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Writing with Sources

This tutorial will learn how to incorporate sources into your assignments while avoiding plagiarism and unethical use. 

Q: How Do You Read Sources for Writing?

Reading scholarly literature for use in your writing is different than reading for content. Your goal is to quickly identify how the work relates to your research question or argument as well as how it relates to the other sources you found on the topic. 

The tips in these two short videos apply to all source types, not just journal articles.

Reading Sources (2 min)

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Taking careful notes is important for organizing and synthesizing facts and opinions in sources for your own writing. Need help? Consider an appointment with an academic coach at CUAA’s Academic Resource Center

Taking notes on sources (3 min)

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Q: How do I Avoid Plagiarism?

Many forms of plagiarism occur by accident, when students incorrectly reference sources or forget where information or ideas came from.

Tips to avoid Plagiarism

  • Use a citation manager, your Primo account, or a Word or Excel document to keep a running source list.
  • Detailed, organized, and accurate notes on sources are key. Try a table or matrix.
  • Keep source notes separate from your assignment drafts.
  • Avoid copying and pasting from sources into your notes or drafts.
  • Cite as you go to avoid last minute mistakes. A citation manager can help with this.
  • Avoid reading a classmate’s writing. 
  • Don’t forget to cite any ideas presented by your professor or classmates during class discussion or lecture. 

For more specific examples and tips: Avoiding Plagiarism

4 ways to check for plagiarism (1 min)

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Q: How will I use this Source as a Writer?

Each source you use in your assignment should have a specific purpose. Most information sources can be used in 1-of-4 different ways. This video will cover the BEAM/CEET model and what types of sources usually fall into each of the four categories. 

Additional Guide: Sources Role in Your Paper 

4 types of uses for sources (3 min)

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TIP: Decide how you will use each of your sources before you start writing and create an outline to plan ahead how you will organize your assignment. 

TIP: Obtain sources from multiple categories (BEAM/CEET) for stronger arguments.

Q: How will I Synthesize my Sources?

Synthesis: combing the ideas of more than one source with your own ideas and analysis in writing.

After reading and taking notes on your sources, you will next need to organize the information into themes which relate to your topic. This is best done with a source comparison chart.


Synthesis Matrix (EXCEL)
Synthesis Matrix (WORD)

Synthesizing Sources (3 min)

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Q: How will I Incorporate my Sources?

Writers can summarize, paraphrase, or direct quote sources to incorporate source ideas into their writing. Each option has benefits and drawbacks in terms of effectiveness and flow in your writing. 

“While paraphrase and summary are effective ways to introduce your reader to someone’s ideas, quoting directly from a text allows you to introduce your reader to the way those ideas are expressed by showing such details as language, syntax, and cadence.” –Harvard Guide to Using Sources

Each discipline also has conventions for communication. For example:

Social and natural science: mostly paraphrase & summary
Humanities: mix of direct quotes, paraphrase, and summary 

Consult your instructor about the specific conventions of the field of study and which they expect. 


Incorporating someone else's ideas (2 min)

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Q: How do I Distinguish My Voice?

To avoid plagiarism, you must make it clear, as a writer, which ideas are your original ideas and thoughts, and which come from a source.

Whether you summarize, paraphrase or direct quote, every time you use a source, introduce the source in your own words and follow it with your own analysis or thoughts. 

Always clarify:

  1. What purpose the material serves in your essay
  2. Where your ideas end and the source’s ideas begin

For specific writing techniques see: The Nuts & Bolts of Integrating

Using critical voice (4 min)

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Final Note: Scholarship as Conversation

Remember, your paper should read like a conversation between different experts on a topic (including you).

  • Show your respect for the sources’ authors and the process of creating knowledge by accurately and clearly citing, quoting, and representing the writing and analysis of others.
  • Include your analysis of the author’s information, not just the information itself.
  • Consider each source in the context of other authors and experts on the same topic. 

Getting Help: CUAA Writing Center

The writing center is available to assist students with the writing of literature reviews, document formatting, and citations by drop-in or appointment on the first floor of the library at the Academic Resource Center (ARC).

Online students can get assistance by email. See the website below for specific instructions.

Writing Center Website