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Using Research Effectively

So, your instructor asks you to complete research to use in writing your essay.  You pull some journal articles, grab a few books on your essay topic and start reading.  You've taken some notes, but what do you do next?
 
If you are unsure of how to effectively use research materials to support your thesis, there are some useful methods for summarizing, paraphrasing, and using direct quotations in your essay.
 
Let's start with summarizing, since that is what you should be using most often in your paper.  When you summarize, you want to share some of the author's main points.  Choose explanations and examples from the text that support your arguments.  When you summarize, you are looking to capture the main points of a few paragraphs or pages in one or two sentences.  In your own words, you highlight what the author said and then explain how it relates to your own ideas. 
 
Maybe you agree with the author, and you want to show the reasoning they use in addition to your own. Maybe the author included more detail on a topic, and you want to include that to further support or complement your ideas.  Summarizing is effective when you want to communicate, in general, what the article was about and what points the author made. Citing the source material at the end of the sentence is required.
 
Paraphrasing is your next "go-to" method for sharing information from another source.  When you paraphrase, you are taking the author's ideas and putting them into your own words.  Usually, essay writers paraphrase one, or a few, sentences and then explain why they are alluding to the author's ideas.  As you are using source material, you do so to support your own ideas.  Give credit to your source using the appropriate citation format (e.g., MLA, APA). 
 
Direct quotations should be used sparingly, because paraphrasing and summarizing often are effective on their own.  Quotations are most helpful when the author states something more clearly or effectively than you could. Also, if an author sums up one of their arguments in a single statement, a quotation of that summary could be the way to go. As in paraphrasing and summarizing, you must credit your source.
 
Referring to your source material is useful to support your thesis. Whether you quote the author directly or simply make a quick reference to their contributions, you can include an explanation of how the author's work illustrates your point. Using proper citations and formatting will ensure that your paper is professional, and your instructor often will evaluate citations as part of the grading of your assignment. Allowing the work of experts in the field to be part of your argument, you are creating strong support for your thesis and therefore improving the quality of your work.
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