Making what you write your own


One important aspect of academic writing is to offer some critique, or evaluation, of the sources you are reading. You should bear in mind that this does not necessarily mean being negative. You might, for example, want to write about why a study, or theory, is particularly useful.


You can learn the forms of criticism commonly used in your subject area(s) in a number of ways. Try paying careful attention to how your lecturers evaluate others’ work, to how studies are evaluated during tutorial discussion, or to how established authors in your area evaluate other people’s research.


Another way to make a piece of work your own is to develop a new synthesis, or organization, of ideas from a range of sources. This is where having well structured notes can really help. Mind maps are particularly useful for this kind of work.


Although quoting in the correct manner means you should not get into trouble for plagiarizing you may still get a low mark if you use too many quotes as the professor will not be able to tell whether you have really understood the material for yourself.



Dr Velda McCune, Study Development Adviser, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, University of Edinburgh.


What Happens When the Sources Seem to be Writing My Paper For Me?

One of the most common problems the writer of any research paper has is learning how to handle a number of outside sources. It is poor form to use quotation after quotation, without a break, because the writer is not writing the paper--the sources are! Additionally, the paper loses the writer's own tone and ends up sounding like someone else wrote it. The solution?

Note that one of the differences in these introductions is partially in the choice of verb (writes, agree, emphasizes, discusses). Use the right verb for the right circumstance.


RSCC OWL. Copyright 1996 Jennifer Jordan-Henley. Updated August 2002.