment and opinion? Always ask your teacher about his or her expectations regarding stance. To help you understand, we will discuss four levels at which you can handle your sources.
These categories offer you a way to discuss your teacher's expectations for your research assignments.
How you work your sources into your writing depends on why and how you are using them. Many students have difficulty deciding when to quote, when to paraphrase, when to summarize, and when to cite a source. Equally difficult is figuring out how to work the quotations and paraphrases into your own prose style. You want to avoid using lengthy blocks of quotations or paraphrases of the sources. Too much quoting and paraphrasing give the impression that you are reproducing the sources, rather than controlling how they will be used. The thinking and writing strategies we have discussed in this guide should help you avoid such an error of inexperience. Many students hesitate to include their opinions in their research papers, believing their teacher wants to read the opinions gleaned from secondary sources. If you believe this to be true, ask your teacher to clarify the expectations for your research. More details about the practical aspects of quoting and paraphrasing are presented in Chapter 5, "Academic Integrity and Documentation."