Step 8: Integrate Sources

Writing academic assignments often requires that you include information from various sources or that you respond to other texts. You need to be conscious of three voices: your own, your reader’s and the voices of the sources with whom you are engaging. Learning to incorporate and respond to these voices is something you do when you integrate sources and revise your work.

Integrate the Voices of Your Sources

Choose an Appropriate Strategy

There are three strategies for using and integrating source material. In all three methods – summarizing, paraphrasing, and using direct quotation – you must provide context for the material you are referencing and explain why you are making reference to it.

Three Ways to Use Sources

Usage and Pointers Summary (Pan) Paraphrase (Zoom) Quotation (Close-up)
How is it used?
  • provides the broadest context
  • can provide evidence
  • preferred use
  • provides specific context
  • can provide detailed evidence
  • preferred use
  • usually includes little context
  • provides most specific evidence
  • use sparingly
  • uses exact wording of original
Key pointers
  • identify the main point(s) and clarify its logic
  • include some indication of the significance of the information, if appropriate
  • condense the message – as your summary should be much shorter than the original
  • maintain the emphases of the original: do not distort the ideas
  • restate the text in your own words
  • repeat the idea(s) in the text without distortion, and show your understanding of these ideas
  • avoid plagiarism by signalling at the beginning of the paraphrase whose work you are referring to and by giving a page reference where the paraphrase ends
  • work with a dictionary, not a thesaurus
  • integrate the quotation grammatically into your text
  • signal your use of source material with a lead-in (text cue or name of author) and quotation marks
  • use inset block format for long quotations
  • interpret or comment on the significance of the quotation
  • be discriminating in your choice of quotations – quote only when a paraphrase or summary insufficiently expresses the idea
APA example Researchers point out that the real purpose of citation is to create a shared knowledge base (Walker & Taylor, 1998). In their discussion of citation, Walker and Taylor (1998) look beyond how we cite to why we cite. They emphasize that the regulations governing citation are there to safeguard an honest account of how new insights come about. Researchers build on the ideas of others, and the rules of citation provide an accepted method for reporting how knowledge is formed (p.9). Walker and Taylor (1998) suggest that “[the] big picture is about knowledge building: each piece of reported research adds to the collective construction of knowledge.” The basis of this knowledge building, they maintain, is proper citation, because “[without] citation, there is no reliable and organized system ... no mortar for securing the foundation” (p.9).
MLA example In their book The Madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar argue that Victorian women’s writing invokes dichotomous images of angelic and mad women in order to externalize and express the anxieties of authorship and female creativity in a patriarchal society. Gilbert and Gubar’s (1979) chapter on Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre presents the argument that the mad, imprisoned Bertha Mason is in fact Jane’s double and a projection of the heroine’s repressed desires (337-360). The doubling of heroine and madwoman becomes apparent when Jane wanders through the upper floors of Thornfield house and “first hears the distinct formal mirthless laugh of mad Bertha, Rochester’s wife and in a sense her own secret self” (Gilbert and Gubar 348).

Use Text Cues to Guide Your Reader

Your job as a writer is to guide your readers through your text so they can follow your reasoning and understand how you are using source material. One way to do this is to insert text cues – phrases or words – that indicate how you are “framing” the information for your reader (Graff and Birkenstein). These text cues can show:

How Your Text is Organized

Phrases that guide the reader:

  • “I will argue that…”
  • “My point about…will be shown by…”
  • “It is my intention to show that…”
  • “This claim is supported by…”
  • “By demonstrating…, I will explore …”
  • “This paper will demonstrate…”

How You Interpret and Respond to Primary and Secondary Material

Phrases that guide the reader:

  • “This is significant because…”
  • “This implies that…”
  • “This means that…”
  • “Compared to…this is…”
  • “The difference here is…”
  • “These findings from X challenge the assumption that…”
  • “This research suggests that…”

Who is Being Cited, What They are Saying and How that Compares to Other Viewpoints

  • “X’s claim that…rests upon the questionable assumption that…”
  • “X’s point is that… , and she is right that…”
  • “While X provides ample evidence that…., Y’s research on… indicates…”

How You Have Established a Critical Dialogue with Sources

Phrases that guide the reader:

  • “In discussion of X, one controversial issue has been…”
  • “On the one hand, X argues… On the other hand, X contends…”
  • “Others even maintain…”
  • “My own view is…”

Using such templates can help you as you learn to think about the presentation of source material. For more information and samples, refer to ‘They Say/I Say’: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein.

Find Your Own Voice as a Writer

Limit Use of Direct Quotations

Asserting a distinct authorial voice is important because the overuse of quotations can drown your own ideas, letting other scholars dominate your work. Also, lengthy, frequent quotations suggest that you don’t really have much to say on your topic or that you don’t really understand what you are talking about.

Keep in mind: quotations do not speak for themselves.

It is your job to demonstrate that you have understood, assimilated and reframed the ideas of others into your own line of thinking and argumentation. The effective use of quotations will, in fact, enable you to foreground your ideas, your interpretation, your voice, and construct new ideas in the process.

Respond to the Ideas of Other Scholars

As we stated earlier, one way of thinking about interacting with sources is to think of it as a conversation, that is, academic writing entails a practiced, strategic move between what “I say,” as the assignment writer, and what “they say,” as the scholars in the field.

Here is a brief example of how the strategy ‘they say/I say’ works in an introduction to an essay in film studies. Note that you don’t always have to use an “I” statement to indicate your views:

Many people believe Disney films are simply innocent fantasy. Cultural critic Henry Giroux, however, argues Disney films legitimate social inequalities based on gender, race, and class. According to Giroux, Disney heroines depend on men for their social status and power, and achieve success by finding a mate. (They Say)

(I Say) While Disney depictions of women are by no means “innocent,” an analysis of recent Disney heroines shows that they are not totally dependent on men and can achieve a certain measure of social power through their own initiative and resourcefulness.

Here is an example from an upper-level English essay. Notice the moves (labeled i, ii, iii, iv) the writer uses to introduce, contextualize, and interpret multiple secondary sources:

Recounting the grisly tale of London husband-murderer Katherine Francis, the 1629 broadside ballad “A Warning to Wives” manifestly conforms to the literary genre of domestic tragedy. Contemporary scholars Joy Wiltenburg (1992), Sandra Clark (2003) and Susan C. Staub (2005) each apply the term ‘domestic tragedy’ when writing about this ballad, regarding its “location and […] thematic concern with the household” (Clark 109), its “non-notable protagonists” (113) and its bid “to edify” audiences as hallmarks of the genre (Staub 12; Wiltenburg 219). When it seeks to publicize news of Katherine Francis’s marital crime and public execution, the ballad conforms most closely to the genre as it deals with what Henry Hitch Adams identifies as the “familiar” and “local” writing in his seminal 1943 monograph English Domestic, or Homiletic Tragedy, 1575-1642 (1). Adams identifies the ballad’s focus upon the bonds of marriage, its representations of the household and neighbourhood, and its commentary upon the role of the broader social and legal communities as hallmarks of the genre. The ballad works in this way to “couch” its narrative “in terms of […] [personal] experience” easily recognizable to its early seventeenth-century audiences (185).

i. Early in the paper, key scholars are named. Note the recent publication dates of their relevant scholarly contributions: this helps present your topic within the contexts of the larger, ongoing scholarly conversation.

ii. Pithy direct quotes from secondary sources are integrated to establish arguments, define terms, or indicate rhetorical devices used within these sources.

iii. The full titles of some important or seminal critical works and their dates of publication are included in the text (rather than in parenthetical citations); this shows that you are familiar with a historical range of scholarship in the field and not simply the most recent or, conversely, outdated publications on the topic.

iv. Active verbs in the present tense are used to say what source material is doing: this demonstrates that you have absorbed, considered, and synthesized the content and argument(s) of what you have read and are now able to situate the scholarship within a broader critical context.

Demonstrate through Structure What You Have Judged Important

Use subordination to prioritize some information over other material (i.e. use introductory phrases and clauses to establish relationships between ideas). For more guidance on strengthening sentence structure and using subordinators, consult the Writing Centre resource about sentence revision for a mature compact style.

Always Cite Sources Both in Text and in a Reference List

Citation is the most visible way you demonstrate your use of sources. It is inextricably linked to academic integrity, a value that has the highest priority in academia.

Academic Integrity: Acknowledging the Ideas of Others

In order to engage in academic conversation, all material must be carefully and clearly integrated and properly cited. That way, you will demonstrate – and your readers will understand – how your ideas participate in the existing scholarly discourse on a given topic. The result is twofold: source material is properly acknowledged and contextualized, and, in turn, your distinct authorial voice emerges.

When citing sources within the body of your paper, you have three options: you can focus on the idea presented in the source, the researcher who wrote the source material, or some contextual element such as the time the source was introduced.

Citing Options

Option Description Sample Citation
Idea-focused Place the author(s) and date(s) in parentheses at an appropriate place in or at the end of a sentence. Researchers have pointed out that the lack of trained staff is a common barrier to providing adequate health education (Fisher, 1999) and services (Weist & Christodulu, 2000).
Researcher-focused Place only the date in parentheses. Fisher (1999) recommended that health education be required for high school graduation in California.
Chronology-focused Integrate both the author and date into your sentence. In 2001, Weist proposed using the Child and Adolescent Planning Schema to analyze and develop community mental health programs for young people.

Always include a list of your sources at the end of your assignment in form of a bibliography (Chicago), a works cited list (MLA), or references (APA). Check the style guide appropriate to your discipline for the format this list should take. Be aware that distinctions between a bibliography and a list of sources used are sometimes also made: a bibliography (unlike references or works cited) may include sources you have read but not drawn upon in your paper or list other relevant works that you have not used.


The clear and proper citation of academic sources gives intellectual credit where credit is due. It helps you avoid the unacknowledged appropriation of another’s work (plagiarism) and the repercussions which attend an act of plagiarism.

At this university, plagiarism or academic misconduct is defined in the “Student Code of Conduct and Discipline” as “an act by a student, or by students working on a team project, which may result in a false evaluation of the student(s), or which represents an attempt to unfairly gain an academic advantage, where the student either knew or ought reasonably to have known that it was misconduct” (12.2.II). At Laurier, the university clearly places responsibility on the student to become informed of and, in turn, abide by practices of academic integrity.

For more information on the definitions and repercussions of plagiarism at Laurier, you may wish to check out the university’s Academic Integrity website. The Laurier Writing Centre website also offers helpful links on this topic, including a link to the University of Toronto’s handout on “How Not to Plagiarize.”