English 101 | Unit 7

Writing with Scholarly Sources

Unit 7 | Using Scholarly Sources

Unit 7 | Overview: Writing with Scholarly Sources

As a course, English 101 is designed to help you make your writing more academic — basically, my job is to help you better at writing papers that your future professors will appreciate.

Often, this is challenging because college professors have certain expectations of your writing, but we all have certain habits as writers sometimes differ from what our professors want.  Whether you mainly write on Facebook or through text messages, or if you write letters to your grandparents or film TikTok videos, you've developed certain ways of communicating that you'll need to adapt to college writing.  That's what this unit is about: transferring the skills you already have to prepare you for the academic situations you'll see.

In the units so far, you’ve used sources that should be relatively comfortable — the primary and secondary sources from the everyday internet.  In this unit, you’ll be using academic articles to further support this work, building the skills you need for future courses.  We’ll focus on integrating your analysis with your outside research.  This will be crucial for Project 2, when you write the much longer 2,500-word research paper.


Overview of Concepts

Here are the concepts you’ll be working with:


Unit Objectives

In this unit, you’ll do the following:


Unit 7 | Lecture: Signposting

Signposting: The Highway Markers in Writing

One of the most important skills in research writing is the ability to take your reader on an organized tour of your work.  When a reader picks up your paper — whether your reader is a classmate, your professor, or someone you’ve met — they should be able to understand which direction you are going in your work.

To help with this, we use something called signposting.  Kind of like street signs, these are words and phrases that help connect ideas across paragraphs and across an entire essay.  These are often very simple phrases, words like “Because of this . . . ” or “Now that we’ve established this, let’s address . . . ”

When I think of signposting, I find it helps to think of highway signs.  For example, when you’re driving up to Peoria, you’ll see a whole bunch of trees and you’ll drive up and down some hills, but that doesn’t tell you much about where you’re going.  It doesn’t explain how or why this part of Illinois is interesting.  But as you’re driving northwest up I-74, you’ll see a sign for Eureka, Illinois, where Ronald Reagan attended college.  As you get closer to Peoria, you’ll see signs that direct you to I-474 if you want to go around the city, and other signs that point you straight up I-74 if you want to go through the middle of town.  You’ll see signs for the Peoria Riverfront Museum, for the Caterpillar Museum, for gas stations — all kinds of places you can go.

In your writing, signposting serves a similar purpose.  Except you aren’t just driving — you’re giving a tour, and the signposting words help connect ideas to show how they fit together.  In this example, I’ve put the signposting phrases in bold:

Today, we’ll look at points of interest here in central Illinois.  Despite the common assumption that Illinois is “boring,” there’s actually a lot to do here.  Starting from Bloomington-Normal, we’ll take I-74 North and take a detour up to Eureka.  There we’ll see the college attended by Ronald Reagan.  Then we’ll head further west to Peoria, where we’ll visit two museums that children are bound to love.  In fact, my son loved the Caterpillar Museum so much that we had to carry him out — and that was even after we bought him a toy from the gift shop.  However, we will need to stop for gas at some point.  (And I’m using however here because I don’t want you to think I included the BP station as a part of our tour.)

To help better illustrate what signposting is, here’s a video that explains academic signposting:

Video: Signposting by Englishtec


Signposting Examples from Everyday Speech

Now that you’ve seen a few examples, let’s consider how you already use signposting in everyday conversations.  When we talk with friends and family, we automatically add in words that will help show everyone how we’re thinking.  Here are some examples — I’ve put the signpost phrases in bold.

No, compare those phrases adobe with the same information, but with the signposts removed:

The lack of signposts sometimes has little effect on meeting — in both examples, the brother is described as a dweeb.  In other cases, the missing signposts make the words seem disconnected.  Like in the second example, am I saying it was the extra sshit at work that kept me from the birthday party?  Presumably.  But it feels rude, doesn’t it?

Example 3, though, is a really important one to note.  The phrase but then actually affects the meaning of what’s been said.  Consider these different example with different signposting:


Signposting in Academic Writing

In academic writing, signposting is even more important.  When we write longer papers, it’s harder for our readers to follow every word — we need to guide them from point to point so they can follow our arguments.  Sometimes, however, it’s hard to do this because it’s much, much harder to plan the long papers.  Like when I write, I often will write a paragraph about a quote I found, and then I’ll read another source and jot down some notes.  And then take another plunge into Google.  Eventually — a week or two later — I’ll go back to that first paragraph.  And I’ll add it to my rough draft because it has an important quote.  But then I need to add enough signposting to indicate just how that paragraph connects with everything else I’m saying.

This reading from Massey University provides a good overview for how signposting works within and across paragraphs in academic writing.


Signposting and Thesis Statements

You’ve likely heard of thesis statements.  A thesis statement is essentially a single sentence that summarizes the message for an entire paragraph or section of your paper.  For many papers, you may also have a single thesis statement in your introduction that summarizes the main point you want to make.  For example, I could say “Central Illinois offers many interesting places to visit on a tour by car.”  This thesis would fit everything I said in the opening paragraphs of this lecture, and then I could use signposting to connect all my details back to this statement.

Thesis statements are challenging to write — they require you to summarize complex points, and it took me a couple years to figure out how to write them well enough for my English professors in college.  Fortunately, English 101 does not have the same requirements as 200- or 300-level English courses — for English 101, you only need your thesis statements to give your readers an indication of what the rest of your paper will say.  If signposting phrases are the mile markers and exit signs on a highway, then a thesis statement is the title of the map you use for navigation.  Or it’s the thing that Siri tells you when you ask your phone “Hey Siri!  Why am I here?”

Here’s another video that illustrates how the flow of a paper works.  In this video from IELTSTEVE, he also talks about thesis statements and how they help tie everything together, including the importance of thesis statements:

Video: Linking Phrases and Signposting by IELTSTEVE



Thus, signposting helps direct your readers so they can see how all your thoughts are connected together.  This is particularly important for our next section, where we talk about connecting outside quotes to your writing.

Unit 7 Lecture: Quoting from Sources vs. Copying from Sources

Scholarly Sources are Important . . . right?

In Unit 6, we talked about what a scholarly source is and how to find one.  In this unit, our focus is on how to use them.  But first, I want to review aspects of citation itself — how to do it properly and why it matters.


Some Review: How to Write a Citation

First, some quick review.  If you are comfortable with doing citations, then this should just remind you of the key details.  If citations still seem a bit confusing, then the video will hopefully show what you most need to know.  Then, you can use the readings to get more details about how to write a proper citation in MLA format.

Video: “What Are In-Text Citations” by Imagine Easy Solutions

Additionally, here’s an article from UC Merced Library that gives more details about specific aspects of citation such as when to capitalize.

Also, be sure to use Purdue OWL when checking how to properly cite a variety of sources:


Exhortation: Why You Must Use Citations

When doing academic writing, you must cite your sources properly.  This is so important that I’m using one of those long, old words that will help you remember this.  Exhortation is the act of urging with great emphasis, being emphatic.  As I exhort today: you must use citations in your research writing for English 101 and all other college courses.

Why do I emphasize this?  Because every so often, I will have a very promising student who has great ideas, and they will fail to use citations.  And sometimes, when I investigate further, I find that they failed to use citations because they were committing plagiarism.  The absolute number one best way to avoid plagiarism is to cite your sources.  Often, the only real difference between plagiarism and research is citation.


Plagiarism Example: Senator John Walsh

Here’s an example of this: former Senator John Walsh of Montana had his master’s degree from revoked due to plagiarism.  According to reporting by the New York Times, Walsh copied “at least a quarter” of his master’s thesis for the U.S. Army War College from outside sources without attribution.  As the Times explains:

Most strikingly, each of the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” is taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic. (Coscarelli)

So, how do you avoid plagiarism?  Here’s a quick video overview:

How to Avoid Plagiarism: In 5 Easy Steps from Steelman Library


Citations in Your Own Papers

Although we have been going over this in prior units, we’re going to give this some extra emphasis here — hence, my exhortation.  This is one of those writing skills that can make or break a paper, especially in a college classroom. Here are examples of the different types of citations I often see in student papers:



Now that we’ve covered this, we’ll go into how the outside quotes get blended into your writing.


Unit 7 | Discussion: Rhetorical Analysis, Writing Style, and "I Have a Dream"

The Discussion Assignment

Purpose: Here, I want you to practice the appropriate use of quoting, citation, and analysis in an academic writing.

Task: In this discussion, you’ll do the following:

Success Criteria: To do well here, first think about what Hyun’s saying.  How can you summarize the point of his essay in one sentence?  From that sentence, choose three points from Hyun’s paper as evidence that your evaluation is correct.  Tell us what you feel are the strengths of Hyun’s writing and also any areas that you feel could be improved.


Quick Review Reminders

Direct Quotes are copied word-for-word from your sources, and then must be enclosed within quotation marks.

Indirect Quotes provide information from an outside source, but you’ve written that information in your own words.  No quotation marks are used, but you must still cite the source of your information.


How Academic Writing Works

As students, you’ll all be expected to use a variety of research methods and citation styles in your academic courses.  One of the challenges in teaching these skills is that the readings tend to be really, really dense.  So for this discussion, we’re using a “lighter” reading, a paper written by a freshman at Penn State.  Although his paper doesn’t use as much research as I’m asking you to do, he does write at a level that works well for English 101, and his use of the rhetorical terms is especially helpful for us.

When you write a research paper, you’re essentially joining a conversation about your topic.  It’s a bit like social media, where you share status updates or retweet news articles or film a TikTok response to something you’ve read — the main difference is that academic writing has more formal system for how we “retweet” other writers.  Unlike Facebook, an academic paper doesn’t have hyperlinks for everything — you have to restate everything that’s been said before.  Rather than let your readers look over the past conversation, you have to summarize that conversation for your readers.  This is important because academic topics tend to be very complex — there’s always more information than anyone could possibly fit into a single paper.  Any topic you choose, there will always be more information you could fit into your writing.  So research isn’t just about finding information — it’s about choosing what’s relevant, summarizing the context, and then sharing your personal perspectives.


What I Want to See in the Initial Posts

First, Read Rhetorical Analysis on “I Have A Dream” (Draft) by Michael Hyun, Jr.

For Hyun’s writing, here’s the type of information I’m looking for in your discussion posts.  I’ve put the signposting and citation phrases in bold.  Note that my citations are usually just “Hyun said” because I’m writing about an online sources.  What matters is that my thoughts are differentiated from Hyun’s writing.  When you write your posts, be sure that you’re also using citations and signposting to help differentiate your thoughts from Hyun’s:

In his paper on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” Michael Hyun applies rhetorical concepts to one of the most important speeches in American history.  As Hyun indicates, Dr. King’s speech is a strong critique of the American dream: “[Dr. King] is stating that America has given promises to the African — Americans however, those promises are empty.”  From this, Hyun helps us see the relationship between language and public perception.  When he talks about the language Dr. King uses in his speech, Hyun shows how imagery reflects history, such as when he explains that  Dr. King “uses anaphora stating that he refuses to believe ‘there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.’”  However, I do feel that Hyun’s work could benefit from more outside research to support his points.  When he writes “This speech had the power to move millions of people and to get them to fight for their freedom,” I wanted some evidence to indicate how many millions were inspired this way.  Still, he does describe this work as a rough draft, and I feel it’s a very strong rough draft with excellent opportunities to add additional sources.


Three Response Posts (50 words each)

I don’t have any specific requirements for this week’s response posts.  The main thing is I want you to each reach each other’s thoughts — see what your classmates think of Hyun’s writing style, and add whatever comments come to mind.  You can talk about Dr. King, about “I Have a Dream,” about whether your writing works the same way, whether you have concerns on how to write — anything at all.

Unit 7 | Assignment: Article 4, Integrating Scholarly Perspectives

Purpose: For this article, you will be bringing together research skills in finding sources and evaluating perspectives.

Task: In Article 4, you’re writing a 400-word article about your topic.  You should use at least two scholarly sources to give outside perspectives at least two of your sources from prior articles.  Quotes from all four (or more) sources should be integrated to explain your topic.

Criteria for Success: A successful article will provide:

Here's an example with full MLA Formatting: Example of Perspectives on Climate ChangeAlthough you don't need full formatting at this stage, you will need it for Project 2.  Also, your in-text citations and your works cited do need proper MLA citation format.

The two perspectives you use do not need to disagree with each other, but they should not be saying exactly the same things.  I don’t want repetition — I want multiple viewpoints.  The opinions can be complementary, they can disagree, they can be saying unrelated things — your job as a writer is to help us see how these perspectives fit together in understanding your topic.

You may also use additional primary and secondary sources if you like, but the 1 primary and 3 scholarly sources are required.

You are not required to use your past sources, but you are certainly welcome to use sources from your past articles.  However, please don’t recycle specific quotes or your own writing — try to say something new.

Evaluating Knowledge and Perspectives

Soon, we’ll begin Project 2, the major research paper for English 101.  In Project 1, we’ve been using a series of shorter articles to look at the different types of sources and to practice good citations.  Here in Article 4, the goal is to extend these basics into the more complex aspects of academic writing: reading the hard sources, telling your readers what those sources say, and then using your own judgment to help us better understand what those outside sources say about your topic.

Essentially, I’m looking for how well you evaluate knowledge.  What do we know about your topic, and how do we know it?  I want you to specifically talk about whether your primary and secondary sources may be biased or inaccurate.  Explain just how relevant or related your scholarly sources may be.  And you do not need to give complete answers — in fact, you may find some questions have no known answers.  In these cases, tell your readers what we don’t know, and how come that knowledge remains unknown.


Here’s and example of the kind of writing I’m looking for.  To better show the MLA Formatting

According to Mohan Munasinghe, climate change will cause major disruptions to the global economy, and these impacts will be the most damaging for those already living in poverty.  “Climate change is one major global outcome, but equally serious issue is the degradation of local water, air, and land resources. Ironically, the worst impacts of climate change will fall on the poor, who are not responsible for the problem” (8).  McKibbin and Wilcoxin seem to echo this sentiment when it comes to national economies.  As they write, “The effects tend to be small—or even positive—in developed countries. Developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change and are likely to suffer more adverse impacts” (113).  To understand how some countries might benefit from climate change, you can look north, to Canada, where the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean may open new shipping lanes for global commerce — the melting ice has led to a major dispute between the United States and Canada regarding the status of these waters (Burke).  But for nations without the infrastructure to adapt, the changing nature of the oceans may cause devastating damage, as seen in the rapid erosion of Micronesia.  Photos from Majuro Island show of cemeteries being washed out to sea by the rising tides (Harris).

Works Cited

Burke, Danita Catherine.  “The Northwest Passage Dispute.”  Oxford Research Group, 26 Feb. 2018, https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/blog/the-northwest-passage-dispute.  Accessed 22 June 2020.

Harris, Mark Edward.  Photograph of tombstones and markers slipping into the sea on the west end of Majuro island.  “Climate Change: ‘The Single Greatest Threat to Our Existence.’”  Honolulu Civil Beat, https://www.civilbeat.org/2015/10/climate-change-the-single-greatest-threat-to-our-existence/.  Accessed 22 June 2020.

McKibbin, Warwick J., and Peter J. Wilcoxen.  “The Role of Economics in Climate Change Policy.”  Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 16, no. 2, pp., 2002, 107-129, https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/0895330027283.  Accessed 22 June 2020.

Munasinghe, Mohan.  “Addressing sustainable development and climate change together using sustainomics.” Wires Climate Change, vol. 2, no. 1, 2011, pp. 7-18, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/wcc.86.  Accessed 22 June 2020.