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Study Skills

and Access Unit

Writing &
Study Skills

Maths, Stats
& numeracy

English
language

It
skills

Incorporating your Sources


When writing academic assignments, you will be expected to draw on multiple
sources of information. How you present this information is important: it is more
than simply summarising and/or paraphrasing source text. Students are
expected to critically analyse the information they find, often comparing and
contrasting different sources. This may involve presenting different points of
view within a single paragraph, demonstrating that you can synthesise
(combine) your sources in a meaningful / analytical way.
The example paragraph below is taken from an essay entitled The Use of
Technology to aid Teaching and Learning, and is an example of how information
from a number of different sources can be combined within a single paragraph.
Note how the writer compares and contrasts different points of view before
summing up their analysis of the information in the concluding sentence. (Note:
this text uses the Harvard style of referencing).

Internet networking sites have become increasingly prevalent and


accessible in the last few years. Educators have taken notice of their
popularity, and some networking platforms, for example Facebook and
Twitter, as well as wikis and blogs, are now being considered as
alternative learning formats. Efforts so far have met with varying
degrees of success. Hale (2007) argues that the use of networking
technology can help students gain confidence and build up their writing
skills and knowledge in a relatively informal setting. However, there are
issues of privacy to consider. Generally, material contributed to these
networking platforms is visible to other participants, which may be offputting for some students (Smith 2008). Another consideration to take
into account is students attitudes towards using platforms designed to
promote social interaction, within a formal educational context. Jisc

(2007) found that although 65% of sixth form students used networking
sites for social interaction, many were not convinced that they could be
used as an effective learning tool, and they did not like educators
interfering in what they perceived to be their private social forum. It may
be that educators need to more fully explore the effectiveness of using
social networking sites for formal learning before adapting them for
educational use.

Three different sources have been used to back up the main points made in this
essay; note how they are cited (referenced) in the text.

First example

Hale (2007) argues that the use of networking technology can help
students gain confidence and build up their writing skills and knowledge
in a relatively informal setting.

This sentence summarises/paraphrases information taken from an article by


Hale. Here the name of the author is mentioned in the text, so the citation
comes directly after the authors name, and the information is introduced with
the verb argues.

Second example

Generally, material contributed to these networking platforms is visible to


other participants, which may be off-putting for some students (Smith
2008).

This sentence summarises/paraphrases information from an article by Smith.


The name of the author is not explicitly mentioned in the text, so the citation
has been put at the end of the sentence.

Third example
Jisc (2007) found that although 65% of sixth form students used
networking sites for social interaction, many were not convinced that
they could be used as an effective learning tool, and they did not like
educators interfering in what they perceived to be their private social
forum.

This sentence summarises / paraphrases information taken from an article by


Jisc. Here the name of the source is mentioned in the text, so the citation comes
directly after the authors name, and the information is introduced with the verb
found.
From this example we can see how information from three different sources can
be used to build an effective argument within a single paragraph. How you
structure and introduce information (e.g. use of different verbs) can impact on
how well you demonstrate your analysis of a topic. By planning paragraphs
carefully, it is possible to build a convincing argument that demonstrates your
critical thinking skills.

Produced by Robert Gordon University: Study Skills & Access Unit