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Q. Using sources effectively



A source is any outside information that you have to seek out. Use sources to emphasize and support a point you've made, but let your own ideas, rather than research, drive your paper. Incorporating sources helps build credibility throughout your paper by showing that you have taken an academic look into the issues surrounding your topic. It is important to consider your audience when using sources: What information do they need? There are three ways to use sources effectively: Summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting directly.


  • What: Summarizing is necessary when you present an entire work or section of that work in a condensed from. It should provide a broad overview of all the material, as opposed to a single idea. A summary should have no more than half the words of the material being summarized.
  • When: Summarize when you don't need everything that the author has said, such as examples that don't directly apply to your topic or would take up too much space, when paraphrasing or quoting adds too much length to your text, or when you can say it "better" than the author or use it in a different way.
  • How: Give a brief overview of what you are summarizing. Summaries are not long, but the length depends on the importance of the source within your own paper. Ask yourself: How much space do you think you should allocate to your source material? At what point will your summary start distracting readers from your purpose?


  • What: A direct quote uses the author's exact words and is noted by using quotation marks (" "). Direct quotes are the most specific way to use sources. It is especially important to use signal phrases when directly quoting so your reader knows when the quote comes from.
  • When: You should use direct quotes when you cannot paraphrase without losing meaning or when the quote encompasses the main point of what you are trying to say.
  • How: Make sure you introduce the quote so that the audience knows its coming, indicate who said the quote, and connect the quote to the rest of your paper.

(This information was adapted from the Using Sources Effectively page).


 Consider browsing this helpful handout:  

  1. Finding Sources
  2. Evaluating Sources
  3. Is your source peer-reviewed?
  4. Primary and secondary sources
  5. Reading a scientific article
  6. What are citations? APA, MLA, & Chicago
  7. GVSU Library Citation Support
  8. Excelsior Writing Lab: Citation Support

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  • Last Updated Oct 30, 2019
  • Views 10
  • Answered By Francesca Golus

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