Blending Source Material into an Essay

Learning Objective:

  • Develop sentences that effectively incorporate source material.

LESSON
Much of the writing that you do in school will require you to use your own ideas as well as those of others. When writing, you should work to develop sentences that smoothly blend other people's work into your own. It is important to make it clear which ideas are yours and which are not; otherwise you run the risk of plagiarizingTo take someone else's ideas, words, or work and pass it off as your own; copying without giving credit..

Writers blend sourceA person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. material into their writing in one of three ways—quotingTo use the exact words of someone else in a writing. Quotes are indicted in a writing using quotation marks and attributive phrases., paraphrasingThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech., and summarizingTo give a short version of the main points of a text..

1. Quoting

When you choose to use the exact words of a source, it must be quoted. You can choose to use a full quotation or part of a quotation. To understand how writers blend quotations into their own writing, take a look at two properly integrated quotations.

Original:

From the 2012 book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, page 21

"Within the larger subject of happiness, the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. People often argue that possessions don't—or shouldn't—matter much to happiness, but I think they do."

MLAA grammar and reference guide used mainly by students and scholars writing about the humanities (languages and literature). Citation Style

Full quotation: In her book Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin discusses the connection between happiness and possessions: "Within the larger subject of happiness, the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. People often argue that possessions don't—or shouldn't—matter much to happiness, but I think they do" (21).

Partial quotation: In her book Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin remarked, "the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. People often argue that possessions don't—or shouldn't—matter much to happiness, but I think they do" (21).

APAA set of guidelines for citing sources used in literary and academic writing. APA style is most commonly used in the social sciences. Citation Style

Full quotation: In her book Happier at Home (2012), Gretchen Rubin discusses the connection between happiness and possessions: "Within the larger subject of happiness, the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. People often argue that possessions don't—or shouldn't—matter much to happiness, but I think they do" (p. 21).

Partial quotation: In her book Happier at Home (2012), Gretchen Rubin remarked, "the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. People often argue that possessions don't—or shouldn't—matter much to happiness, but I think they do" (p. 21).

The above quotations include a number of elements needed to properly incorporate source material—an attributive phraseA short introduction to source material that identifies the author and often the title of a work that will be quoted or discussed in an essay or research paper. , punctuationMarks such as such as a comma (,), period (.), question mark (?), and exclamation mark (!), among others, that help break a writing into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Different types of punctuation marks give the reader different impressions of the writer’s purpose in that sentence. separating the attributive phrase from the quote, opening quotation marksA set of single or double inverted commas (' ' or " ") that are placed around a word or passage to mark the beginning and end of a direct quotation or a title., the quotation, closing quotation marks, in-text citationInformation about a source, such as the author, date, and page number, in an essay or research paper that helps readers find the source in the works cited or references page. There are different rules for how to use in-text citations depending on the context of the citation and the style of formatting you are using., and end punctuation.

This diagram shows the different parts of the partial quotation in MLA format:

This diagram shows the different parts of the partial quotation in APA format:

The attributive phrase gives credit to the author of the original work. It also helps to provide contextThe larger setting in which something happens; the "big picture." for source material and make it clear how that material is relevant to the discussion. Attributive phrases may or may not mention the name of the original work.

There is usually punctuation between the attributive phrase and the quote—either a comma(,) A punctuation mark used to group and separate information in sentences. or colon(:) A punctuation mark that is used in three common cases: before a series of items; between an independent clause and an explanation, rule, or example; and before a quote.. A comma is used when the quote is a full sentence but continues as part of the sentence, like in the partial quotation above. A colon is used when the attributive phrase is already an entire sentence, as in the full quotation above. No punctuation is used when a partial quote could not stand on its own as a sentence.

The quotation needs to be set off in quotation marks. In a full quotation, capitalize the first word after the opening quotation marks. In a partial quotation, do not capitalize the word unless it is a proper nounThe name of a person place or thing. Proper nouns should be capitalized. Examples: person: George Washington; place: The White House; thing: The Washington Monument..

Finally, always include an in-text citation. The MLA and APA guidelines for what information is required are different; make sure you know which guide your professor requires for your course. MLA style requires the author's last name and the page number. APA style requires the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number. In both formats, if the author's name is included as part of the attributive phrase, then it is left out of the in-text citation.  Note that a sentence's end punctuation goes after the entire in-text citation and not before. Check your citation guides for more information regarding in-text citations.

2. Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is borrowing the idea of another writer but putting it in your own words. It is usually similar in length to the original passageA short portion of a writing taken from a larger source, such as a book, article, speech, or poem.. Even when another writer's idea is stated in your own words, it is still important to indicate where the information originally came from. To understand how writers paraphrase others, take a look at the following example.

Original:

From the 2012 book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, page 21

"Within the larger subject of happiness, the proper relationship of possessions to happiness is hotly debated. People often argue that possessions don't—or shouldn't—matter much to happiness, but I think they do."

Paraphrase - MLA Style: In her book Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin argues that though some people claim that possessions do not affect happiness, she believes that possessions do influence our happiness or lack thereof (21).

Paraphrase - APA Style: In her book Happier at Home (2012), Gretchen Rubin argues that though some people claim that possessions do not affect happiness, she believes that possessions do influence our happiness or lack thereof (p. 21).

Like the quotations, paraphrases need attributive phrases and in-text citations.

3. Summarizing

A summaryA brief restatement of an author’s main idea and major supporting details. Summaries are factual and should be written in the third-person with an objective point of view. is similar to a paraphrase in that it also uses the writer's own words, but is much shorter than the original work as it only includes its main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. and major detailsThe larger points within a reading that support the main idea..

        Original: The entire book: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.

Summary - MLA Style: In her book Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin continues the quest for increased happiness that she began in her first book. She spent September through May researching how she could gain more happiness in her home life, focusing on areas such as parenthood, marriage, neighbors, work life, and possessions. Rubin hopes that her journey will encourage others to make differences that add to their happiness.

The above summary has an attributive phrase similar to the quotations and paraphrases above; however, it does not have a page number since the entire book was covered.

If the summary were in APA, however, it would have an in-text citation including the date of publication. For example:

Summary - APA Style: In her book Happier at Home (2012), Gretchen Rubin continues the quest for increased happiness that she began in her first book. She spent September through May researching how she could gain more happiness in her home life, focusing on areas such as parenthood, marriage, neighbors, work life, and possessions. Rubin hopes that her journey will encourage others to make differences that add to their happiness.

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