I want help using information from books, articles and other sources

The starting point in using information from books, articles and other sources is to have a clear understanding of your purpose. That is, what do you need from the source? For example, you might need to:

  • read the source to get a better understanding of the topic
  • skim it to quickly find the author’s general point of view
  • scan it for one specific piece of information
  • look for evidence to support your own point of view
  • summarise and/or critique the whole article
  • focus on one or two ideas only, etc.

When you have a clear idea of what you need from the source, you then need to know how to use it in your work. Usually the source material must not be used by itself in a paragraph, but should be included along with your own words and ideas. For example, it may be evidence which follows a claim you are making, it may be the source of a particular theory or model you are using, or it may be data which you need to analyse. This requires some skills and knowledge for planning the structure of your paper.

You will also need to decide how to represent the source material – usually as a paraphrase, sometimes as a quotation – and this requires good skills for reorganising ideas and facts into new words and grammatical structures. To avoid plagiarism you need not only to paraphrase or quote appropriately but also to reference appropriately, using the citation conventions which are expected in your particular assignment, department, school, faculty and/or discipline.

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...