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Cited Material vs. Analysis

Some college writers rely on citation, filling paragraphs with quotations and paraphrases, but lose their chance to express themselves in the process. I have the opposite problem. I often enjoy the sound of my voice so much that I forget to cite the facts that would back up my argument. Somewhere between these two tendencies lies a healthy balance between citation and the discussion of a writer's own ideas, observations, and analysis.

The balance point, like so many things in writing, varies from paper to paper. A literary analysis may have relatively few quotes with a large amount of discussion for each, while a scientific review article may have a vast quantity of citations with minimal discussion. The nature of the assignment dictates the balance. Most college writing assignments, however, fall towards the discussion-heavy side of this range.

Whatever the assignment may be, the basic requirements for effective use of sources remain the same:

1. Discuss all cited material.

2. Support every major argument with citations.

Therefore, you should probably reconsider any body paragraph that contains no citations; it may not have enough supporting evidence. And you should also reconsider any body paragraph that is more than half citations; it may not have enough of your own thoughts in it. These are not inflexible rules, but rather guidelines to help you identify paragraphs that may be problematic.

The best way to gain an appreciation for how to balance citations with analysis is by reading other papers of the type you are trying to write. The library can help you find appropriate journals and other publications. We have also provided two samples of our own, a literary analysis and a research paper, which will let you see this balance in action for different kinds of writing.

Incorporating Sources

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