Category Archives: Research and Writing

Writing with Sources: A Primer

Here are notes from Tuesday’s class, our workshop on writing with sources:

Quote only when absolutely necessary. Make sure, too, that a reader understands why the quotation is relevant, and don’t count on a quote to make a point for you

Identify the speaker or writer of the quotation. Usually precedes the quoted material. (“Showalter says, . . ). Also include who the person is (role, position, expertise, qualifications) to indicate the reliability of the source you are citing

When you introduce a quotation, consider using verbs other than “says”: “Argues,” “adds,” “contends,” “points out,” “admits,” “comments,” “insists.” Or, with just the right verb, consider the use of a transitional phrase: “In an apparent contradiction, Showalter goes on to argue. . . .

Distinguish between short and long quotations. Enclose short quotations (fewer than four lines of type) in quotation marks. Set off long quotations (more than four lines of type). On block quotes, do not use quotation marks. To set off a long quotation, begin a new line, indent from the left margin, and double space throughout. Note well that block quotations need adequate introduction and are most often immediately preceded by a full sentence ending in a colon

Embedded quotations (that is, a quotation embedded into a sentence of your own) must fit grammatically into the sentence of which it is a part. Also develop your repertoire of sites to embed quotations: epigraphs, at the beginning of paragraphs, as transitions, in the middle of paragraphs in a sequence of sentences, at the end of paragraphs

Quote accurately. Check your quotation for accuracy at least twice. If you intend to add or substitute a word in the quotation, enclose the words in square brackets. Indicate omissions of material with an ellipses (three periods, with a space between each period). If you omit words at the end of sentence, indicate the omission with three periods (an ellipses) and end punctuation (a period).

Use punctuation correctly. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. Semicolons and colons go outside quotation marks. Question marks, exclamation points and dashes go inside if they are part of the quotation, outside if they are your own

Use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation. “Listening to the conversation following Bradley’s speech, I overheard an audience member say that she had ‘never encountered such a frank and honest politician.’ She went on to say, ‘I don’t know what to make of him. But I like him.’”

Enclose titles of short works in quotation marks. Longer works should be underlined or italicized.


Research: Places to Go

Literature Reviews – Getting Started

“Literature review,” “research installment,” “works cited,” “bibliography”—these terms all name a common element in what we call research which is, in every case, collaboration. The common concept of research as an organized social activity is what you need to understand. The conventions and differences will vary in various academic disciplines as well as in research communities beyond educational institutions

Looking for resources to identify and search for peer-reviewed articles? Use the Guide Searching for Peer Reviewed Articles (and what is peer-review?) 

Peer-review refers to a specific publishing process where an article is reviewed prior to publication by scholars who study in the same field as the author(s) of the article.  These scholars judge how valuable the research is to the field (is it saying anything new? controversial? substantiating findings of previous research?) as well as the quality and validity of the research process used (are the methods appropriate or valid?).  They decide if the article should be published in the journal or not.  The peer-review process is often “blind” – meaning the reviewers do not know who the author(s) of the article are at the time of the review.  This is an effort to prevent reviewers from favoring individuals they may know or being biased against the research.  However, the peer-review process is only one way to judge the quality of information.  The validity of the peer-review process itself is debated by scholars across most all fields of study.

You can access these Guides and others from the “Databases & Guides” tab on the Mason Library’s website OR from the Portal for Research & Writing               

Peer-to-peer Research & Writing Help

 Drop-in at the Library’s Research & Writing Help Desk (1st floor Mason Library):

  • Sunday 4:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Monday – Wednesday 10:00 – 9:00pm 
  • Thursday 10:00 – 4:00pm

Or at the Center for Writing (81 Blake Street)

  • Sunday 6 pm – 9 pm
  • Monday 10 am – 9 pm
  • Tuesday 10 am – 9 pm
  • Wednesday 10 am -5 pm & 7 – 9 pm
  • Thursday 10 am – 5 pm
  • Friday 10 am – 1 pm

Or make an appointment!

Poking and Prying with a Purpose

Sample Entries on the Annotated Bibliography

Halpern, John A. 2004. “Hallucinogens and dissociative agents naturally growing in the United States.” Pharmacology & therapeutics 102 (2): 131–38. Web.

The author, an assistant professor of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, describes a series of Hallucinogens and dissociative agents found in plants and fungi—whether native or cultivated in gardens. The purpose of the article is to provide readers with a general overview of the geographical range, drug content, preparation, intoxication, and the special health risks associated with some of these plants. Although there is some discussion of the use of mescaline-containing cacti, psilocybin/psilocin-containing mushrooms, and the Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina mushrooms that contain muscimol and ibotenic acid, there is not enough information on what I am hoping to find: the religious use of these plants by indigenous peoples. The article includes a very useful bibliography, however, with three books on the subject I am researching.

Richet, Paul. A Natural History of Time. Trans. John Venerella. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. Print.

This book by the geophysicist Paul Richet was originally published as L’âge du monde: À la découverte de l’immensité de temps in 1999. Richet traces how the study of nature has shaped human perceptions of time and durations of time—from the cyclical mythological traditions through the linear history in Judaism to the dramatic changes in the eighteenth century ushered in my revolutions in the natural and physical sciences. The final three chapters will be useful for me as I plan to recount the story of how physics (in particular, the study of the cathode rays and X-rays, and later radiometric dating) impacted the history of how the scale of time expanded in such a way that even science had trouble defining.

Writing the narrative that describes how the sources you are reading have confirmed or challenged your thinking.

Each of the two written research installments has two parts: 1) a narrative summary of what you have read and how that reading has furthered your thinking and writing and 2) an annotated works cited page (in a sentence or two, summarize the argument or purpose of each piece of writing) with at least five entries organized by author’s last name, just as you would a bibliography or works cited page.

Be specific about what you have learned and consider how what you have learned is expanding (or changing) what you set out to understand. Remember that what you are learning is most likely moving you from a more simple to a more complex understanding of your subject. Include a general idea of where you think you’re headed. Has your project expanded? Are you narrowing your focus? Is your research changing where you thought you might be going in your investigation?

If you are doing sufficient research, the second installment will demonstrate substantial progress—both in your ability to talk about your writing project and in the relevance and quality of your sources.