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Term Paper Writing Guide- Integrating Sources


The meat and potatoes of your body paragraphs will be a mixture of textual summary and your analysis of it.

Once you've done your close reading and structured your topic sentence for a paragraph, go back and pull out the details you've highlighted.

In putting these details into your paper, it is absolutely imperative that you balance each one with YOUR analysis of their significance. It might help, at least until you're used to the idea, to maintain a mental ratio: three sentences of your interpretation for every one concrete detail of the text.

The concrete detail - Paraphrase the gist of the actual textual information as CONCISELY as possible. It is important for your reader to understand what you're talking about, but only as an illustration for your own ideas.

The interpretation - Go back to the questions you've asked yourself during the close reading. What answers have you found that you can explain here? As always, remember that good interpretation avoids both summary and opinion - your arguments must be original but crafted from actual evidence.

Example: "Coleridge opens his poem with an immediate statement of locale: "In Xanadu." This fable-like invocation makes the reader immediately conscious of distance, as well as the mystical connotations of the Orient in the context of Victorian imperialism. By choosing a setting with such dual reverberations of reality and fantasy, Coleridge creates a landscape parallel to his view of the imagination - vast in breadth, yet potently accessible."

Note how very little textual detail was necessary to come up with quite a bit of interpretation.

Keep an eye on the big picture - As tempting as it is to fill space with any interesting idea you come up with, do not put a single thought onto the page that you cannot relate directly to the proving of your topic sentence.

Remember, your paper must act as the impetus for an idea, not merely a description of your sources, however subtle that description might be.

Integrating Quotes - Sometimes the textual details you include will necessarily take the form of direct quotation, particularly when analyzing language. It is always best to do so as inconspicuously as possible. The quotes should serve only to prove your ideas, not to supplant them. Rather than using big block quotations, wherever possible include only that which is specifically necessary to your point, within the framework of your own sentence.

Bad Integration: Keats describes the Grecian urn as follows: "Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness; Thou foster child of silence and slow time; Sylvan historian who canst express; The flowery tale more sweetly than can rhyme".

Good Integration: Keats begins by personifying the urn in terms of human innocence, as an "unravish'd bride" and a " foster child of silence and slow time."

 
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