using and citing sources

using and citing sources - Sixth College Core Sequence...

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Unformatted text preview: Sixth College Core Sequence Using and Citing Sources When you go to the gym, you are strengthening the muscles of your body by working them against different kinds of resistance. By analogy, the same thing is happening when you take college classes; you are strengthening the muscles of your mind by working them against kinds of resistance which have been designed specifically to build you up. Sometimes intellectual resistance mean having to come up with new ideas; sometimes it involves analyzing a complex multivariate problem; sometimes it involves struggling through vagueness in order to simply figure out what the problem is. In all these situations, you are exercising your cerebral lobes (imagine the workout video... Neural Networks of Steel) . When doing mental work, there are moments ‐‐ we all have them – when you feel like you just can’t DO this, you can’t make it to the mental finish line, or you could do it but you don’t have enough time to complete the assignment. At such moments you might be tempted to get your pages filled by using content that someone else came up with. Unfortunately, this doesn’t build any mental muscle; it’s just a scheme for hiding the fact that you’re not doing the workout. At the gym, if someone rigged a weight machine so that they could impress people by making it look like they were benching 200 lbs. when they really weren’t, we’d say that was kind of pathetic. Or if they did the same thing so they could tell themselves “my workout is now easier and quicker, and therefore more efficient”, we’d say they had some seriously distorted thinking going on. “More efficient” is meaningless if it means avoiding the whole point of the task. And if they did it in order to get some social advantage, like making it onto an athletic team, their apparent achievement would be not only unfair to other people but short‐lived and pointless; how long is this person really going to last on the team? In any event, a person who faked their ability like this would be choosing a cardboard life instead of a real one, regardless of whether or not anyone else knew it. In the same way, if you plagiarize on a paper or cheat on an exam, you will be taking a wrong path regardless of whether or not you get caught. In order for your mental workout to be real, you need to make clear in your writing exactly what words or ideas came from someone else. It’s true that if you follow the rules about citation, you might at some point find yourself realizing that most of your paper is made of up stuff you are assembling from somewhere else. Or you feel that it just isn’t possible to say it any better than this author said it. What do you think: in this situation, the right thing to do would be a) Don’t admit that the words or ideas came from somewhere else, and hope you don’t get caught b) Cite everything, thus admitting it is all borrowed, and accept a low grade on the paper c) Admit that you are starting with the thoughts of other people, but then use them as a springboard for some new thoughts of your own. You think (c)? Good answer. The whole idea of modern university scholarship is to build on other people’s ideas. In fact, the basic function of university instructors is to give you guidance on how you can apply, extend, refute, or in some other way do something of your own with the ideas you’ve read and heard. How to do this First of all, you need to plan ahead. Start the paper as soon as possible after it is assigned. Waiting until the night before is a good way to create stress that will make it harder to do a good job of citation. NOTE: If you do find that you just can’t get the paper written by the deadline, it is okay to get some sleep, turn it in a day late, and take a small grading penalty. This is a much better idea than plagiarizing. Almost anything, frankly, is a better idea than plagiarizing. Second, you need good note‐taking skills. Whenever you take notes on, or electronically copy and paste, something you’ve read, it is essential that you also make a note of the place you got it from. If you get pulled over on the highway for speeding, and you say “gosh, I’m not responsible for that; my speedometer doesn’t work and I haven’t bothered to fix it,” you’ll still be handed a speeding ticket. Same thing if you accidentally include uncited material from an source because you forgot to write down that it was from somebody else and not your own writing. Accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism. When do you need to cite a source? Any time you use any of the following from someone else’s work, you should give a citation. • A series of words quoted verbatim. “Three or more” is the traditional rule. This applies to any series of words distinctive enough that it’s not just an ordinary part of the language; for example, there’s no reason to cite the phrase “and in conclusion”. But a phrase might not be brilliantly original and yet still distinctively their words, and you’d need to give a citation if you used it. No reader should be able to read your paper and say “Hey, that sounds familiar – didn’t I read something vaguely like that in the other book?” • An idea. Even if you put an idea in different words, you still have to point out that you didn’t come up with it first. Again, it’s fine and even necessary to include someone else’s ideas, but you have to take them farther in some way. If as a writer I am trying to rephrase what the book said so that it doesn’t sound like the book I read, I am just running in circles on the doorstep of education instead of actually going inside. We’ve all had moments of this kind. Recognize it and move forward – get into an exploration the subject. • A word or phrase which your source author has invented, or which is distinctively part of their writing. If they made up a term, or if it’s not clear that they made that term up but they rely heavily on it, it’s appropriate for you to tell us where you got it. • A fact which is not common knowledge. What is common knowledge? Clearly, if most people know it, it’s common knowledge. Example: “The first human landing on the moon occurred in 1969.” Similarly, if it’s a fact that your readers might not remember off the top of their head but could be looked up in any of a number of sources and is not likely to be doubted by anyone, it’s common knowledge. “The Apollo 11 mission was launched at 9:37 a.m.” But if you can imagine some reasonable person wanting to check your facts, or asking where you got that information, or wondering where they could find out more, then it’s not common knowledge. A quote from astronaut Buzz Aldrin about his experience, for instance, or details about the engineering of the spacecraft, would need to be cited. If you have learned information in the course that you didn’t know before, you should cite the reading or the lecture it came from. • A writing structure. Let’s suppose you are writing about Renaissance shipbuilding and you’ve read an article called “Elizabethan Naval Architecture”, by Edna Smerkle, which divides the subject into four areas: the types of timber used; training of shipwrights; dockyard facilities; and economic considerations. If you then organize your essay around docks, training, economics, and timber, you need to let us know that you got that structure from Smerkle even if you aren’t quoting a single line of her actual wording and even if you are using her topics in a different order. Example: “My analysis will follow the topical divisions of Smerkle’s classic essay, ‘Elizabethan Naval Architecture’; however, I am going to discuss dockyard facilities first because I will argue that the physical environment in which ships had to be built determined all the other elements, including materials, financing, and, therefore, training.” Here, instead of stealing Smerkle’s work, we’re using it as a stepping stone to an even more thoughtful argument about how these elements are causally related to each other. In general, if you have questions about whether something needs to be cited, talk to your TA about it before the due date. Quote or Paraphrase? Sometimes the exact words of the original are important – for instance, when you are going to analyze the wording itself, or because the reader needs to taste the flavor of the author’s voice. But most of the time, a paraphrase will do. For a detailed example, see Choosing what to quote The fewer words you quote directly, the better – as long as it’s clear what the quote is saying. One way to do this is to use an ellipsis (three dots) to show that your quotation skips some of the source: “The failure of Home Rule…marked the epitaph of…gradualist self‐government” (Schama, 383). Don’t overdo this – two ellipses in a sentence is about as much as you can afford ‐‐ and be sure that by leaving words out you are not distorting the original meaning. Another way to quote only the most vital words is to integrate the quotation into your own sentence. • Lloyd George’s administration relied on “rule by dinner party” (Schama, 447). • Ruskin’s union “of Romantic and classical aesthetics, of body and soul” (Pattison, in course reader, 352) is not the goal of the Abstract Expressionists. • “The grudgingly given and debased bread of charity” which nineteenth‐century unions refused (quoted in Levine et al., in course reader, 105) connotes a pride in well‐earned pay which no longer stands as a central pillar of blue‐collar identity. How to cite There are different rules about citation formats depending on the field you’re working in, and so you will always need to find out what your audience expects. That said, in the CAT Core Sequence we are mostly concerned that you be consistent throughout the paper. The goal of any citation format is always to • • • make clear which words or ideas came from someone else give the reader the information they’d need if they wanted to look it up themselves do this with a minimum of interruption of the flow of your text. One easy method is to give author and page number in parenthesis. Quote: Schama describes Gladstone’s 1886 speech on the Home Rule Bill as “the noblest thing he ever did, and the most doomed” (Schama, 381). You can use the same format when you paraphrase. Note: when you provide a citation at the end of a paraphrase, you are signaling “I’m now moving away from the source and on to my own ideas.” So be sure not to place the citation too early, or you’ll be implicitly claiming ideas that aren’t really yours. Paraphrase – Citation Incorrectly Located: The publication of Gladstone’s Home Rule plans alienated his allies (Schama, 381‐382). They began to believe that they could not reform both Ireland and England at the same time. A similar problem presented itself later when… Paraphrase – Citation Correctly Located: The publication of Gladstone’s Home Rule plans alienated his allies, who began to believe that they could not reform both Ireland and England at the same time (Schama, 381‐382). A similar problem presented itself later when… Note: for quotations longer than three lines, it is customary to use indented block quotations. However, in the short papers you write for the Sixth College Core Sequence you will seldom need to use such long quotations and we don’t encourage you to do so. If it comes up, talk to your instructor before finishing the paper. Instead of parenthetical citations, you can use footnotes if you prefer. Whatever you do, be consistent, and include at the end of the paper a list of Works Cited with the full book information, url, or other necessary data. Setting up and explicating a quotation In a body paragraph for your paper, do not simply make a claim, add a supporting quotation, and move on. After giving the quote you need to explain how the details in the quoted material support your argument. Typically, for every line of text you quote, you should be spending roughly two lines explaining and analyzing it. Once in a while you will find a quote that works well to sum up what you’ve been saying, but this isn’t how the paper should operate as a whole. When you use a quotation (or any kind of specific item of evidence) there are actually four steps to complete. 1) Set up the quotation. This usually includes telling the reader who you’re quoting, the context it came from, and what that person was referring to originally (e.g. “Speaking about ___, the Prime Minister declared in Monday’s address that ’_____’”). But even more importantly, it includes somehow telling or indicating to the reader what to look for in this example. 2) Give the quotation itself. This involves at least three tasks. a. Reproduce it accurately. Reread it to make sure what you typed is, word for word, exactly what they said. b. Cite the source correctly. c. Probably the hardest of the three: use only as much of it as is necessary. Don’t quote two sentences when one will do. If you are quoting the same person more than once, or in other situations where you don’t want the quote to overweigh your paragraph, quote a fragment rather than the whole thing. Look carefully for the few words you really need. Construct your own sentence so that it leads grammatically into the quotation. E.g. “The chef pointed out that Mayan chocolate was ‘renowned internationally for its peppery flavor’ (Brunlof 28)”. 3) Tell the reader what’s going on in that quotation. What parts of it should we focus on? What are you seeing in it that matters? Imagine yourself in front of an audience, showing a map, pointer in hand, explaining “If we look at the upper right corner we can see how the terrain changes to wetland....” 4) Tell the reader why it matters to your essay. Show how it ties into and supports your general argument, or the bigger picture of the world that you are trying to sketch out. Make sure it’s clear why you used this quotation and what it’s doing for your paper. All of this also applies, in slightly varying ways, to other kinds of evidence – a statistic, an image, a historical event. Make sure we understand why it matters to your argument. ...
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