Incorporating References

Make the best use of your research efforts by incorporating reference information clearly into your text and citing that information consistently. Rather than placing research and writing your paper around quotations and paraphrases, you should be working to integrate research into your own prose in an easy to read way. Use quotations of credible references with citations to strengthen your argument.

Putting the Information in Your Own Words

Unless the reference is best stated and most effective for your purposes as a quotation, paraphrasing or summarizing is a good way to use research to make your argument. Both require restatement of the material in your own words, while conveying the same ideas or conclusions as the original that you are citing. Remember, you need to cite the source for all material that you have paraphrased or summarized. Even if the words are your own, you must give the author credit for the specific idea. See Paraphrase and Summary for more information.

Using Direct Quotations

Every time you use a direct quote, you should be sure to explain why the quote is significant to the topic of the writing. Avoid stacking quotations on top of each other; make sure you give each quotation an appropriate amount of analysis and discussion. Introduce the quotation (Ex: “As the author states”), comment on content, explain its significance, disagree with it if necessary, but do not drop a lengthy quotation in the middle of the prose with no comment.

Quotation marks are used to indicate material that is borrowed verbatim and should be followed by a citation. Sources should be cited for all borrowed material, whether direct quotations or ideas. Citation conventions vary by discipline; see our guides on APA Formatting, Chicago Formatting, and MLA Formatting for your specific citation formatting style.

Citing Reference Sources

To avoid plagiarism, cite everything you borrow in the text unless that information is common knowledge.

Determining What Constitutes Common Knowledge

Sometimes, however, common knowledge is difficult to determine. Consider information common knowledge if:

  • reliable authors refer to it without citing its source,
  • most people knowledgeable in the field accept it as a fact,
  • few experts would dispute it,
  • it is reported in most introductory textbooks or basic reference books on the subject.

In addition, keep in mind that the ultimate test is whether your audience can access your research by using the material you have provided. If in doubt, cite your source.