Integrating evidence effectively

Printable version of Integrating Evidence Effectively (PDF).

Academic writing often requires students to use the opinion or findings of others in illustrating your explanation or supporting your argument. There are three methods of integrating this evidence into your paper: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

Quote the author's words directly

Use this method when the reputation of the author gives credibility to your paper or when the original wording is so remarkable that paraphrasing would diminish it.

Remember to do the following:

  • Integrate wording and include quotation marks
  • Use [ ] and ... to indicate added/removed words
  • Insert a citation using your discipline's style

e.g., Nicolia's metastudy found "very little to no harm" was detected in non-target species, while acknowledging evidence of transgenic transference both in the lab and in wild and non-GE crops (4).

Paraphrase the author's work

Use this method to identify specific, focused explanations, arguments, or findings where the original wording is not crucial.

Remember to do the following:

  • Understand original ideas
  • Write paraphrase in own words, with source out of sight
  • Double-check against original and include citation

e.g., The recombinant DNA from a genetically engineered crop (GE) can be transferred to wild plants or non-GE crops if they crossbreed, but so far no adverse effects have been recorded and possible damage is speculative (Nicolia 4).

Summarize the author's work

Use this method in literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, executive summaries, and abstracts - wherever an overview of key ideas and/or structure is needed.

Remember to do the following:

  • Read and annotate original work
  • Focus on key developments or main idea in source material
  • Double-check against original and include citation

Helpful tip: Annotation refers to the process of actively reading a text by playing close attention, highlighting key information, and taking notes. See our handout on critical reading and listening for more information.

e.g., Authors who popularize science for consumption by a more general audience use a number of standard rhetorical moves. For example, Prelli, in "The Rhetorical Construction of Scientific Ethos," argues that scientists use a variety of norms, or topoi, to argue their claims rhetorically and prove their credibility. Using the case study of Koko the gorilla, who could purportedly communicate through sign language, Prelli looks at how scientists will favour some of Merton's norms over others, or will argue against those norms and use what Prelli refers to as counternorms. When scientists use norms, they are relying on the ethos of continuous science, whereas counternorms are more helpful for those trying to gain credibility if they have used unconventional methods. Being able to identify what is a norm or counternorm can be helpful to the public when reading blogs or watching documentaries because it can reveal whether the author is lining up with academic science or perhaps has a more commercial or political agenda.

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