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Reporting Your Own Research: Principles and Practice

I. Research is the core of the graduate academic experience. You simply must be aware of what other people have observed and recorded about your chosen topic. This means, of course, that you'll be spending many hours in the library, combing through articles, books, and journals written by professionals in your field. You'll also -- if you're in the sciences -- spend an equal amount of time in the lab or field, observing activities and experiments personally, and discussing material with experts. All of this information is of value to you as you become increasingly knowledgeable about your topic; and some of this information will likely find its way into your own papers as expert support for your thesis. You are using these authors and experts to testify on your behalf, to addappeal of authority to your arsenal of persuasive techniques.
This material is generically referred to as "secondary source" because it is used as back-up support for primary information. When you use a secondary source, put it in its place among your own ideas.
II. When to use secondary sources:
  1. To provide added support for your thesis. Show the reader that experts agree with your perceptions and interpretations.
     
  2. To extend your own explanations of important concepts.
     
  3. To give interpretations that you can shoot down with your superior
    evidence or logic.
III. How to avoid plagiarism. Give credit not only when you use an expert's words, but also when you merely use one's ideas.

Documentation

Remember to collect all the information you need about your sources, so you can write complete reference citations. (Usually, people don't write the citations until the last minute, but the last minute is a heck of a time to discover you don't know the publisher of a book, or the author. So write the information ON THE PHOTOCOPIES which you will probably want to make, or on notecards - whatever system you prefer. Just write it!)

Here is a list of information to record about each source:

  1. Authors' full names.
     
  2. Editors' names, when the work you are citing is contained in a larger collection.
     
  3. Translator's name.
     
  4. Full title of the book or chapter or article that you are quoting from.
     
  5. Full title of the collection which contained your article or chapter.
     
  6. Full title of the journal or magazine that contained your article.
     
  7. Edition used (2nd, 3rd, etc.). Also, volume number.
     
  8. Page references:
    a) Keep track of the page numbers of passages you want to refer to.
    b) For articles or essays by one author in an edited book or in a journal, note carefully the pages on which your source begins and ends.
     
  9. Place and date of publication.
     
  10. Publisher.

As you're writing your documented paper, you'll constantly be making decisions about when to quoteparaphrase, or summarize. Remember to be selective about quotations you choose. Quote the source when the language is particularly vivid and memorable, or when the source is a well-known figure who commands respect. Quoting such an authority is a persuasive technique which can make your writing more believable. When you quote, be sure to copy the original exactly.

Paraphrasing involves putting all the ideas in a passage into your own words. A paraphrased passage will be roughly the same length as the original, but the information in the sentences will be grouped differently because you'll be restating the ideas in your own words. This doesn't mean just changing a few words here and there while keeping the original sentence structure.

How do we paraphrase?

A possible method:

>Before anything, read and reread the original and try to understand it in its terms.

Pruning phase:

  1. Identify repetitions--cut.
     
  2. Identify illustrations--cut.
     
  3. Identify remaining sentence cores--agents and actions--highlight.
     
  4. Identify remaining limiting (modifying) elements--cut.

Translation phase:

  1. Put what remains into its most easily understood order.
     
  2. Find synonyms appropriate for "text context" and the "audience context" for all but common words. This stage is where you can best begin to recognize the "distinctive expressions" that might be allowed to remain (but bracketed inside quotation marks).
     
  3. Restructure sentences as necessary to depart from original.
     
  4. Identify remaining limiting (modifying) elements--cut.

Restoration and check phase:

  1. Restore elements (restructured and translated) to sharpen and clarify meaning. You have probably cut too much, but what remains is now under your control and can be more easily "beefed" up for whatever use you are putting the paraphrased material to, fitting all to the rhetorical situation.
  2. Include reference, either direct or parenthetical or by number to original author.
     
  3. Read the original and the paraphrase over several times to see if you are being essentially faithful to the original meaning.

Here's a paraphrase of a paragraph about how to increase the body's ability to cope with stress:

Original

Studies confirm interaction with pets like dogs or cats prolongs the life happiness of people confined to nursing homes. Other studies show that prisoners allowed to keep small pets such as caged birds or hamsters are much less likely to attack fellow inmates or commit suicide. A pet acts as a catalyst for giving and receiving affection. Patients in and out of hospitals recover more quickly from illnesses and diseases when they interact with pets. Much of the healing power of pets seems to be the pet's ability to make a person laugh while offering dependable, unconditional love and companionship. (102-103)

(from The Lazy Person's Guide to Better Nutrition 
by Gordon S. Tessler. San Diego: Better Health, 1984.)

Paraphrase

Pets are a steady source of comfort for isolated humans, giving them affection, joy and companionship. According to studies, pets have the ability to improve the well-being of people in nursing homes, adding happiness and, therefore, extra years to their lives. Prisoners, too, are positively affected by pets. When given the option to have small pets like hamsters or birds, prison inmates become less aggressive toward other prisoners and less suicidal. Medical patients who interact with pets experience a healing effect that hastens their recovery from illness and disease.

Paraphrased information is still the idea of another author. You must include a citation giving that author credit for the original research, idea, and writing.

<Summarizing involves condensing the main idea of a passage and putting it into your own words.

Summary

People under stress from isolation, loneliness or illness cope better and have greater physical well-being if they have a pet with whom to share affection, joy and companionship.

A summary expresses the main idea stripped of specific examples and illustration. Both paraphrasing and summarizing involve putting someone else's ideas into your own words and require parenthetical citations referring back to your source. You must give credit not only when you use an expert's words, but when you use his/her ideas.

Example

Gordon S. Tessler, a doctor and nutritionist, cites studies which confirm that people under stress, especially the stress of isolation, loneliness or illness, cope better and have greater well-being if they have a pet with whom to share affection, joy and companionship (102).

Most common, of course, is the direct quotation, using quotation marks.

Quote

As Tessler observes, "A pet acts as a catalyst for giving and receiving affection" (102).

Humanities usually uses the MLA style of documentation (as above), while Social Sciences prefers the APA style. (Hard sciences often have their own preferences.) Always check preferred documentation style with your department! Both MLA and APA use parenthetical citations in the essay which tell the reader at a glance the author's last name and page number (the APA style notes the year the piece was written). If the reader wants more information, he or she can refer to the Works Cited list (in the APA, References) at the end of the paper.

The following examples indicate just a few of the differences between MLA and APA citations:

  1. If you don't mention the author's name in the text:

    MLA The Authority-Rebel "tends to see himself as superior to other students in the class" (Dyal, Corning, and Willows 4).

    APA The Authority-Rebel "tends to see himself as superior to other students in the class" (Dyal et al., 1975, p.4).
     

  2. If you've used the author's name to introduce the quotation:

    MLA Dyal, Corning, and Willows identify several types of students, including the "Authority-Rebel" (4).

    APA Dyal, Corning, and Willows (1975) identify several types of students, including the "Authority-Rebel" (p.4).
     

  3. When no author is listed, as in the case of some magazine or newspaper
    articles:

    MLA An international pollution treaty still to be ratified would prohibit all plastic garbage from being dumped at sea" ("Awash" 26).

    APA An international pollution treaty still to be ratified would prohibit all plastic garbage from being dumped at sea ("Awash," 1987, p. 26).
     

  4. When you want to use a striking quotation that your secondary source has quoted:

    MLA E.M. Forster says "the collapse of all civilization sounded in [Arnold's] ears like a distant and harmonious cataract" (qtd. in Trilling 11).

    APA E.M. Forster says "the collapse of all civilization sounded in [Arnold's] ears like a distant and harmonious cataract" (cited in Trilling, 1955, p. 11).

Special Effects

Ellipses - You may omit portions of the quotation that seem unnecessary (Don't omit parts, however, that would change the meaning of the original.) Use ellipses ( . . . ) to mark the omitted portion. Ellipses are three periods with spaces before and after.

"Everyone familiar with 'The Gettysburg Address' knows that Abraham Lincoln . . . could write with genius" (Anderson 82).

Use four spaced periods if the omission occurs at the end of a sentence:

"Everyone familiar with 'The Gettysburg Address' knows that Abraham Lincoln was one of the few American presidents who could write with genius . . . . He could fit the most ideas into the fewest words, so to speak" (Anderson 82).

YOU DON'T ALWAYS have to quote whole sentences. Sometimes only a few words or a particular phrase captures what you want to say. In this case, ellipses aren't needed. Just integrate the quoted phrase or words into your own sentence and enclose it with quotation marks.

Anderson refers to Abraham Lincoln as a "short winded" writer, an atypical president who could "fit the most ideas into the fewest words" (82).

Quote

As Tessler observes, "A pet acts as a catalyst for giving and receiving affection" (102).

Humanities usually uses the MLA style of documentation (as above), while Social Sciences prefers the APA style. (Hard sciences often have their own preferences.) Always check preferred documentation style with your department! Both MLA and APA use parenthetical citations in the essay which tell the reader at a glance the author's last name and page number (the APA style notes the year the piece was written). If the reader wants more information, he or she can refer to the Works Cited list (in the APA, References) at the end of the paper.

Brackets - Sometimes, to make a quotation fit into your sentence grammatically, you must change a word or words. To show you are making such a change in the original, put your own word into brackets [ ].

Anderson is compelled to ask why "Lincoln [is] so short winded" (82).

Also use brackets when you have to insert explanatory information:

In no uncertain terms, Corson states that "it [abortion] is barbaric" (190).

Short Quotations - (no more than 4 typed lines) are placed in quotation marks and integrated into the body of the paper.

Long Quotations - (more than 4 typed lines) are blocked and indented from the left margin. See the MLA or APA Style Manual for specific details.

Don't just throw quotations at a reader and leave him to make up his own mind about what they have to do with your thesis. It's not even enough to simply state a main point for your paragraph and then fill the paragraph with quotations. Every quotation needs a sentence or two that relates it directly to the paragraph topic and you should add a sentence or two of explanation after it.

Remember the formula P.I.E. First, make your Point (your own words); then give anIllustration (someone else's words); and end with an Explanation (in your own words).

Do not begin with the quotation, the supporting evidence. Make your point first.

Do not end with a quotation. The quotation comes too abruptly, and as a result there is no indication of its relevance to the paragraph or the overall argument.

Finally, avoid the phrase: "This can be seen in the following quote" (Also avoid the misuse of the verb "quote" -- the noun is "quotation.")

Acceptable incorporation

Tired of their misery, farmers and laborers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are moving to the city with hopes that things will somehow be better. The result, as Randall Anderson notes, is that "a rapid rate of urban growth . . ."

Avoiding Grammatical Tangles When Incorporating Quotations

Sometimes you'll want to incorporate quotations from the secondary source into your own sentences. Of course, making a smooth connection between your sentence and that of another writer's isn't always so simple, especially if you want to omit part of a long quotation. Often the result is a sentence which is ungrammatical.

Three common types of errors to avoid:

(The explanations below are taken from The St. Martin's Guide to Writing by Rise B. Axelrod and Charles R. Cooper.)

  1. Verb Incompatibility. When this error occurs, the verb form in the
    introductory statement is grammatically incompatible with the verb form
    in the quotation. When your quotation has a verb form that does not fit in
    with your text, it is usually possible to use just part of the quotation, thus
    avoiding verb incompatibility.
    NOT Marshall suggests that environmental pollution can be lessened by recycling "if they will only save newspapers."

    BUT Marshall tells his readers that "if they will only save newspapers," they will help reduce environmental pollution.
     

  2. An Awkward Omission. Sometimes the omission of text from the quotation results in an ungrammatical sentence. In the following example, the quotation was awkwardly and ungrammatically excerpted. The revised sentence revises by adapting the sentence to the quotation.

    NOT The author complains that "will not give up plastic."

    BUT The author complains that much of the problem lies with consumers who "will not give up plastic."
     

  3. An Incomplete Introductory Sentence. Sometimes when a quotation is
    a complete sentence, writers will carelessly neglect the introductory sentence--often, for example, forgetting to include a verb. Even though the quotation is a complete sentence, the total statement is then a sentence
    fragment.

    CORRECT: Smith, who writes books for a living, laments: "If only people would learn to read!"