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Using Sources to Support an Author's Ideas

All writing is biased because all writing is opinion. In the academy, we use third person pronouns and attempt to limit our bias by triangulating sources, using sources that limit their own biases, and identifying and adjusting biased language in our own writing.

One of the most difficult tasks new writers have is finding their voices instead of using their sources' words and ideas. New writers tend to summarize their sources instead of choosing a viewpoint and using the sources to support that viewpoint.

How does a writer find her voice and how does she use source material as support instead of simply summarizing that material and hoping for a good grade?

The new writer must first decide the type of paper she is writing. Literary analysis requires the extensive use of quotations from the work being analyzed and extensive explanation of those quotations by the writer.

Issue papers, though, require that the author determine a position and support that position with outside material. These sources (the outside material) cannot become the text itself. The writer must maintain her persona throughout the essay, using just enough of the outside material to justify her position.

The following links are to research-based posts that students might find useful. To truly understand how I've maintained my writing persona as a separate identity from the sources' voices, one needs to read the sources I used. Most will discover that my writing persona (vocabulary, sentence structure, formal register) is almost the same as my teaching persona. The major difference between my writing and teaching personas is that I tend to babble, make jokes, and chase rabbits when teaching.


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