8.1 Using Research


This chapter will cover the following topics:

  • using research
  • quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing

There is a lot to say about research and a lot to learn about how to use it effectively and ethically. This chapter is just a brief introduction, but it will start you on your way to writing successfully throughout college.

The important thing to remember is that just like working with words, sentences, and paragraphs, working with research can be mastered by taking it one step at a time.

What Is a Research Paper?

A research paper is not just sticking a quote in your essay. The goal of a college research paper is to investigate a topic or issue, explain your position on it, and support that position with ideas and information from other writers and thinkers.

A research paper is usually longer than the essays you’ve been writing so far–sometimes far longer. Students who continue in higher education to graduate school will often write a master’s thesis that can run several hundred pages. However, the kind of research papers you will be asked to write as an undergrad are more in the five-to-fifteen-page range. But you will be asked to write a lot of them. Many (if not most) classes you take in college will require you to write a research paper.

In future writing classes, you will learn more about how to research effectively, including developing a focused research question, using the library and the internet to find information, evaluating sources before using them, reading with a critical eye, managing the information you gather, and integrating source material effectively.

For now, we are going to focus on three basic skills: what to quote, how to quote, and how to avoid plagiarism.

What Is “Research”?

Anything you’ve read or seen or heard is research and must be identified as such if you use it in your writing. Research includes the following:

  • somebody else’s words, whether written or spoken
  • ideas from other people that you put in your own words
  • proprietary data, such as statistics or findings from an experiment or a survey
  • images and music, including tables, charts, cartoons, songs, photographs, maps, and videos

What is not “research”?

  • your ideas, even if you think somebody somewhere might have had the same thought
  • familiar quotations, such as “Knowledge is power.”  You should name the person who said it (in this case, Sir Francis Bacon), but you don’t have to it formally.
  • facts and common knowledge, such as Paris being the capital of France or Martin Luther King, Jr. winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Using Research

When you insert the words and ideas from others into your own writing, there are three ways to do so: quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing.


Quoting is using the exact words of a source, enclosed in quotation marks.

When do you want to use a quote?

  • When the wording expresses a point so well that you cannot rephrase or shorten it without weakening it.
  • When the person quoted is a respected authority whose opinion supports your own.
  • When the person quoted challenges other experts.

How do you quote?

  • Copy the words exactly, including the original punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
  • Enclose the quote in quotation marks.
  • Use and to make additions or delete information.


A summary is a significantly shortened version of another piece. A summary gives a general sense of the information, capturing the main ideas, without necessarily following the order or emphasis of the original. A summary is always written in your own words.

Why summarize? Some of your research will be long and detailed–perhaps pages or even chapters long. It can include information that is important to your point but details that are unnecessary.

We went over “how to summarize” in Ch. 6.2. Here’s a refresher:

  • Read the information carefully, then without looking at it, write the summary. This will help you avoid unintentional copying.
  • Include just enough information to explain the point you want to make.  A summary is always far shorter than the original. A summary of a paragraph should be a sentence or two. A summary of a chapter might be a paragraph.
  • Use your own words.  If you include language from the original, you must enclose it in quotes.

For an example of a summary, go back to Ch. 6.2 and read the summary of the Adler essay.


Paraphrasing is restating another person’s words, retaining the original order and emphasis, but using your own words.

For example:

Original quote: Mortimer Adler writes, “The sign of intelligence in reading is the ability to read different things differently according to their worth.”

Paraphrased: According to Mortimer Adler, smart people understand the difference between reading for pleasure and reading for understanding.

Why does a writer paraphrase?  Paraphrasing makes information easier to understand while still conveying a clear sense of the original.

How does a writer paraphrase?

  • Include the main points and any important details from the original source in the same order that the original writer presented them.
  • Use your own words.
  • Save your comments, elaborations, or reactions for another place.

Exercise 1

Here is a paragraph from Donald Murray’s essay “The Maker’s Eye” (available in Ch. 9.1).

Writers must learn to be their own best enemy. They must accept the criticism of others and be suspicious of it; they must accept the praise of others and be even more suspicious of it. Writers cannot depend on others. They must detach themselves from their own pages so that they can apply both their caring and their craft to their own work.

Pretend you are going to write a paper about Murray’s essay.  You are going to practice the three different ways to put information from your source into your own writing.

  • First, write a sentence that includes a quote from the above paragraph.  (Check Ch. 5.4 for guidelines on where to put quotation marks and other punctuation.)
  • Then, write a summary of the whole paragraph, following the guidelines in Ch. 6.2 for how to summarize.
  • Finally, paraphrase a sentence from the above paragraph.

Be sure that your three examples meet the guidelines above for how to use summaries, paraphrases and quotes.


  • A research paper combines what you think with what other people think.
  • Anything you’ve read or seen or heard is research and must be identified as such.
  • Research is integrated in your paper using quotes, summaries, or paraphrases.


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