Remember how much time it took you to find several sources for your previous essay? And still, the professor refused to give you an A you obviously deserve. What’s the deal with using sources in writing? Before you march to your instructor to argue your case and demand a higher grade, check out our quick FAQ section on sources for essays and other academic papers. You might know some of these tricks, but others will be eye-openers. Use them to improve your writing and enjoy higher grades next time!
Where Should I Start Looking For Good Sources?
The direct approach is often the easiest and provides the quickest results. So start by asking your instructor for a recommendation. Ask the professor to specify the number of sources and some authors he or she considers to be experts in the field. You might not get the names of the books or articles, but you will have an excellent place to start your search.
How Can I Tell Good Sources From Bad?Use a ROC acronym to identify sound sources. The letters stand for:
- Recent, as in released in the last 3 to 5 years. It is a matter of seconds to check the publish date. You can use older sources, but only if you provide a more current data on the subject as well.
- Objective, as in not biased. Make sure the author, publisher or the website do not offer subjective opinions in the guise of expert assessment. Avoid all sources that promote a specific lifestyle or point of view. You can only use them as an example of a biased opinion.
- Credible, as in dependable. This characteristic is often the hardest to assess. Take note of the journal’s or publisher’s reputation. The author’s authority in the field can be evaluated by the number of citations he or she can boast.
If the source is recent, objective and credible, you can safely use it in your writing and expect your professor to be pleased.
How Can I Use the Sources I Find?
Now that you have a stack of good books and journals, it’s time to make use of them. There are several purposes every source could serve. Every piece of data can provide:
- Context to help your readers understand the root of the problem you are discussing or explain the intricacies of the background data upon which you base your research.
- Evidence in the form of numbers, statistics, quotes or examples to substantiate the points you make throughout the paper.
- Opposing viewpoint to address and refute that will make your arguments more persuasive and your paper well-rounded.
When Should I Quote Instead of Summarizing and Paraphrasing?
Quoting is the easiest way to incorporate reference materials into your writing. You should use quotes when the wording of the original text is particularly strong and persuasive, or the author is a well-known expert, whose words will have an impact. Quotes are also appropriate in literary analysis pieces. However, an overabundance of quotes will make your writing stilted and disconnected, so do not overuse quotations, instead choosing to paraphrase and summarize.
How Is Paraphrasing Different From Summarizing?
Both of these methods require you to change the wording of the original text to some extent, but the volume of the resultant passages will be different. Use summarizing when you need to condense several pages or a whole book into a single paragraph. This way you will convey the main points of the source in the minimal possible number of words.
Paraphrasing is a rewriting the original text word-for-word or sentence-for-sentence. The volume of the original and paraphrased passages are roughly the same. This method is used when you need to simplify the reference material for the readers. It can also help you understand the source better.
How Much of My Paper Can Consist of the Source Material?
Your whole paper cannot be a summary of others’ works if you expect to get an A. You professor expects you to research books and articles and form an informed opinion on the matter. Otherwise, your paper is just a rewrite of well-known facts.
However, when you write a paper, it can become increasingly hard to tell your own writing from the source material. Use a simple trick to keep track of this: highlight the parts you write yourself with a bright color as you type and leave the paraphrased sections clear or vice versa. You will see at a glance which parts require in-depth analysis and which could use more examples. Remember that source material should not exceed 50% of the paper.
Can I Get Away With Using One Source?
You can, unless you want to get an A. If you do, follow your instructor’s guidelines on the number of sources. Usually, their number correlates to the volume of the writing. Be generous and support each argument with at least a couple of sources, this will show the depth and breadth of your research. And try to use each reference no more than two or three times. Otherwise, it will seem like you weren’t studious enough to find other references.
Whether you need to locate sound sources for your synthesis essay or a research paper, you will score high, if you follow our advice. And if you have more questions about reference materials or writing essays, feel free to reach out to our writers. They will gladly help you create an outline, write, edit or proofread the paper of any length and difficulty!