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Using Source Material Well

In an academic research paper, you express not only your own opinion, but show how your views fit in with other writers in your field. You quote or paraphrase other writers to show that someone else supports your view or to critique another viewpoint. Most of your paper is in your own words. Some sentences or short paragraphs may be direct quotations from source material. And you may summarize another person’s writing by restating their ideas. 

Writers often struggle with how to integrate quotes and paraphrasing into their research paper. I use the model of a sandwich to explain how to put together a strong paragraph using source material. 

Your words are the bread. The quote or paraphrase is the filling. This could end up quite a large club sandwich, but the essential idea is that your own words should introduce and then cap off the quote or paraphrase. 

What’s the difference between these two paragraphs? 

A doctor’s job was once only filled by men, but now is open to women also. This has hurt the career of nursing. “Graduating nurses are also going into other segments of the health care field, such as doctors’ offices and managed care consultancy and administration” (Duvoli, 2001, p. 14). 

Nursing began as a career choice for women. Women had the choice to be a housewife, a teacher, or a nurse. Nursing was the most challenging and respected career a woman could go into. Now, however, this has changed. According to Duvoli’s article, the “new, highly respected profession for women is no longer nursing, but to become a doctor” (2001, p. 14). Because more women entering the medical field are choosing to go for the MD instead of a nursing certificate, nursing is no longer seen as the respectable option it once was. 

The first one introduces the quote, but doesn’t follow up with the writer’s own words. The quote is just a fact. It shows the student writer did some research. But because the writer doesn’t follow it up with anything, we as readers don’t know what to think about it. It’s an open-face sandwich. It seems messy and unfinished. 

In the second example, the writer places Duvoli’s quote in the middle of the paragraph. The ideas are essentially the student writer’s. The student writer uses Duvoli’s research, showing she’s not just making stuff up. But the point about respectability is made in the student writer’s words. This is not only a more developed paragraph, but it integrates the “expert” view of Duvoli in with the student’s own argument.