Most writers learn to incorporate sources by reading extensively and, consciously or not, learning to mimic the patterns they see. However, students in my first-year and advanced composition courses seem to have read less and less professional nonfiction such as newspaper and magazine journalism with each passing year, so I find that they lack this natural foundation needed to understand how best to incorporate sources into their writing—they seem to choose quotations more for how much space it can take up in their writing than for how well it serves their argument or their reader.
Furthermore, they don’t understand the difference between summary and paraphrase or why one would choose one over the other; likewise, they see all quoting as the same and do not recognize the stylistic and functional differences between an embedded quotation (Lincoln wrote of “a new nation” founded 87 years prior.”), a full quotation (Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth a new nation.”), and a block quotation.
I have found that laying out a full menu of options and explaining the pros and cons of each choice help my students make better decisions about source integration.
Below you can see a preview of the lesson notes I typically use in class to guide a discussion about the menu of options available for source integration.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when my classes were delivered in a mostly asynchronous online modality, I created a recorded version of the lesson. Please feel free to assign students to watch this video or use it to develop your own lesson plans. You can also access the PowerPoint slides used in the video and adapt them however you like.
To help students actually use what we learn, I usually rely on one or both of the following assignments.
This analysis assignment has students closely examine how a professional writer incorporates source material into their writing.° I usually assign this to be done before I present the lesson described above, using it as a preparation assignment to prime students' thinking on the topic so that they can better contribute to the discussion. However, it could just as easily be used as a follow-up assignment to the lesson.
This practice assignment has students use what they've learned about source integration to construct an argumentative paragraph by drawing from a page of fake evidence. Because all students start with the same topic sentence and draw from the same three fake sources, I find it very useful to have students compare their results in class, seeing how others solved the problem very differently despite having the same resources.