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How do you incorporate your research into your essays?

Acknowledging your sources is not a burden. It is an opportunity to stand on the shoulders of others. Professionally, it is how we pay our dues and position ourselves politically in the community. It is a professional courtesy that you want others to extend to you. In terms of your audience, it is also a courtesy to give them the benefits of your research. You usually have way more data than you can include in the essay, so tell them where they can  follow up, verify, and learn more.

On the flip side, to try to take credit for someone else’s work is fraudulent, and every profession punishes it.

Textual References

aka parenthetical documentation


Whether you quote, paraphrase, or summarize, you must tell the reader where it came from. That obligation is not a threat that if you have one comma out of place, you’re going to get whacked. Instead, attribution is an opportunity for you to gain the credibility of your sources. Don’t hide your sources. Reveal them to the reader openly.

Let’s distinguish between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The letter of the law is a meticulous set of rules codified in some kind of style manual.

  • The two most common in college classes and in academic research are those published by:

MLA (Modern Language Association) – free MLA Formatting and Style Guide
APA (American Psychological Association) – free citation guide

The letter of the law is simple. These guides tell you exactly where every space, comma, and capital letter goes. Follow it slavishly.

The spirit of the law is twofold: accountability and consistency. It involves judgment calls and gray areas. As long as you acknowledge your sources and account for them in the text in a consistent manner, you will be ok. If your works is to be printed by a publisher, the in-house copy editors and fact-checkers will keep you out of trouble.

Large organizations often have their own style manual. If you work for one of them, use theirs and follow it as closely as you do the MLA for this course.

Interesting article: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google



Expert testimony



What to do for ENG 110

In the body of your essay, when you use information from one of your sources, introduce it in the normal flow of your paragraph. Try to include enough for the reader to be able to find the source in your Works Cited section. For example:

FIV is found all over. “In the U.S., about 1.5% to 3% of all healthy cats become infected with the virus. If a cat is ill or has some type of immunodeficiency, the rate rises to nearly 20%.” Up to one in every twelve cats tested for FIV are positive, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Recent research suggests the likelihood of cats passing on FIV to others in the same household is as low as 1-2%.” This is likely because there is not a competition for food, territory or females.

If the Works Cited section has only one entry for the American Association of Feline Practitioners, then it will be clear from that above passage alone where the information came from. Nothing else would be needed. For another example:

Studies have shown that FIV positive cats can live as long as negative cats. At the Glasgow Veterinary School, a FIV long term monitoring project indicated that “a higher percentage of FIV negative cats died than FIV positive cats.” “FIV cats are more likely to die from a road accident than from FIV,” according to Maureen Hurtchison in her fourteen-year study. Another study was completed by Dr. Diane D. Addie where a household of 26 cats were monitored for ten years. Of those 26 cats fifteen of them were positive for FIV. “The FIV infected cats lived on average of 51 months after diagnosis, compared with 17.5 months for the negative cats.” These studies lead to the conclusion that FIV does not shorten a cat’s life expectancy.

Does the Works Cited section have entries that account for all of these three quotations? They may come from the same source or from two or three different sources. I can’t tell from the above paragraph, but it doesn’t matter as long as it is clear in the Works Cited section.

In some writing situations, a Works Cited section isn’t appropriate. In that case, give sufficient information in the body.