In a research paper, you will present your own original ideas while also referencing work that's already been done by others.
But how can you tell where their ideas end and your own begin? What's the proper way to integrate sources in your paper? If you change some of what an author said, do you still have to cite that author?
ASK: If you can't find the answers on our site or elsewhere, and are still confused, ask your instructor.
CHECK: The guidelines you have been provided with for citing sources properly.
INCLUDE: If you know you are going to use other sources of information, plan how to include them in your paper. Work out a balance between the ideas you have taken from other sources and your own, original ideas.
OUTLINE: Writing an outline or coming up with a thesis statement in which you clearly formulate an argument about the information you find will help establish the boundaries between your ideas and those of your sources.
NOTES: Taking thorough notes from all of your sources so that you have much of the information organized before you begin writing.
TIP: To avoid confusion about your sources, try using different colored fonts, pens, or pencils for each one, and make sure you clearly distinguish your own ideas from those you found elsewhere.
PAGES: Get in the habit of marking page numbers, and make sure that you record bibliographic information or web addresses for every source right away-- finding them again later when you are trying to finish your paper can be a nightmare!
If it is unclear whether an idea in your paper really came from you, or whether you got it from somewhere else and just changed it a little, you should always cite your source. This will show that you are not just copying other ideas but are processing and adding to them:
Also see: Citation and Style Guides to MLA, APA, CHICAGO, and others.
Make sure when you mix your own ideas with those of your sources that you always clearly distinguish them. If you are discussing the ideas of more than one person, watch out for confusing pronouns. For example, imagine you are talking about Harold Bloom's discussion of James Joyce's opinion of Shakespeare, and you write: "He brilliantly portrayed the situation of a writer in society at that time." Who is the "He" in this sentence? Bloom, Joyce, or Shakespeare? Who is the "writer": Joyce, Shakespeare, or one of their characters?
Always make sure to distinguish who said what, and give credit to the right person.
A paraphrase is a restatement in your own words of someone else's ideas. Changing a few words of the original sentences does NOT make your writing a legitimate paraphrase
Both the words and the sentence structure of the original, without changing the content.
KEEP IN MIND: Paraphrased passages still require citation because the ideas came from another source, even though you are putting them in your own words.
PURPOSE: Paraphrasing is not to make it seem like you are drawing less directly from other sources or to reduce the number of quotations in your paper. It is a common misconception among students that you need to hide the fact that you rely on other sources. Actually it is great to highlight the fact that other sources support your own ideas. Using quality sources to support your ideas makes them seem stronger and more valid.
RELEVANCE: Good paraphrasing makes the ideas of the original source fit smoothly into your paper, emphasizing the most relevant points and leaving out unrelated information.
So how do you tell the good ones apart?
WHO: Check out the author(s) or creators of the page
WHERE: They got their information
WHEN: They wrote it (getting this information is also an important step in avoiding plagiarism!)
CREDIBILITY: How well they support their ideas, the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the information provided, etc.