It is important to draw on the work of experts who came before you to formulate your own original ideas, as long as you make sure it is clear they come from someone other than yourself. Backing up your own points with supporting evidence from the experts makes your argument, or thesis statement, more convincing. You are creating a conversation between people who have not met, but all of them know a lot about your main topic. Now you are adding your own voice to the conversation.
This is the main difference between a scholarly research paper and any other paper. You must include your own voice and your own analysis and ideas along with those of the experts who came before you.
All your sources, or conversation partners, must relate back to your thesis, or central argument, whether they agree or disagree (both are important!). It is often a good idea to address all sides of the argument regarding your thesis to make your own stronger.
What is the best way to incorporate sources into your research paper?
Three ways to present present sources in support of your central argument are:
- Direct Quote: learn more about Quoting;
- Paraphrase: learn more about Paraphrasing;
- Summary: much like a paraphrase, but used in cases where you are trying to give an overview of many ideas. As in paraphrasing, quotation marks are not used, but a citation is still necessary!
When including a source in your paper, remember to use these three important components:
- Introductory phrase to the source material: learn more about these signal phrases;
- Source material: A direct quote, paraphrase, or summary with proper citation;
- Analysis of source material: Your response, interpretations, or arguments regarding preceding source material should follow the source material itself. This is a crucial step when incorporating source material into your paper--so do not forget about it! Remember to relate your source and analysis back to your original thesis.
Contact the SJSU Writing Center to get more in-depth help with integrating sources into your paper. Be sure to check out their Homegrown Handouts for helpful tips on grammar, punctuation, style, and the writing process.