Using Text to Support Your Essay (a.k.a. How to avoid plagiarism!) College Essays: Submitted work must be your original composition that contains your own ideas supported by a primary text and secondary source(s). You support your ideas by citing the primary and secondary sources (when you paraphrase or quote other works, you have to cite the original source). You can signal this entry of another’s words in your essays in two major ways: through attribution and documentation.
The following information is written with an argumentative paper in mind, but the rules apply to any essay in which you are using another’s words and ideas. A. This handout will show you how to avoid plagiarism while supporting the stance or claim you are taking on your topic. Whether summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting material that is not your own, you must let your readers know when you are using the ideas, scholarship, or language of other people.
Documenting serves three important functions: 1. It shows your readers that you are well versed in your subject that you have read, understood, interpreted, and organized a body of relevant published material. 2. It gives credit where credit is due. You acknowledge your indebtedness to the original owner of an idea or a finding or a turn of phrase. It is a way of saying “thanks.” 3. It allows your readers to retrace your steps if they want to. You may cite a work that a reader will want to read. Documenting helps your reader to locate that work. Or, a reader may want to take issue with what you contend about a certain source. Documenting allows the reader to find that passage easily. Three terms that you should know: 1. Summarizing When you summarize from a source, you provide the main idea that your sources develop. Summaries are general in scope; they might reduce a whole page to a one-sentence statement, or a whole chapter to a paragraph. 2. Paraphrasing Paraphrase essentially means “in other words.” To paraphrase, then, is to restate a passage in your own words, to convey someone else’s idea or viewpoint in language that fits more closely with the original language of your paper. Paraphrasing differs from summarizing in that it involves and helps to integrate the source material more seamlessly into your ongoing discussion. Paraphrasing information and retaining the original meaning indicates that you understand the concepts. 3. Quoting To quote is to incorporate into your paper the exact wording of the source that you are using. Any summary, paraphrase, or quote should be anchored to your text by an attributing device. Attribution is a “withinthe-sentence” method for distinguishing between voices (yours and your source) in a paper. Attribution announces to 1
your reader: Here comes someone else’s voice, so mark the difference. Attribution is necessary when you summarize, paraphrase, or quote.
B. Examples of different ways to incorporate quotations in your own writing. For illustrative purposes, the words in red show attribution phrases. 1. An Introducing Phrase plus the quotation: The speaker asks, "What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" (Blake, 1932, p. 15-16). According to Nick, "Gatsby turned out all right at the end" (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 176). "I know you blame me," Mrs. Compton tells Jason (Jones, 1999, p. 47). The reader is forced to wonder if she is expressing her own sense of guilt. (Note: these examples show APA documentation. For MLA documentation guidelines, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu.) 2. An Assertion of your own (a complete sentence) and a colon plus the author’s exact words: Vivian hates the knights for scorning her, and she dreams of achieving glory by destroying Merlin's: "I have made his glory mine" (Stewart, 2003, p. 390). Fitzgerald (1925) gives Nick a muted tribute to the hero: "Gatsby turned out all right at the end" (176). 3. An Assertion of your own with quoted material worked in (this is also referred to as using a partial quotation): For Nick, who remarks that Gatsby "turned out all right,” the hero deserves respect but perhaps does not inspire great admiration (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 176). Satan's motion is shown in many ways; he "rides" through the air, "rattles,” and later "wanders and hovers" like fire (Milton, 1955, p. 293). Recap: To support your essay topic, you can use a combination of summary, paraphrasing, and quoting.
C. Some final tips: •
It is NOT permissible to quote an entire sentence in isolation (i.e., between two sentences of your own); in general, you should avoid this method of bringing textual material into your discussion. When you quote outside material, always attach it to your words (more on this later).
Do not use two quotations in a row without intervening (explanatory) material of your own.
Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show or by naming its source, or both.
Avoid referring to your sources as quotes. Don’t write, “In this quote,” but instead, “Here we see” or “As Eliot points out…”
Quotes are best used sparingly to reiterate or reinforce in an especially precise or eloquent way an idea you have drawn attention to (in your own words) in a particular passage of your paper.
D. Now you try it: Use the following passage, either in whole or in part, in four original sentences based on the criteria listed in A-C: 2
Excerpt from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, page 104, 1992. “Eventually, all thing merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” (Answers are at the end of this document) a. Use with signal phrase:
b. Use with assertion:
c. Integrate part of the quote into your own sentence:
d. Paraphrase the entire passage in 1-3 sentences:
Example answers (you answers may vary) a. Maclean (1992) wrote, “The river was cut by the world’s great flood” (p. 104).
b. Maclean (1992) has an interesting perspective on his ancestors’ historical impact: “On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs” (p. 104).
c. Maclean (1992) freely admits that he is “haunted by waters” (p. 104). Maclean (1992) uses “timeless raindrops” as a metaphor (p. 104). “I am haunted by waters,” Maclean said (1992, p. 104).
d. In his novella A River Runs Through It, Normal Maclean (1994) uses a river metaphor to show that all things are connected yet also divided by the passing of time, just like how flowing water over rocks will change the rocks; Maclean is profoundly touched by the written word.
*Part A of this document is a modified version found at Southeastern Writing Center: http://www.selu.edu/