Integrating Sources

Research writing requires you to connect outside sources to your own ideas. Research can be seen as a conversation between various researchers and audiences. By framing the sources you use, you put your own ideas into dialogue with the ideas of others while clearly giving them credit. Effective, ethical use of sources can increase your knowledge about a subject, build your ethos as a writer, and allow you to become part of the larger conversations within your discipline.

Follow these four steps for successful source integration:

  1. Introduction
  2. Integration
  3. Connection
  4. Citation

1. Introduction

Informs the readers about the source and helps to transition into the source. This might often look like a summary. Some options for introducing a source include:

  • Describe the author: a professor at Miami, CEO of a national corporation, etc.
  • Describe the book or article: the title, the overall argument or purpose, etc.
  • Combine both of the above.

2. Integration

Place a source into the paper in a rhetorically effective way. You have three options for integrating a source:

  • Quotation: borrows credibility from another author and his exact words
  • Paraphrase: emphasizes a particular point from a source in your own words
  • Summary: condenses a larger idea or text into a shorter and more accessible form

3. Connection

Connect the source cited to the argument being made in the paper. This clarifies why you included the source in the first place and why the source is important. Some questions that might guide connection include

  • How does this source support your argument?
  • How does this source counter an opposing argument?
  • What does this information actually mean?

4. Citation

Attributes the ideas or concepts used in the argument to their proper sources. Be aware of the citation and research conventions in your field of study, and what will be meaningful and credible to your audience. By incorporating reliable sources into your work, you enter the dialogue of your discipline as a participatory member, and by citing your sources fairly, you establish yourself as an ethical member of that community.

Citations must appear for every direct quotation. Citations must also be used for paraphrasing but are not necessary after every paraphrased sentence. When you are consistency paraphrasing the same source, use a citation in the first paraphrased sentence of a paragraph and then repeat that citation every two to three sentences within the same paragraph.

Example of All Four Steps

(1. Introduction) Margaret Price, professor of English at the University of Michigan, discusses plagiarism policies in her article, “Beyond Gotcha!: Situating Plagiarism in Policy and Practice.” (2. Integration) She argues that attempts to make plagiarism seem simple prevent us from adequately defining it (89) (4. Citation). (3. Connection) Accordingly, a single, all-encompassing definition for plagiarism, which would aim to simplify it, would not be sufficient and likely doesn't exist.

When Citation Is NOT Necessary

  • In some cases, you may not need to cite a source; for instance, when referring to your own personal experiences or thoughts, original research you have conducted yourself, or when you use common knowledge or widely accepted facts.
  • What constitutes “common knowledge” may vary widely, but is generally considered to be a fact that is easily accessible and consistent across many sources (e.g., the Declaration of Independence was ratified in 1776).
  • However, if you directly quote information, even if it is about “common knowledge,” you must still cite that source. For example, if you quote a phrase from the Declaration of Independence, you must cite its source.
  • Generally speaking, when in doubt, cite the source.