How to Use Information from Multiple Sources in an Essay

How to Use Information from Multiple Sources in an Essay
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  • 0:01 Research Writing
  • 1:22 Using Sources
  • 3:18 Using Multiple Sources
  • 6:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

Writing an academic paper requires researching and including sources. But how do you use your sources? How should they be included in your paper? This lesson will discuss using multiple sources correctly.

Research Writing

Writing is one of the main ways we communicate with each other, and we all practice this communication every day. Throughout the day, you probably write an email, update a social media account, or text a friend. This type of writing is very informal and done really just for fun. Chances are when you practice this type of writing, you do not worry too much about editing, revising, audience, or tone.

In a classroom setting, your writing is definitely more formal than when you are writing for your friends. However, there are different levels of academic writing. When you first started writing, chances are that you were given simpler assignments. You probably wrote a narrative, a personal story, or a personal reflection on literature. While these simple writing assignments are very helpful in discovering your writing process and abilities, academic research writing is different than these patterns of writing.

Research writing is the investigation and study of materials and sources to reach a conclusion. When you practice research writing, you are researching to find sources, evaluating those sources as credible, and then using the sources as evidence in your paper.

But how do you use these sources in your paper? How do you balance multiple sources in your research and findings? In this lesson, we will answer these questions.

Using Sources

Why are sources important? Using sources in your paper is important because they show that you have researched your topic, considered other viewpoints, and found experts in the field that support your point of view. As a writer, you want your audience to know that your paper is more than just your opinion and that there is strong evidence and facts that support your point of view.

When including sources in your paper, there are really just three ways to use them correctly. First, you can paraphrase your source. When you paraphrase, you are taking the author's words and making them your own. For example, let's say an author wrote, 'On a cold, rainy night, John and Steve wrecked their car.' You can paraphrase this statement by saying, 'John and Steve crashed their car in the rain.' As you can see, the main idea is still the same. Just be sure that you cite the source! The idea originated elsewhere and it needs to be cited correctly!

Second, you can directly quote your source. A direct quote copies the source line by line and then credits the information. You would use a direct quote when you feel it is important for the audience to hear it as the author wrote it.

Finally, you can summarize your source. When you summarize, you are reviewing the author's thesis, key points, and overall argument. We may use a summary in a paper to present an author's ideas before we present our argument. Just like when you paraphrase, you must credit your source.

When you use sources in your paper, it is important that you remember to document this information. Plagiarism occurs any time you use someone else's words or ideas and fail to document them. To avoid this, be sure that you are following the correct rules of documentation any time that you paraphrase, directly quote, or summarize your source.

Using Multiple Sources

Now that we have an understanding of how to use sources, let's discuss how to include them in your paper. After you complete your research, you will probably have multiple sources that you want to include. How can you do so?

First, decide how you want to use each source. What role does it play in the paper? Will it be used to introduce a fact or statistic? Is it a quote from an author that supports a statement that you made? Or, is it an attention grabber or closing strategy?

You will also want to decide if the source is there to help present the problem or present the solution. For example, let's pretend that you have been assigned an argumentative paper on recycling. Does your source discuss the reasons we should recycle, or does it discuss the result of not recycling? Knowing the role that your source will play will help you decide how to organize it.

Second, decide how valuable each source really is. When we look at multiple sources, chances are there are going to be repetitive ideas. Do you have to include all of them or just some of the sources that you found? You want to ask yourself, 'What new information am I presenting with this source?'

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