Chapter 5 Using Evidence Effectively and Ethically

Cynthia Kiefer

5.0 Introduction

Speaker with symbols indicating the use of evidence in the speech.
Project by Nithinan Tatah

In Chapter 4, you learned how to analyze and write arguments. The purpose of Chapter 5 is to provide you with strategies and skills for effectively and ethically supporting rhetorical appeals and integrating researched evidence into your academic writing.

Using evidence effectively means that you have considered the ethos and relevance of your sources, have stayed true to the meaning of the evidence in its original context, and are accurately applying the highest quality evidence you can support your claims.

Using evidence ethically means you do not randomly “cherry pick” your supporting details and evidence and shape them to meet your evidence need. Using evidence ethically does mean you have engaged in a robust research process and selected your sources with a filter for credibility, reliability, and relevance as we explained in Chapter 3. Using evidence ethically means you have paraphrased, quoted, and cited your information accurately using a one of the many standard citation formats, such as Modern Languages Association (MLA) 9 or American Psychological Association (APA) 7 .

Throughout this textbook, we have emphasized the importance of ethos, both external and internal ethos. When you apply and integrate evidence effectively and ethically, you are relying on the external ethos of your sources while at the same time, you are building your reader’s confidence in your internal ethos as a responsible source of information and well-founded arguments.

Chapter 5 Learning Objectives and Course Competencies

In this chapter, you will:

  • learn how to integrate evidence effectively.
  • learn how to integrate evidence ethically.
  • identify different citation formats for different fields.
  • explain the purpose of using a consistent documentation format.
  • learn different strategies for attributing and integrating source information within a text.
  • apply knowledge of in-text citation in writing and other formats.

Aligned English 102 Course Competencies:

  • Use appropriate conventions in writing, including consistent voice, tone, diction, grammar, and mechanics. (MCCD #3)
  • Find, evaluate, select, and synthesize both online and print sources that examine a topic from multiple perspectives.  (MCCCD #4)
  • Integrate sources through summarizing, paraphrasing, and quotation from sources to develop and support one`s own ideas. (MCCCD #5)
  • Identify, select and use an appropriate documentation style to maintain academic integrity.  (MCCCD #6)
  •  Generate, format, and edit writing using appropriate technologies. (MCCCD #9)

5.1 Using Evidence to Supporting Your Rhetorical Purpose

light bulb with speech bubble and chart and dollar sign to indicate supporting ideas with evidence.
Project by Nithinan Tatah

Once you have researched a body of evidence on your topic or argument and are beginning to plan your essay, speech, or project, you encounter complex decision-making about when, where, and how  to integrate your evidence to the greatest effect. A question many students ask is “How do I know when  to integrate researched evidence into my paper?” Our first suggestion is to review your thesis statement or claim and your discussion points. If a listener or reader were to doubt you on any of these key points, claims, and subclaims, what specific evidence, supporting details and illustrations, and/or backing could you provide to address or even counter that doubt?   Your audience wants to know not only what you think or have experienced, but whether or not your claims are based on evidence and deep research on the conversation around the topic.  You want your audience to know you have done your due diligence in investigating the topic or reflecting deeply on your own experience. You want your audience to know you are aware of the current research and content “out there” on your topic and that you are now empowered enough by what you know, what you have learned, and possibly by what you have experienced to add to the “conversation.”  Because illogical and unfounded emotional reasoning is so prevalent in our society today, your audience wants to be convinced of your trustworthiness as a communicator and ethical user of credible and reliable information.

That takes us to the next common question about integrating evidence: “OK, I have a TON of evidence. Now what? How do I know what evidence is the best evidence to integrate at any given point in my paper?”

5.1.2 ALigning Your Evidence with Your Rhetorical Purpose

We addressed the importance of effectively selecting and integrating rhetorical appeals and evidence in arguments in Chapter 4, Sections 4.2.3 “Rhetorical Appeals in Argument” and and 4.2.4 “Evidence in Argument.” I recommend reviewing those sections again along with this one when evaluating your integration, balance, and alignment of your evidence to your thesis and/or key discussion points or subclaims.  The perspective in this section

When to Integrate Evidence to Create Ethos

The best places to integrate ethos is right after the topic sentence or at the end of a point. This is because logos tends to be very specific and not contain more abstract or general ideas and pathos usually involves a detailed description or personal testimony. If you think of a paragraph or discussion point as having more abstract or general ideas or reasons at the beginning of a section or supported with conclusion commentary at the end of the discussion point, you will find that most quoted information or appeals to justice, values, or expertise will work well to support your topic sentences or provide the last bit of ethical argument before your conclusion commentary at the end of that section.

When to Integrate Evidence to Create Logos

Logos works well to illustrate the magnitude of a problem. At the beginning of any essay, I might integrate general statistics to show that the issue is significant and requires solutions or action. However, in the midst of a discussion point, my goal is provide more specific support for that point, so I will look for more specific statistics, facts, details, etc. In making your decisions about logos, think about where the evidence will best serve the purpose or point. Decide if you need a more general overarching statistic or a specific research study finding. Avoid overciting general facts in the body of the paper. Most of your evidence will be logos-centric, but do intentionally reach for evidence to provide ethos or pathos to break up the heavy use of logos so you do not lose your reader.

When to Integrate Evidence to Create Pathos

Let’s say you are at a point where you have integrated and paraphrased only factual or statistical material into a body paragraph supporting one of your key sub-claims or topic sentences.  The content is pretty dry and you are even starting to doze off.  This might be a good time to bring material a reader can connect to emotionally. That is, it might be time to provide support that will generate some pathos. You want your audience to feel how significant those statistics are through the experience of a single person or small group of people. As you have learned, personal testimony is often a way to breathe life into your support. Another strategy is to bring in a rich description of a scene related to your point — one that brings your readers into a moment or a scene. You never want to overdo the pathos, but if you do want to give your reader an opportunity or two to connect to the issue or point emotionally.  Your facts, statistics, and research study findings (that is, your logical support) create internal ethos for you if they came from credible sources, but unless you have a personal vignette to bring into the paper based on your own experience reach for a short narrative or a qualitative case study in which participants are quoted.


In addition to the text below, I recommend referencing the article  “Failures in Evidence” in Chapter 4, Section 4.2.4 “Evidence in Argument.”


One of the common questions that writers have about research-based assignments is how they can integrate evidence from appropriate academic sources effectively. This component of writing can be difficult because the writer knows it is their paper, and may not understand why they need to use other people’s work or how this can be done effectively.  In the following chart from the Purdue Online Writing Lab, Stolley, Brizee, and Paiz suggest that some of the reasons writers have difficulty navigating the appropriate place of outside material in their writing is due to some seeming contradictions in assignment guidelines instructors give:

Why Assignment Guidelines for Integrating Researched Support and Evidence May Seem Counterintuitive to You
Develop a topic based on what has already been said and written BUT Write something new and original
Rely on experts’ and authorities’ opinion BUT Improve upon and/or disagree with those same opinions
Give credit to previous researchers BUT Make your own significant contribution
Improve your English to fit into a discourse community by building upon what you hear and read BUT Use your own words and your own voice

These different perspectives may make you feel like you’re trying to perform a high-wire act. 

What does it mean to be original while entering the research conversations that others have had?  When is the writer’s voice appropriate, and when will it lead to reader’s confusion?

Some of the guidelines may even seem contradictory to each other.

What does it mean to be original while entering the research conversations that others have had? When is the writer’s voice appropriate, and when will it lead to reader’s confusion?

However, in the middle of these different directives, there is a middle ground where writers can successfully integrate evidence without it overtaking their own messages. The process of writing a research paper becomes easier if you imagine it is like building a house. While writers use the blueprint established by others who write on the same topic, they nevertheless have to construct their house on their own.  What kind of “upgrades” are you including–granite countertops or tile? Carpet or hardwood flooring? These choices make the house your own. Similarly, using source material and established conventions are important–you wouldn’t build a house without a roof and walls–but the paper still needs to be distinguishable from others.

As writers move into building their own “houses,” finding that middle ground for integrating evidence still might not be clear. Writers who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with incorporating outside material into their own work may make some of the following common mistakes:


The Oxford English Dictionary defines “plagiarism” as “the action or practice of taking someone else’s work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one’s own; literary theft.” ” Plagiarism in writing occurs when writers use information they found in an outside source and don’t say where the information came from. In the United States intellectual system, plagiarism carries a significant stigma, and tends to be viewed as an intentional act of deceit (or dishonesty). As a result, the consequences of plagiarism in the American classroom are severe. When writers enroll in classes, they are expected to submit assignments that represent their own, honest efforts.

However, writers may still commit plagiarism for a variety of reasons, such as being unfamiliar with the conventions of citation, feeling uncomfortable writing academic discourse, and coming from a culture with a different philosophy on using other people’s words or ideas. Nevertheless, the prevalence of plagiarism detection sites, such as Turn It In or Safe Assign, make it likely that writers will be caught if they plagiarize, so it is best to avoid plagiarism and its inevitable consequences. For further information on how to avoid plagiarism, you might review your university’s handbook and your professor’s syllabus. Remember, it is always better to ask questions about plagiarism, rather than suffer the consequences.

Overuse of Quotes

Again, because some writers feel uncomfortable with constructing their own arguments, they feel compelled to overuse the writing that has already been done on the topic. This use of evidence, though, is rarely considered effective by readers. Writers should aim for the overwhelming majority–usually about 80% or more–of their paper to be in their own words. Direct quotations should only be used when the information quoted is representative. This might include when you’re citing a counterargument, for example, and it’s important to include the words as they were written to develop ethos, or when someone has coined a phrase or term.

This information sometimes confounds writers. How, they wonder, are they supposed to write RESEARCH papers without RESEARCH? What these writers have to learn is that direct quotes are only one type of evidence that can be used to support a claim. Other options for using outside material are paraphrases, summaries, data, and statistics. Remember, though, that even though these types of evidence are in your own words, you still have to give credit to the author who originally collected the data/had the thought.

Misuse of Quotes – Block Quotes

In your previous experience, you may have run into very long blocks of text from other sources that a writer has used.

The following is an example of a block quote in MLA style. The information is from a page of The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s website:

Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. (par. 2)

There are specific conventions for integrating block quotes depending on the citation style. However, because of the nature of first-year writing courses, the use of block quotations for these classes is highly unusual. Because you are probably just learning how to use source material, realize that the use of block quotes may be a crutch. It’s better to paraphrase or shorten quotations to a length below that required for block quotes (four lines for MLA) whenever possible. This will ensure that the focus of your papers is your writing and ideas instead of the quotations you are using as support.

Misuse of Quotes – Dropped Quotes

Another issue that may arise with using quoted material is a dropped quote. A dropped quote happens when a writer places a quote in their paper without introducing it or giving any context for it. Unlike a block quote, a dropped quote is never considered effective.

An example dropped quote looks like this:

Writers may sometimes have an issue with integrating quoted material. “Because citation work is detail-oriented, requires great concentration, and is sometimes perceived as ‘drudge work,’ it often generates a high level of frustration” (Dickerson 477). This statement is true for all writers.

Because the quote in the middle has been dropped in as its own sentence, it could be interpreted differently by the reader than it was by the writer. Moreover, by pulling quotes without thinking about their context, a writer is more likely to misinterpret the meaning of the quote, therefore losing credibility.

The Quotation Hamburger
Hamburger Metaphor for “sandwiching” a quotation between a lead-in to the quote and your analytic commentary connecting the quote to the current point and/or thesis.

To avoid dropped quotes, always use the “quote sandwich”* model:

  • Begin by prefacing what is happening in the original work, information about the piece of writing, or information about or by the author.
  • Then, integrate the quote.
  • Finally, explain your interpretation of the quote and its significance, i.e., the reason you incorporated it.
  • The quote, then, is sandwiched by your own words.
Here’s what the edited example looks like after this process:

Writers may sometimes have an issue with integrating quoted material. Discussing her students who work at a law review journal, Stetson professor Darby Dickerson proposes that “because citation work is detail-oriented, requires great concentration, and is sometimes perceived as ‘drudge work,’ it often generates a high level of frustration” (Dickerson 477). Although she writes about her particular context, the frustration that she mentions translates to other writing situations as well.

Incorporating this material, the new example both better represents the purpose of the original article and borrows the credibility associated with the original’s author and position. While the first time the writer is introduced needs to be more thorough, each subsequent time that quotes from the same writer are introduced also needs to have an incorporation of the quote sandwich model.

Issues with Citation

Citation issues can result in accidental issues with evidence. Some writers think that only direct quotations need to be cited, whereas the writer’s own summaries or paraphrases of the same material don’t. However, this is not true. In order to incorporate evidence effectively, you must know that any information that you found in an outside source has to be cited appropriately in text, followed by a fuller bibliographic citation in the appropriate place (which depends on the citation style).

For MLA, the citation practice is to place the author’s name in parentheses for in-text citations, and the full entry on the Works Cited page. Here is an example of a summary of the chart at the beginning of this article:

  • Writers need to augment the existing conversation about a topic, but still need to provide adequate credit to existing sources (Stolley, Brizee, and Paiz, par. 3).
  • Notice that although this information has been changed significantly, it still requires citation because the ideas are the authors’, not mine.
  • Specific conventions are followed for citation depending on the style a writer uses. More information about citation can be found at Writing Commons or through the associated style manual.
  • By avoiding these three pitfalls and appropriately integrating evidence, writers can boost their credibility and improve the quality of their own claims.

Works Cited

Dickerson, Darby. “Citation Frustrations–and Solutions.” Stetson Law Review XXX (2000): 477-520. Web. 27 May 2014.

“plagiarism, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. 27 May 2014.

Stolley, Karl, Allen Brizee, and Joshua M. Paiz. “Overview and Contradictions.” Purdue OWL, 7 June 2013, 27 May 2014,  Web. (Can be located as archived pdf.)

The Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill. “Quotations.” U of North Carolina Chapel Hill, 2010, 27 May 2014,


5.2 Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Attributing Your Evidence Effectively

Decorative two heads conversing. "Conversation" by ProSymbols from the Noun Project
“Conversation” by ProSymbols

5.2.1. Quoting 

When you quote a source directly, you are reproducing another writer’s or speaker’s words exactly as they appear on the page or as they were spoken. You should quote a source verbatim when you are integrating a particularly authoritative, “high-ethos” author or speaker (i.e. expert testimony by a scholarly or well-known expert). The source’s expertise backs up, illustrates, or elaborates your point. This reinforces your internal ethos with your reader or listener because it demonstrates that you have carefully researched and selected your evidence—not just any evidence, but the strongest evidence.

A common misstep new college writers make when selecting evidence from sources is to skim their sources for sentences restating the same general discussion points they are making and integrating them into a paper or speech as if these sentences were actual evidence. As a general rule, do not provide a full quotation if a source is making the same general point you are making in nearly the same words, the source is not generally well known, the source is a general journalist or writer, or if it does not add something stylistic that adds to your point.  General statements reiterating your discussion points stated at the same level of generality do not provide evidence or effective support. This strategy leads to a paper or project with a series of general quotations which add little, or no evidence rather than specific, carefully selected, concrete researched evidence. This detracts from your audience’s sense of your internal ethos and leaves them thinking that you did not research deeply enough and/or are simply lacking in evidence to support your argument.

Examples: Full Quotation Integration with Source Attributions

  • Full sentence quotation set off by a colon (or you can use a comma):
    • Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment, Jack M. Balkin, explains, “You need lots of different institutions, and they can’t all be owned or controlled by a small number of people. They have to provide what Justice Hugo Black once called ‘diverse and antagonistic sources’ of information” (par. 36).
    • University of Bergen researchers found another interesting correlation as they explain:  “Based on a sample of over 12,000 participants, meta-analytic results revealed a small to moderate positive association between grandiose (but not necessarily vulnerable) narcissism and social media use” (Andreasson et al. 11).
  • Full quotation grammatically  integrated into the writer’s sentence may require presenting the quotation’s capital letters (upper case)  as lower case by placing the letter with (  ) around it.
    • As antimicrobial journalist Maryn McKenna explains in her Ted Talk on the history of penicillin  and antimicrobial resistance’s (AMR) severity, “(f)or 70 years, we played a game of leapfrog –our drugs and their resistance, and then another drug, and then resistance again” (04:48).
    • The Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest research center established in 1914, claims that “(o)nline tracking is no longer limited to the installation of traditional cookies” (“EPIC – Online Tracking”).

Quote directly if you are analyzing diction, tone, or a writer’s use of a specific word or phrase (as you would in a literary or rhetorical analysis). In this case, using quote “snippets” embedded in your point or paraphrase is more desirable than bogging down your text with many lengthy full quotations.

Quote directly if your source is credible and reflects ethos, and you could not express the evidence more clearly. Are the author or speaker’s words powerful, edgy, humorous, eloquent?  Do they provide a good example or illustration of a point you are making? Does the person explain scholarly research present findings so specific, clear, and well-written you could not do better?

Quote if you are making a claim or counterargument that relies on the reader’s understanding what another writer or speaker says about the topic. A good example is quoting a significant person who is associated with your counterargument because your readers would expect it and be further convinced that you understand both sides of argument.

Occasionally, if you are writing a longer paper, you may need to insert a longer verbatim quote or textual information. If you are writing using MLA format, integrate your directly quoted material once you have four or more lines of text.  If you are writing in APA, then you would set off directly quoted material if the material exceeds 40 words.  Inserting long quoted passages requires a different format than direct quotations. For example, unlike shorter quotations, long quotations should not contain quotation marks.  They should be appear in a block of text, set off from margin by one inch. In this format, the period goes at the end of the long passage, then you type in the in-text citation with no period following it.

Key Takeaways:  When should you integrate direct quotations?

Quote verbatim when:

  • the speaker or source is highly credible and supports your point.
  • you are analyzing a text and are commenting on specific passages.
  • the quoted material is provides specific support, and it is clear and well-expressed with stylistic flair.
  • provides precise detail or compelling description as might appear in personal testimony.

5.2.2 Paraphrasing 

The content in this section up to “Paraphrase with Purpose” is excerpted from  “Paraphrasing” in The Word on College Reading and WritingThe Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. Paraphrasing is another way of presenting ideas from source material in your own words, but without the condensing that happens in a summary. Instead, paraphrases stay approximately the same length as the original source material being paraphrased.

Why paraphrase?

To Demonstrate Understanding

Paraphrasing can demonstrate your understanding of a text, including its more complex details and connections between its main points, and can also help you double-check the depth of your understanding of a text.

To Provide Support

You might paraphrase a section from a source (unlike summary, it is unlikely that you will ever need to paraphrase an entire source) when an idea or point in that source is important to an assignment you are working on and you feel it needs to be included, but you can rephrase it in a way that fits your work without losing any key information.

Use paraphrase instead of direct quote unless you have compelling reasons to preserve the exact language of the original text. Often, the reason to preserve the original text in a direct quote is because that text uses specialized language that you cannot easily rephrase. As much of your work as possible should be in your own voice.

What Makes a Sentence or Phrase a Paraphrase?

A paraphrase:

  • is written or spoken in your own words.
  • is not condensed like a summary sentence.
  • avoids personal opinion.
  • is completely rephrased from the original and written in a style consistent with the rest of your writing or speech. (You want to maintain the integrity of your source material and protect your own ethos. That is, you are not just changing up a few words when you paraphrase. )

Example: How to Decide to Paraphrase Your Research

For example, let’s look at the last paragraph of the Scientific American article  “Are you a Magnet for Mosquitoes?.” The article explains why mosquitoes are more attracted to some humans than others. The sentence “Scientists that study human odors and genetics have previously suggested scent cues associated with genetics are likely controlled via the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes” could be a good candidate for a direct quote because I wouldn’t know how to paraphrase the part about MHC genes.

The sentence that follows, though, says this:

  • “Those genes appear to play a role in odor production and also in mammals’ mating choices—because humans and mice alike appear to prefer mates that smell less similar to themselves, which scientists have theorized may be a natural control against inbreeding.”

Since there isn’t particularly specialized or original language in here that must be preserved, this second sentence is a good candidate for paraphrase. One way (of many possibilities!) this might look is like this:

  • These same genes that might be attracting mosquitoes to some people rather than others could also be helping us choose partners to whom we are not genetically related to  help us avoid inbreeding.

Example: Paraphrased Cited Evidence

  • From student examples:
    • One of the biggest problems with the PPWT is that it doesn’t address the issue of grounded space weapons that are still capable of destroying space assets from the ground, such as anti-satellites (Listner and Rajagopalan).  (From an online source.)
    • Early research in the field of social media details how social media companies designed their platforms and users’ pages to be as personal, engaging, and addictive as possible (Heyman and Pierson 228)  (From a paginated journal article accessed in a database.)

Like summary, a paraphrase is someone else’s ideas rewritten in your own words. Unlike summary, though, paraphrase should not be condensed—the ideas as you write them should take up about the same amount of space as they do in the original text and be at a more specific level than the thesis or discussion point you are supporting. You also should not overelaborate, add your own thoughts, or add any connotative language that would skew the meaning of the original author’s or source’s intent. When you put a spin or slant on information that is not reflected in the original text, you are not integrating your supporting details and evidence ethically.

Paraphrase with Purpose

A paraphrase should not include your own opinions about the topic, what the author of the text is saying about it, or how that author is presenting their point.

  • In general, choose to paraphrase your researched support and evidence. Only include direct quotes and quote snippets if they are coming from expert testimony, personal testimony, or technical language. In most cases, if more than 10% -15% of your paper is directly quoted material, you have quoted verbatim too frequently. Paraphrasing is the way to maintain control of your ideas and your sentence structure while providing supporting detail and evidence  for them.

    Example Paraphrase

    According to 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, as a person’s level of education increases, his or her chances of becoming unemployed decreases (“Employment Projections”).
  • Paraphrase when you need to present general information and factual, statistical, or other information. Keep control of your paper or speech by only integrating direct quotations when it meets the criteria in the previous section on directly quoting your evidence.
  • Paraphrase when you want to introduce a source’s ideas and evidence, but their original words add no special ethos or “pizazz” to your position or writing flow or style.
  • Paraphrase when you want to present a view on a topic that differs from your position as a method of setting up a counterview. By paraphrasing another person’s argument or ideas, you maintain control of the purpose in doing so. This way you do not have to give undue space to the counterview or bring in a too persuasive voice to your argument. This will allow you to efficiently and effectively address and refute the counterview in your own words.


Key Takeaways: When should you paraphrase, rather than directly quote?

Paraphrase your evidence when:

  • you want to maintain control of your point and the way your evidence supports it.
  • you are summarizing information to present it more concisely.
  • the source material is primarily factual, contains statistics, and/or summarizes research study findings.
  • most of the quoted passage is unnecessary or extraneous to your point.
  • you are writing in APA format for science classes where your instructor will expect little to no direct quoting of source material.

5.2.3 Combining a Paraphrase with Partial Quote 

Deciding whether to quote verbatim or to paraphrase is not an either/or choice. Sometimes using both strategies supports your rhetorical effectiveness.  Combining these two approaches to integrating evidence into your paper or project is a more sophisticated, stylistic way to handle quoting and paraphrasing that allows you to keep control of your argument and jazz up your writing style quickly.  Combine a paraphrase and a quote snippet to create a sentence that serves your rhetorical purpose as opposed to integrating a long quotation. Select only the short, most specific and “quote-able” phrase from the source’s verbatim quote into your own sentence. Using short quotation snippets instead of dumping full quotations in your paper or speech will help you keep control of the point and the reader or listener’s attention. Paraphrasing succinctly and purposefully will ensure that your audience does not get lost in the excessive and unnecessary verbiage.

Insider Strategy: Paraphrase AND Quote in one sentence.

These student examples illustrate how you can use partial quotations and source attributions in one, clearly written and cited sentence.

  • Some employers, such as the City of Bozeman, Montana, have even gone as far as requiring “all applicants to provide user names and passwords for any and all, current personal or business websites” (Brown 220-221).
  • Kathryn Montgomery, a professor at the School of Communication at American University, acknowledges that while COPPA has protected children from most of the invasive data marketing tactics, the “law’s basic framework still has major limitations” (S119).

5.2.4 Attributing Your Sources

When you bring in source material to your compositions to support your main ideas, thesis statements, and discussion points, you want your reader to recognize the quality and ethos of your research. When you directly quote a person or a source and do not provide some kind of lead-in or introduction to that source, your credibility as a trustworthy researcher may be questioned by your audience.

Signal Verbs

At its most basic level, a signal verb is a verb that indicates that someone is speaking and how they are speaking.  In written dialog, you will often see verbs said, claimed, exclaimed, whispered, etc. to indicate a speaker or new speaker is speaking and how they are speaking.  In academic writing, writers use signal verbs to indicate  or “signal” that an outside voice or source is coming into the essay to provide support for the claim. thesis, and/or discussion points.

Insider Diction Tip:  When selecting a signal verb to introduce a quoted source , avoid the informal and inaccurate verb phrase “talks about.” 

One frequent signal verb phrase to avoid in written text is talks about. First, the verb phrase “talks about” is informal in tone and grammar, and, second, your source was not literally talking.  In your academic writing, you want to use signal verbs that are  not highly connotative such as writes, stated, claims, and explains.  For example, most of your supporting quoted material will be sourced from written texts, you would  not want to use the signal verb exclaimed because without actually seeing or hearing your source speak the words, you would not know whether they exclaimed or not.

The point of using signal verbs when you lead into quoted or paraphrased information is to provide a bridge from the source or speaker’s written or spoken content to your paper or speech. You want to create a smooth connection, not a distortion of the speaker’s intent or tone or to add meaning that was not in the original source.  Also, when you “drop a quote” and do not provide the source of the quote or establish the source’s ethos, your reader with immediately wonder who or what organization stated the quote and whether or not the person or organization is a credible one, or just something quick written in a blog by a non-expert or a person intentionally trying to pass off misinformation.

Student Examples: Cited evidence with signal verbs and signal phrases.

  • Signal Verb: Researchers at The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in 2018 that  “nearly 80 percent of employers reported that they use social media” to investigate possible hires (NACE Staff).
  • Signal Phrase: According to the Electric Privacy Information Center (EPIC),  “Online tracking is no longer limited to the installation of traditional cookies”

Appositive Phrases

An appositive phrase “re-names” the noun directly before or after it. To learn more about appositive phrases, check out ChompChomp’s clear explanation and examples and Grammarly’s Blog article, “Appositives—What They Are and How to Use Them.” 

Student Examples: Using appositive phrases to integrate quotations or paraphrased content as evidence.

  •  Jessica L. McCain, a mental health advocate, states, “We now have relatively robust evidence that grandiose narcissism is associated with social networking behavior across many— but not all— conditions” (McCain, Campbell 15).
  • Joshua Leatherman, writer for Social Media Today, suggests how social media should be viewed: “social media is relational, not transactional.”

Combining Approaches with a Summary

Another sophisticated approach to integrating sources smoothly is to combine approaches. For example, you might attribute the source using an appositive phrase, provide a brief summary of the author’s point as it relates to the topic or issue at hand, and integrate a quote snippet.  The example below illustrates how an appositive phrase renaming Peter Cappellli, a professor from the well-known University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, establishes the ethos of the source or opinion can be combined with a summary of the longer quote included in the original article and reinforced with a specific and compelling quotation. Cappelli is a scholarly expert who is quoted in a source he did not write, so you see a different author cited. When a person is quoted by another person or source, then you add “qtd. in” to the citation to indicate that Cappelli is not the author.

Example: Mixing approaches to integrating evidence

  • Peter Cappelli, a professor of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, suggests students should carefully consider their chosen programs of study and research the typical return on investment in that program over their working lives  and cites recent research indicating “( … ) that the payoff from many college programs — as much as one in four — is actually negative” (qtd. in Selingo). 
  • For example, Egypt’s representative stated that outer space should not be turned into another warzone because of how “fragile the environment of outer space truly is” (“Raising Alarm Over Possible”).


Key Takeaways: Attributing Evidence

Attribute evidence to

  • indicate the evidence came from a trusted and credible source.
  • to give credit to experts, organizations, and individuals who provide the directly quoted material.
  • to build your own credibility and illustrate your ethical use of information.

Two Additional Resources to Help You Integrate Quoted and Cited Material into Your Work

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center provides an excellent online handout on Quotations, including a section on signal verbs. Scroll down  down to “How do I set up and follow up a quotation?,” to #2, and you will see an extensive list of signal verbs. Also, we recommend  bookmarking UNC Writing Center’s “Tips and Tools” page for the excellent writing handouts  to consult for any writing issue you are experiencing as a college student.
  • “MLA Formatting Quotations” on OWL at Purdue explains how to format short and long quotations and how to use ellipsis.

5.3 Documentation and Citing

5.3.1 Why Documentation Matters


by Katelyn Burton in Critical Reading, Critical Writing, n.d. Licensed CC-BY-SA 4.0

Whenever you use sources, it is important that you document them completely and accurately. You make your work more useful to your reader through complete and careful documentation, so you should think of documentation as essential rather than as an  “add on” tacked on at the last minute.

When asked why you should cite your sources, many students reply, “So you don’t get accused of plagiarizing.” It is true that you must provide citations crediting others’ work so as to avoid plagiarism, but scholars use citations for many other (and more important!) reasons:

  • To make your arguments more credible.  You want to use the very best evidence to support your claims.  For example, if you are citing a statistic about a disease, you should be sure to use a credible, reputable source like the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When you tell your reader the statistic comes from such a source, she will know to trust it– and thereby trust your argument more.
  • To show you’ve done your homework.  You want to make it clear to your audience that you’ve researched your subject, tried hard to inform yourself, and know what you are talking about.  As you dive deeper into your research, you will probably find certain authors are experts on the topic and are mentioned in most of the articles and books.  You should read these experts’ works and incorporate them into your paper.
  • To build a foundation for your paper.  Great breakthroughs in scholarship are accomplished by building on the earlier, groundbreaking work of others. For example, Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation would not have been possible without Johannes Kepler’s law of planetary motion.  What articles, books, and texts, inspired you to create your argument?  You are not the first person to ever consider this issue. You want to provide references to the works which led to your thesis.
  • To allow your readers to find the sources for themselves.  Someone interested in your topic may be inspired to read some of the sources you used to write your paper.  The citation within the paper tells readers what part of your argument is addressed by a particular source, and the full citation in the bibliography provides the information needed to track down that original research.

5.3.2 Two Common Documentation Formats for Academic Undergraduates

The two most common formats you will encounter as a college undergraduate student are Modern Languages Association (known as “MLA”) and American Psychological Association (known as “APA”). Generally, your courses in the humanities will require MLA documentation format, and your classes in the sciences will require APA format.

 Format How to List Sources Cited In-text Citation Format Guidelines
APA References page

A page that begins after the last page of the paper or project titled “References. The References page lists sources alphabetically, is formatted with a reversed or “hanging” margin, and follows APA bibliographic format.

The APA Style web site provides many links and examples to help with citing in  APA Style OWL at Purdue provides guidelines for the References page and  sample APA papers.

Authors’ last name and publication year:

(Drake, 2021)

(Garcia & Chen, 2019)

if more than two authors are cited, cite by the first author listed, followed by “et al.” and the date.

(Lebowski et al., 1998)

If a text is directly quoted, then you would include the page number; if you paraphrased the information, then you do not cite the page number. This one of the major differences between APA and MLA. The other is that you do not include the publication date in MLA in-text citations.

(Drake, 2021, p. 98)

(Garcia & Chen, 2019, p. 158)

(Robinson et al., 2020, p. 88)

The APA Style Guide on In-text Citations provides more detail. OWL at Purdue also provides support for in-text citing.

MLA Works Cited page

A page that begins after the last page of the paper or presentation titled: “Works Cited.”  The Works Cited page lists sources alphabetically, uses a reversed margin, and follows MLA bibliographic format.

The MLA Style Center provides links and examples to help with citing in MLA style and integrating evidence. OWL at Purdue provides Works Cited guidelines and a sample Works Cited page.

Cite by authors’ last name and page number whether the source is directly quoted or not. The page number would indicate that the source is a print source, a pdf, ebook,  or other source that is paginated. Do not use print out numbers or other location numbers. If there are no actual page number, cite by the authors’ last name only.

(Drake 98)

(Garcia and Chen 158)

(Robinson et al. 88)

If there is no pagination, typically because the source is a web article or page, cite the author.  Resist the urge to make up page numbers.


if more than two authors are cited, cite by the first author listed, followed by “et al.” and the date.

(Lebowski et al.)

If there are no authors or page numbers, you do not include them. For example, you would cite by the first few words of the title like this: (“Maricopa Millions Makes Books”). Use your Works Cited format to help you figure this out.

If a text is directly quoted, then you would include the page number; if you paraphrased the information, then you do not cite the page number. This one of the major differences between APA and MLA. The other is that you do not include the publication date in MLA in-text citations.

(Drake 98)

(Garcia & Chen 158)

(Robinson et al. 88)

If a person is quoted within another author’s text, then use the person’s name in the signal phrase in the text and in the in-text citation cite by “quoted as” the author’s name like this:  (qtd. in Drake 98).



5.4 Chapter Conclusion and Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Selecting evidence that best supports your intended rhetorical appeal takes time and careful consideration.
  • Deciding on the appeal you wish to make as you select and  integrate evidence can help you address your reader’s or audience’s need for variety in support and to trust your internal ethos as a responsible, ethical rhetor.
  • Understanding how to attribute and cite sources in a variety of ways gives you options to create variety in sentence structure and diction, thus improving your writing or speaking style while ensuring your audience can trust your sources of evidence.
  • Citing your source material in the expected documentation format for a course or disciplinary field demonstrates your understanding of the importance of consistency and your ethos as an academic writer.


Works Cited 

Burnell, Carol, Wood, Jaime, Babin, Monique, Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear. “Paraphrasing.”  The Word on College Reading and Writing, n.d., This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Burton, Katelyn. “How and Why to Cite.” Critical Reading, Critical Writing, n.d. Licensed CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Watkins, Alexandra.  “Integrating Evidence Appropriately.” Writing Commons, n.d.,  This article uses a Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.




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