Working with Sources

Working with Sources

Documentation, quotation, summary, paraphrase


Perhaps the most challenging aspect of academic writing is the integration of source materials. Students often imagine that the most difficult thing about using sources is learning how and when to use a citation. While accurately documenting sources is a vital aspect of any process of inquiry, citing the page number of a source is not the only skill that is required. You must also learn how to artfully use signal phrases to announce borrowed ideas or words and transition to another source or back to your own ideas. Further, the integration of the source may occur in many forms: summary, paraphrase, or quotation (and often a mix of all three). To do any of these well requires excellent reading comprehension skills and a metacritical awareness of when it is preferable to use one form of integration over another. That’s a lot to orchestrate and get right.

This workshop asks you to practice several key moves that are used in academic writing, all of which are described at length in the “Working with Sources” chapter of the Open Handbook. You will use a passage from Walker Percy’s “The Loss of the Creature” to complete the workshop, excerpted below.

Completing this assignment will in no way make you proficient at the integration of sources. It will, however, help you conceptualize how sources are included in academic writing and give you a sense of what you need to work on in the future.

Source Text

-From Walker Percy, “The Loss of the Creature,” p. 47.

Why is it almost impossible to gaze directly at the Grand Canyon under these circumstances and see it for what it is—as one picks up a strange object from one’s back yard and gazes directly at it? It is almost impossible because the Grand Canyon, the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’s mind. Seeing the canyon under approved circumstances is seeing the symbolic complex head on. The thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard; it is rather that which has already been formulated—by picture postcard, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon. As a result of this preformulation, the source of the sightseer’s pleasure undergoes a shift. Where the wonder and delight of the Spaniard arose from his penetration of the thing itself, from a progressive discovery of depths, patterns, colors, shadows, etc., now the sightseer measures his satisfaction by the degree to which the canyon conforms to the preformed complex.

Workshop

  1. Use a signal phrase with the author’s name to introduce a quotation from this text and then cite according to MLA. (See “in-text citations”)

  2. Use a signal phrase without the author’s name to introduce a quotation and then cite according to MLA. (See “in-text citations”)

  3. Use a signal phrase with the author’s name, summarize this entire passage in your own words, and then cite according to MLA. Use no quotations. Think carefully about your audience: if they have not read this piece, how should you write this so that they will understand?

  4. Paraphrase this entire passage in your own words without using the author’s name and then cite according to MLA. Briefly quote language or terms to give the reader a sense of the “flavor” of Percy’s paragraph. Think carefully about your audience: if they have not read this piece, how should you write this so that they will understand?

  5. Quote from this passage using the MLA block quote format, then cite according to MLA.