You need to understand that academic writing is a process fraught with contradictions: you are frequently asked to use your own words and ideas about subjects for which you not only lack expertise but are, in fact, in the process of learning. In addition, you are expected to access the thoughts and ideas of experts to bolster your argument. You are required to skillfully weave these ideas into your paper, so that everything flows smoothly, yet all the while keeping it crystal clear whose thoughts are whose. You are expected to write in your own style and your own voice, as long as it falls into the accepted norms of your discipline and/or the critical taste of your instructor. It's not easy, and it's not always clear-cut, but it is one of the processes that you are in school to master, and it will become more natural with practice. Keep in mind that if you have questions or uncertainties, faculty and other student support systems are here to help. In addition, read and utilize the strategies below.
- Find a topic that engages you by doing some background reading and discussing your research question with professors, librarians, and other students.
- Be familiar with the WSU definition of and policies concerning plagiarism.
- Be sure you understand your instructors' policies concerning plagiarism.
Gathering Research Materials:
- Allow time to make multiple trips to the library: start your research early and consult reference librarians to learn about the best research tools for your topic.
- Get extra sources: Get your research done early and get extra sources. You don't have to use them all, but if you find there is a source you can't use, you'll have back up.
- Expect it will take extra time to receive materials not available on your WSU campus: Search It and Interlibrary Loans make millions of resources available, but items not on your campus take from three days to two weeks to receive.
- Color code your notes: Be sure to distinguish between places where you are paraphrasing others' ideas versus directly quoting from a source.
- Use author and page notation: Make sure that every note you take is connected to the source's author and page number. In addition, keep a running bibliography of complete citation information for each source used.
- Keep a research log: It is helpful to keep a log of the catalogs, indexes, and databases you have consulted during the research process along with search terms used. This will help prevent repetitive searching.
- Quote sparingly: Use quotes only when the author's choice of words to express his/her idea perfectly capture the point. No instructor wants to receive a written product that is basically a string of quotes.
- Use proper quoting mechanics: Be sure to use quotation marks around the text you are quoting. Also, include the author's name before or after the quotation and indicate added phrases with brackets [ ] and omitted text with ellipses ...
- Incorporate a citation: You must include citation elements in the sentence(s) you are quoting. These citation elements include author's name, page number, and year, with the exact format varying across style manuals.
- Samples: The Libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill offer a Citing Information Tutorial which gives quoting examples for APA and MLA.
Paraphrasing and Summarizing:
- Use your interpretation: Without looking at the original text, craft your paraphrase or summary. Be sure you are using unique words and phrases and reordering clauses within the sentence. It is plagiarism to simply reorder words within a sentence or sentences within a paragraph.
- Incorporate a citation: You must include citation elements in the sentence(s) you are paraphrasing or summarizing. These citation elements include author's name, page number, and year, with the exact format varying across style manuals.
- Samples: The Libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill offer a Citing Information Tutorial which gives paraphrasing examples for APA and MLA.
No Need to Cite Your Source:
- Using your own work: You do not need to cite your own thoughts, ideas, written products, or research.
- Drawing on common knowledge: You do not need to cite information classified as common knowledge. Examples of common knowledge include indisputable facts known by large numbers of people, and common sense observations.