Integrating Research in the Research Paper

Probably the most difficult challenge during your English classes will be how effectively you integrate your research into your paper. The challenge is real because you have to guard against your sources manipulating you. Your paper is just that: YOUR paper. While you research, the voices of the experts can be intimidating and can work to make you forget that the reason why you're researching is to get outside opinions or information that will support your ideas. Your need to remind yourself throughout the research process that you need to be in command of your sources, they are working for you; you are, in a sense, in a position to manipulate them, not the other way around.

If you've already found good academic sources (including peer-reviewed journals) for your college research paper, you've got a good thesis and you've begun drafting your college research paper, these tips will help integrate the information you take from outside sources so that your paper reads like a coherent argument, rather than a group of paragraphs strung together from other sources.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is THE institution of humanities disciplines that decides proper form and style for documenting sources within your paper and in your Works Cited. Just like traffic rules, the MLA's rules help to keep us abiding by the same "laws" for unity. Your Professor will tell you that you are to follow “MLA Guidelines…”

Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers is a good place to start….There are also plenty of online sources…

Integrating Sources and Research

  • Paraphrase. You can introduce studies that agree with you (Smith 123; Jones and Chin 123) and those that disagree with you (Mohan and Corbett 200) without interrupting your own argument.
  • Quote Selectively. If you must use the original author's language, work a few words from the outside source into a sentence you wrote yourself. (If you can't supply at least as many words of your own analysis of and rebuttal to the quoted passage, then you are probably padding.)
  • Avoid Summary. If you must quote several lines of another author's language, don't interrupt the flow of your own argument in order to summarize the material you have just quoted. If you don't have a clear thesis, you will be tempted to fill up lines, either by making random observations or by quoting long passages from your source texts.
  • Avoid long quotes. If your 10-page paper offers 6 or 8 long chunks taken from other sources, stitched together with sentences like, "This quote shows the idea that...", then you are not demonstrating the ability to write at the college level. Borrow shorter passages, even single words; integrate those passages into your own original argument.
  • Don't expend words writing about quotes and sources. If you use words like "in the book My Big Boring Academic Study, by Professor H. Pompous Windbag III, it says it says" or "the following quote by a government study shows that..." you are wasting words that would be better spent developing your ideas.
  • Avoid encapsulated, serial summaries. Your high school teachers may have rewarded you for writing good summaries. But a college paper requires you to think on a much more advanced level than a string of paragraphs, each of which summarizes a separate outside source.

So……Rather than four paragraphs summarizing the contents of articles written by authors A, B, C, and D, you might break out of that rigid structure.

Only author A argues for point 3, while B and C oppose it. D doesn't mention that point at all... is that a weakness in D's argument? A sign that D isn't a reliable source? Or is that point simply outside the scope of the argument D was trying to make?

  • Use quotes to launch discussion, not silence it. There's nothing actually wrong with ending a paragraph, section, or paper with a quotation. But if you have a habit of asking a bunch of random questions, poking around the issue, and then "proving" your point by finishing up with a quotation, as if there is nothing more to say about the topic now that you've presented your quote, then you're not demonstrating the ability to engage critically with a text.

 

Documenting Evidence

Back up your claims by quoting reputable sources. If you write, "Recent research shows that..." or "Many authors believe that...", you are making a claim. You will have to back it up with authoritative evidence. This means that the body of your paper must include references to the specific page numbers where you got your outside information. (If your document doesn't have page numbers, you can give a section title or you can count the number of paragraphs.) Avoid using words like "always" or "never," since all it takes is a single example to the contrary to disprove your claim.

“MLA Parenthetical Citations” (this means ‘page numbers in the body of your essay’)

The MLA-style in-text citation involves just the author's last name, a space (not a comma), and then the page number (or line number, for verse). 

Yes

One engineer who figures prominently in all accounts of the 1986 Challenger accident says NASA was "absolutely relentless and Machiavellian" about following procedures to the letter (Vaughan 221).

Any college writing handbook will have multiple examples of how to cite multiple pages from the same source, multiple works from the same author, and other variations.  But the main point is that you should leave the details for the Works Cited list. 

Integrate Quotations from Outside Sources

Don't interrupt the flow of your own argument to give the author's full name or the source's full title.  Spend fewer words introducing your sources, and devote more words to expressing and developing your own ideas in ways that use shorter quotations, or even just a few words, from your outside sources.

No

Have you ever noticed how some people just won't shut up?  In the book Why I Love Words by the authentic-sounding fictional humorist Ira Talott, a similar point is made on page 45: "The streets are full of people who talk to themselves, who write journal entries to nobody.  Do they feel that speaking and writing is more important than listening and reading?  These people are boring at parties, but are they arrogant?  They are compulsive communicators.  It's more likely that they simply live in perpetual fear of silence."  This quote shows...


The above example makes a very small point, quoting a much longer passage than necessary, and expending far too many words on the buildup.  Consider the following, more concise revision.
 

Maybe

Talott is sympathetic towards "compulsive communicators," who are "boring at parties" (45), but who are not actually arrogant.  These people "live in perpetual fear of silence."

This revision is marginally better, but only because it uses fewer words -- it's still not integrating the outside quote into the author's own argument. A simple reference to an outside source is not the same thing as referring to an outside source in order to support an original argument of your own.  How does the quote relate to your thesis, or to whatever sub-point you are trying to make? 

 

Three Possible Ways to Use Borrowed Material

The following examples show three different ways that the same quoted material could be used to advance a paper.

Yes

Talott is sympathetic towards "compulsive communicators," who are "boring at parties" (45), but who are not actually arrogant.  These people "live in perpetual fear of silence," which makes them "especially susceptible to bottom-feeding advertising campaigns" (Jones 132) that prey upon low self-esteem and body image.

Yes

Talott is sympathetic towards "compulsive communicators," who are "boring at parties" (45), but who are not actually arrogant.  These people "live in perpetual fear of silence," not unlike in Miss Bates from Emma, whose well-meaning but dull conversation makes her an easy victim of the heroine's insensitive teasing.

Yes

Talott is sympathetic towards "compulsive communicators," who are "boring at parties" (45), but who are not actually arrogant.  These people "live in perpetual fear of silence," which contrasts sharply with the title character in Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," who would "prefer not to" leave the silent prison of his own making (23). 

 

Integrate Borrowed Material Smoothly and Efficiently

Avoid clunky, high-schoolish documentation like the following:

No

In the book Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, by Fredrich A. Kittler, it talks about writing and gender, and says on page 186, "an omnipresent metaphor equated women with the white sheet of nature or virginity onto which a very male stylus could inscribe the glory of its authorship." As you can see from this quote, all this would change when women started working as professional typists.

The passages "it talks about" and "As you can see from this quote" are very weak attempts to engage with the ideas presented by Kittler. In addition, "In the book... it talks" is ungrammatical ("the book" and "it" are redundant subjects) and nonsensical (books don't talk).
 

Maybe

In the mid 1880s, "an omnipresent metaphor equated women with the white sheet of nature or virginity onto which a very male stylus could inscribe the glory of its authorship" (Kittler 186), but all this would change when women started working as professional typists. 

This revision is marginally better, but only because it uses fewer words -- it's still not integrating the outside quote into the author's own argument.

 

Yes

To Kittler, the concept of the pen as a masculine symbol imposing form and order upon feminized, virginal paper was "an omnipresent metaphor" (186) in the days before the typewriter. But businesses were soon clamoring for the services of typists, who were mostly female. In fact, "typewriter" meant both the machine and the woman who used it (183).

The above revision mentions Kittler's name in the body, and cites two different places in Kittler's text (identified by page number alone).  This is a perfectly acceptable variation of the standard author-page parenthetical citation.

 

Works Cited

Astin, Alexander W. Achieving Educational Excellence. Washington: Jossey-Bass, 1985.

Burka, Lauren P. "A Hypertext History of Multi-User Dimensions." MUD History. URL: http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/lpb/mud-history.html (5 Dec. 1994).

Christie, John S. "Fathers and Virgins: Garcia Marquez's Faulknerian Chronicle of a Death Foretold." Latin American Literary Review 13.3 (Fall 1993): 21-29.

Darling, Charles. "The Decadence: The 1890s." Humanities Division Lecture Series. Capital Community College, Hartford. 12 Sept. 1996.

Hennessy, Margot C. "Listening to the Secret Mother: Reading J.E. Wideman's Brothers and Keepers." American Women's Autobiography: Fea(s)ts of Memory. Ed. Margo Culley. Madison, WI: U. Wisconsin P, 1992. 302-314.

Jones, V.S., M.E. Eakle, and C.W. Foerster. A History of Newspapers. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge UP, 1987.

Metheny, N.M., and W. D. Snively. Nurses' Handbook of Fluid Balance. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967.

"Money." Compton's Precyclopedia. 1977 ed., X, 80-91.

Mumford, Lewis. The Highway and the City. New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1963.

- - -. Highways Around the World. New York: Prentice, 1967.

Orchestra. CD-ROM. Burbank: Warner New Media. 1992.

Redford, Robert. Personal Interview. 24 Sept. 1996.

Sixty Minutes. CBS. WFSB, Hartford. 3 May 1991