Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Hostos Library Banner

Research 101

Basic definitions

When you include information from a source in a paper, presentation, or other project, you must give credit to the source's author. (You do not have to cite information that is common knowledge, such as that the U.S. has 50 states.) Some definitions:

  • Direct Quote: Someone else's exact words, placed in quotation marks and followed by a parenthetical citation.
  • Paraphrase: Someone else's ideas explained in your own words, followed by a parenthetical citation.
  • Summary: Similar to a paraphrase, but used to give an overview of many ideas (explained in your own words).

Things to include when quoting or paraphrasing a source: 

  • Introductory phrase: More about signal phrases or introductory phrases from St. Louis Community College
  • Source material: A direct quote, paraphrase, or summary with proper citation
  • Your own writing that gives context to the source material: the source material (quotes, paraphrases) are like the chocolate chips, and your own original writing is the cookie dough. Your writing is what holds everything together!

You may be analyzing the source material, relating it to your own ideas, critiquing it, using it as evidence to back up a claim, or referring to it as an example of a broader idea.

Your writing is what gives the source material context and meaning for your reader. If you just drop in quotes and paraphrases, that's like tossing someone a handful of chocolate chips when they asked for a great cookie.

  •  Always properly cite an author's original idea, regardless of whether you have directly quoted or paraphrased it.

What is a citation?

The act of telling your reader where you got your information is called citing your source.

The information you share when you cite a source is called a citation, or sometimes a reference.

There are two kinds of citation:

(1) a short little tag that appears in the main text of the article, essay, or book ("in-text"), and

(2) a much more detailed citation that comes in a list at the end of the article, essay, or book (called a "reference list" or "works cited list" or "bibliography") 

Readers look at the short in-text citation and then if they want more information, they look up the rest of the information in the long list at the end.  

In-text citations

These are short so that they don't interrupt the flow of reading. The exact rules vary according to citation style (see below), but the in-text citation typically contains just the author's name and date of publication, sometimes with a page number. (Sometimes it is just a number - when it is a number, it is called a footnote or endnote number.)

Example of in-text citation in APA style:

According to Smith (2015), NYC pizza was ranked the most foldable kind of pizza by 999 pizza-eaters.

As a reader, you would now have enough information from this in-text citation to look at my list of references to find more information about where Smith provided this information in 2015 - it could be a book, article, video, interview, or any other source.

What the matching end-of-work citation would look like:

Smith, B. (2015). "Survey of pizza-folders and their preferences". Journal of Pizzaology, 2(6), 16-20.

This longer citation shows me:

  • Author: B. Smith
  • Date of publication: 2015
  • Title of article: "Survey of pizza-folders and their preferences"
  • Title of journal where the article was published: Journal of Pizzaology
  • Volume of the journal: 2 (usually journals publish one volume per year, so 2015 was probably the second year that this journal existed)
  • Issue: 6 (so this would probably be the 6th issue that was published that year)
  • Page numbers: 16-20

What is a citation style? Different disciplines use slightly different formats for their citations. For example, scholars who write about literature usually use MLA style; psychologists and other social scientists use APA style, and historians usually use Chicago style. The following pages address specific questions about citing in APA, MLA, or Chicago style, or see the Purdue OWL website (from Purdue University), which includes many more detailed rules for several styles of citation, including AMA (American Medical Assocation).

Why and how to weave others' words and ideas into your own writing

You will often want to draw on the work of others to support your own ideas. Use clear references and citations to indicate from whom the ideas come.

Avoid inserting source information without adding your own analysis; instead include your own voice and your own analysis and ideas. 

There are many reasons that writers refer to other people's words and ideas in their own writing; as you write, ask yourself what your reasons are for including each quote or paraphrase. Some purposes include:

As background information to help the reader understand some basic information about the topic.

For example, you might quote the health department's statistics on childhood obesity and then paraphrase two reasons that public health experts give for why there is more childhood obesity now than twenty years ago. This would show your reader what the problem is and what current concerns are in general. If you present this information (and cite your sources) without any other comment about the reliability of these stats and reasons, you're telling your reader that you believe these things are commonly accepted background information.
As an exhibit : think of how evidence is introduced in a courtroom. It may be used as evidence that supports one interpretation of what is true, or it may be shown to point out something important about the person it belongs to. But exhibits are always shown with some comment on what it means.

For example, if a politician says something hateful, you might quote that hateful thing in your paper (and cite it)--not because you agree with what the politician said, but because you want to show your reader some evidence that this person says hateful things.

Another example of an exhibit might be quoting a metaphor from a beautiful poem, in order to show your reader the exact words the poet used, before you go on to analyze the meaning of the metaphor.

As an argument, or set of ideas and theories that you want to discuss.

Remember that as a researcher and writer, your job is not just to repeat what other people have said, but to think about, put together, and make sense of ideas for your reader. Sometimes you may choose to quote or paraphrase someone else's argument in order to compare, contrast, question and analyze that argument.

Remember that you will likely want to include sources which are are in agreement AND in disagreement with your own views. This way you can recognize and respond to multiple perspectives on the given issue. In doing so, you can make your own argument stronger.

Here is a short video with more tips on how to weave a quote or paraphrase into your own writing.

* The ideas here about quoting others' words and ideas as background, exhibits, or arguments draws upon this article by Prof. Joseph Bizup.

Video: Paraphrasing from David Taylor, Univ. of Maryland Global Campus adviser

Video: Avoiding plagiarism from Bainbridge State College

Hostos Writing Center and other helpful resources

hostos writing center logoThe library is happy to help you with your research, but for direct writing help, the best place to go for help is the Hostos Writing Center to speak with a tutor.

The Writing Center is located in C-596A. 

From their website:

"Our goal, simply stated, is to help you become a better writer, not necessarily to make sure you leave with a perfect paper. To that end, we will act as tutors, not sure to bring with you the assignment (including everything your instructor has told you about it), any work you have done on that assignment (be it reading, researching, or writing), and lots of paper and a pen or pencil. It also helps to know your professor’s name!" is a website that answers many common questions about plagiarism. It also gives clear information and examples of citations and how to create them.

Indiana University link

Indiana University offers this series of tutorials, videos, and a test on plagiarism that may be helpful to you.