71 Digital Composition and Multimodal Texts


This chapter was created by Jennifer Schaller and Tammy Wolf in their free textbook, Introduction to College Writing at CMN. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.


Almost every aspect of our communication is in some way, digitally based. To be a writer in the 21st century means that you are a digital composer. Digital composition involves writing based in digital creation that incorporates multimodal elements. If you type your research essay on a computer using Google Docs, then you are a digital composer. But digital composition goes beyond the standard essay typed into a word processor—it includes using other digital tools and elements to explore the topic and persuade your audience. To begin with, most digital texts are considered multimodal. In this chapter, we will discuss multimodality within the digital composition realm, but you should know that multimodal texts can be created without a digital device.


What Are Multimodal Texts?


Multimodal texts utilize sensory elements to further their rhetorical purpose and persuade an audience. These elements can include audio, visual, and/or physical. You can create a multimodal text using a digital technology tool, but you can also create a multimodal text by hand as well. The following are some examples of digital multimodal composition:

Infographic YouTube video Podcast Websiteimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage


Text message Word Documentimageimageimageimage


And since we’re looking at types of multimodal texts, let’s also look at some examples of multimodal composition that take place outside of the digital realm:

Collage Poster Speech Sculpture Paintingimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Architectural modelsimageimage



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


The following video, developed for the Arizona State University writing program, discusses how multimodal composition applies to first-year composition courses.

imageA YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here: https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/?p=1666


Why Use Digital Composition and Multimodal Texts?


Since our world communicates through mostly digital means, learning how to compose in a digital environment is key to your success not only in school, but also in your current and future jobs, and as a member of society.


In addition to multimodal assignments preparing you for your future writing endeavors, multimodal assignments also allow students to use what they know. Melanie Gagich, in her essay “An Introduction to and Strategies for Multimodal Composing,” writes that students already have knowledge of multimodal composition. She writes in her essay, “Understanding that you are already composing multimodally in many digital spaces will help you transfer that knowledge and experience into your academic assignments. This understanding might also help alleviate any fears or anxiety you may have when confronted with an assignment that disrupts what you think writing should look like” (Gagich 74). If



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


creating a multimodal text seems new to you, chances are you already have an applied understanding of multimodality, just by virtue of living and socializing in the 21st century.


Gagich continues and writes:


Perhaps the most significant reason for learning how to compose multimodally is that it provides “real- life” skills that can help prepare students for careers. The United States continues to experience a “digital age” where employees are expected to have an understanding of how to use technology and communicate in various ways for various purposes. Takayoshi and Selfe argue that “[w]hatever profession students hope to enter in the 21st century . . . they can expect to read and be asked to help compose multimodal texts of various kinds . . .” (3). Additionally, professionals are also using the benefits of digital tools and multimodal composing to promote themselves, their interests, research, or all three. Learning how to create a multimodal text will prepare you for the workforce by allowing you to embrace the skills you already have and learn how to target specific audiences for specific reasons using various modes of communication. (74)


Gagich writes that there are five steps to creating a multimodal text:


Determine your rhetorical situation.

Review and analyze other multimodal texts.

Gather content, media, and tools.

Cite and attribute information appropriately.

Begin drafting your text.


Making Visual Choices


According to Foundations of Communication, it may be a cliché to say, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but visual images have power. Good communication is a multisensory experience. Pre-literate children gravitate toward books with engaging pictures. As adults we graduate to denser books without pictures, yet we still visualize ideas to help us understand the text. That’s because a strong image in a poem or a story appeals both to the readers’ senses and emotions or intellect. Advertisers favor visual media—television, magazines, and billboards—because they are an effective way to hook an audience. Websites rely on color, graphics, icons, and a clear system of visual organization to engage Internet surfers. Visuals bring ideas to life for many readers and audiences in multiple ways:

As a link between raw data and usable knowledgeimageimage

To provide concrete, vivid, and quick representations imageimageimageimage

To save space

To speak in a universal language imageimageimageimage

To be persuasive


Types of Visuals



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing

imageA YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here: https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/?p=1666


There are many types of visuals you can incorporate in digital and physical multimodal composition to illustrate and emphasize your point. The rest of this section describes how visuals can support and enhance your ideas in a multimodal text.




Symbols include a range of items that can be either pictographic or abstract. In the image above, mathematical symbols and the image of a heart are used to convey the concept of love.



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay


It’s a visual way to represent love, which is an abstract noun that means different things to a wide range of people.







Image by stokpic from Pixabay


Maps sometimes include map charts, or statistical maps. In the image to the right, two human palms are displayed, and a map of the world is painted onto them. In the background there is a blue sky with white, fluffy clouds. A map can represent more than geography. This map is a representation of our world, but the image could also speak to lines drawn by humans. One ironic feature of this picture is that the world’s territorial lines are drawn over the lines of two human hands. The image could also speak to matter, how nearly three-fourths of the world is made of water, and how up to 60% of the human body is made of water. Could the image speak to the interconnectedness of all beings on earth? That’s up to the reader to interpret. Images can also persuade.


Graphs and Tables


Graphs can take a variety of forms, the most common being line graphs, bar graphs, and pie charts.


Image by Goumbik from Pixabay


In the graphs above, the creator is using visual representations of numbers to represent growth and decline in their topic. Graphs are a helpful way to visually illustrate change.




This visual illustrates a process. One example of a diagram would be a flow chart. The diagram below illustrates a workflow process.



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


Image by Startup Stock Photos from Pixabay







Photographs (still or moving) depict concrete objects, tell a story, provide a scenario, and persuade an audience.



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


In the image to the right, a picture of a baby is displayed clearly on a smart phone in the foreground. In the background of the picture, an elderly woman smiles, and her face is blurry. There is contrast between the baby whose image is clear, and the woman whose image is blurred. The contrast piques the viewer’s interest. Contrasting images, colors, and subjects can draw a reader into an image force them to ask questions. For more information on using contrast in images, read over Chapter 18.2.






Image by Sara Torda from Pixabay


Illustrations can be realistic or abstract. The illustration pictured to here displays a cartoonish picture of a Polaroid camera, the iconic camera from the eighties. For some readers, the illustration may invoke nostalgia, while for younger viewers, the camera may have a slightly historical feel. The reception of the illustration varies depending on the audience; regardless, the illustration can help persuade a wide range of audience members.


Why Use Visuals?


There are a number of reasons you might consider including visuals in documents, presentations, and other communications. Four reasons are detailed below:


Decorative: Visuals that do not represent objects or actions within the text but are added, instead, for aesthetic effect are considered decorative. Decorative visuals are often added to gain attention or increase the audience’s interest. Visuals can be used this way but can detract from the message you are trying to communicate and, thus, should be used with caution.


Representational: These visuals physically represent or physically resemble objects or actions in the text and are relevant to the content of the text. For example, rather than giving a detailed textual



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


description of a new playground, you might include an image or render of the new playground and use the text to highlight specific features or information.


Analogical: Analogical visuals are used to compare and contrast two things, and explain their likeness or correspondence. For example, a marketing consultant might try to clarify the difference between targeted marketing and mass marketing by including images of a single fisherman with a single fishing rod and line next to an image of a bigger boat with a fishing net. By using the fishing analogy, the marketing consultant is attempting to connect possible prior understanding of the audience, a visual, and the concepts of targeted marketing versus mass marketing.


Organizational: The purpose of organizational images is to provide structure to information, visually define relationships, and illustrate connections. A chart of the hierarchical structure of a company is one example of an organizational image.


Communication PurposeConsider These Visuals


Depict an objectPhoto, 3D Model, Illustration


Persuade an audiencePhoto, Illustration, Chart (showing statistics)


Demonstrate a procedurePhoto, Illustration, Flowchart


Explain a processDiagram, Symbol, Illustration


Make comparisonsBar Graph, Line Graph, Table


Demonstrate trends or dataLine Graph


Organize informationMap, Table


Table 7.1Communication Purposes and Visuals


There are many considerations to keep in mind when choosing visuals. When possible, use a variety of types of visuals, but remember that any visuals you use should enhance the content of the text. For example, only add photos if viewing the photos will clarify the text. Near each visual, explain its purpose concisely. Do not expect your readers to figure out the values of the visuals on their own.


For repositories of openly licensed photos, you can search Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay. Website creation software like WordPress, social media applications like Twitter, and other types of software like graphics makers such as Canva and video creators like Powtoon have their own repositories of free images you can use as well.







A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing


Making Audio Choices


Including audio in your multimodal project can enhance your text and move a reader both logically and emotionally. Audio enhances your message. You may want to consider the following audio choices:

Music Spoken word Sound effectsimageimageimageimageimageimage


Music: From pop to classical to Bollywood, music can be any use of vocalizations or instrumentals. Music can help convey theme in a video or podcast, and music can help heighten tension and advance plot in a story.


Spoken word: Spoken word audio choices include recording a voice over of the written text or a narration.


Sound effects: Sound effects include any kind of sound, from nature or manmade. A couple of examples include crickets, glass shattering, or applause. Sound effects can help characterize people and convey action. Sound effects can also affect the tone of a text, creating humor or suspense.


National Public Radio develops a wide range of podcasts that integrate music, narration, and sound effects to tell stories, as in this sample podcast episode aired on the NPR show Hidden Brain.


Why Use Audio?


There are a number of reasons you might consider including audio in documents, presentations, and other communications. According to the Advisory Group on Computer Graphics (AGOCG), using audio in multimedia has the following advantages:


It can convey meaning, providing an extra channel of information. It allows redundancy to be incorporated into the presentation of information, so that if the meaning is unclear to a user using visual information alone, the audio may clarify it.imageimage

Different learners use different learning strategies, and audio can provide additional information to support different learning styles, for example some users may learn more by hearing than reading a piece of text.imageimage

Audio can add a sense of realism. Cultural associations with music allow you to convey emotion, time period, geographic location, etc.imageimage

It is useful for directing attention to important events. Non-speech audio may be readily identified by users, for example the sound of breaking glass to signify an error. Since audio can grab the user’s attention so successfully, it must be used carefully so as not to unduly distract from other media.imageimage

It can add interest to a presentation or program.imageimage

Ease of communication – users may respond better to the spoken word than other media. For example, in a company presentation, ‘sound bytes’ from satisfied customers can be used.imageimage



A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing

The AGOCG also writes that there can be disadvantages to using audio: Like most media, files can be large.imageimage

Audio can be easily overused, and when sounds are continually used users tend to tune them out.imageimage

For most people, audio is not as memorable as visual media.imageimage

Good quality audio can be difficult to produce, and like other media most commercial audio, particularly music, is copyright.imageimage

Users must have appropriate hardware and software.imageimage




Being a digital writer means that you have to be consciously aware of your audience and their ability or inability to participate in the texts that you create. Not everyone can view a meme or infographic and not everyone can hear the sound on a YouTube video.


Closed Captions


Whenever possible, include captions for all videos that you create. This allows those who are hearing- impaired and deaf to access your message. You can edit the videos yourself to add captions, or you can use a platform like YouTube that will auto-generate captions that you can edit.


Audio Description


If you are making a video that contains scenes with any type of action, you will want to create an audio description.




For any type of audio or video, you want to consider including a transcript of the spoken dialogue.


Alternative Text


For any photo or graphic you include in your text, make sure to provide alternative text by right clicking on the image in Word, and then select edit Alt-text. Using Alt-text is a principle of web accessibility. Users with screen readers will be read an alt attribute to better understand an on-page image.








This chapter is a synthesis of two different creative commons texts:



Sections are written by Anne Turner, published by Central New Mexico Community College, and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


Making Visual Choices was adapted from “A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: Using Visuals” in Part 1 of Foundations of Professional Communication CC B Y 4.0 Originally published at http://www.procomoer.org/foundations/


Works Cited


Advisory Group on Computer Graphics, “Using Audio in Multimedia,”


Gagich, Melanie. “An Introduction to and Strategies for Multimodal Composing Melanie Gagich.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing , Volume 3, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, https://writingspaces.org/sites/default/files/1gagich-introduction-strategies-multimodal-composin g.pdf






8.4 Visual Rhetoric

Jennifer Schaller, Tammy Wolf, Steve Covello, Tracey Watts



Below is a graphic display located in the lobby of a building. The display attempts to connect the key values of an organization to images, using visual rhetoric. Some of the instances are effective (“Teamwork”) while others don’t quite achieve the desired effect. Identify the images that work and those that fall short. For example, what does a gazebo dock have to do with accountability? Could the author have used an alternate image instead?






Visual rhetoric is a special area of academic study unto its own. It has a long history in the study of art and semiotics (the study of symbols), and it is related to the classical study of oral rhetoric, which includes persuasive speeches and legal arguments. You may recall that rhetoric, more informally, can be understood as the practice of using language effectively to persuade. In speaking and in writing, effective rhetoric often relies on use of the appeals –- pathos, ethos, and logos. Visual rhetoric works similarly. In the realm of visual rhetoric, images also use the appeals in order to communicate ideas and influence audiences.

For the purpose of our studies, we will define the phrase “visual rhetoric” as the means by which visual imagery can be used to achieve a communication goal. As in classical rhetoric, this goal is often to influence people’s attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. Visual rhetoric might be understood as the study of the impression that visuals make upon a viewer. We can examine many categories of images, including advertisements, photographs, political cartoons, and even memes, when studying this impact.


Visual imagery can often be symbolic, especially when the images represent concepts or values that have a common meaning in society. One example is the American flag. The American flag in an image frequently stands for patriotism, as in the United States Marine Corps War Memorial pictured below.


imageUSMC War Memorial by Christopher Hollis, Wdwic Pictures


The sculpture depicted by this image is a three-dimensional interpretation of a historical photograph taken during World War II, which depicted six U.S. Marines raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The original photograph, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945, is widely recognized as an iconic World War II image. In the photograph, as in the later sculpture, the American flag conveys a sense of hope, enduring effort, and patriotism.

The political cartoon below, published in 2020, makes a clear reference to the Iwo Jima photograph in order to highlight the heroic sacrifices of healthcare workers, whom the cartoon compares to U.S. Marines.



The culture we live in influences our responses to images, and even within a shared culture, people from different groups might interpret images differently. While the Iwo Jima photo, the USMC War Memorial, and 2020 political cartoon all convey a meaning that most viewers can comprehend with little disagreement, it is possible for people from different backgrounds to react to and to use images in opposing ways. A national flag, for example, as shown in the images that follow, can be used to emphasize the patriotism of an action or event. It can be used to critique a moment in which actions fall short of patriotic ideals.

The context of an image is also important. The author of visual media, just like in a writer working with written text, needs to provide readers with additional information about what an image relates to in order for the image to produce its intended effect. In other words, a picture of a flag, in isolation, may not convey a clear meaning. It is up to the author to surround the image with enough information (text or speech), so that the reader can form the connections between the image and the message that the author intends to convey.

We can explore this concept by analyzing specific images. The examples below depict flags to convey a variety of distinct messages. Some of the messages are designed to align with the conventional perception of the national flag. These messages convey a sense of patriotism, duty, or idealism. Other examples use the flag as a commentary on an event that stands in opposition to the ideals that the flag traditionally represents. The reader understands the message at a glance without much cognitive deliberation – because that is the natural reflex of human visual sensory perception.

How might you describe the message of each image below? Which images use the flag to send traditional messages about patriotism? Which images make protests? How would you describe the message that each image sends? How would you describe the values that the creator of each image might embrace?


Examples of flags used to punctuate various messages of patriotism and protest. All images CC0 – Public Domain




The vocabulary of visual rhetoric is already familiar to readers who have studied the rhetorical appeals:


Logos: An appeal to logic meant to convince an audience by use of logic or reason.

Pathos: An emotional appeal meant to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions.

Ethos: An ethical appeal meant to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character.

This video offers a more in-depth review of the rhetorical appeals.


We can analyze many categories of images when we examine visual rhetoric in practice. Advertisements are a class of images that we see on a daily basis, and we interact with their visual rhetoric perhaps without even realizing that we are doing so. Advertisements frequently use rhetorical appeals in order to connect with specific audiences, whom they target as potential customers. In the print ad below for Pinnacle Bank, the image shown has no relationship to banking itself. However, the image works to persuade the viewer that the bank has ethos, or credibility, by using images that the bank hopes will attract a specific demographic of individuals or businesses. Who do you think the target audience for the ad may be? Can you identify values that the target audience might embrace? How does the bank use imagery to build credibility among a target audience?



© Pinnacle Bank – All Rights Reserved

In this ad, Pinnacle Bank has selected a farm image, as opposed to a bank image, in order to acknowledge the audience’s interests, traditions, and livelihood. In doing so, the bank hopes to promote feelings of trust, connection, and mutual understanding, even though the occupations of banker and farmer couldn’t be more different.


In developing a thorough analysis of how visual objects, such advertisements and political posters, use rhetorical devices, we might ask the following questions:

Message: What overall argument is the image or visual text trying to make? We can usually determine the message of an item based on visual clues, including the interaction between visual details and written text.

Purpose: Are there specific goals or outcomes that the creator of the item may be trying to reach? There is often quite a bit of overlap between message and purpose, but key distinctions between these two categories can be made as well. In the case of advertisements, the purpose is often to expand the consumer base. However, in some advertisements, especially contemporary ads, the purpose might involve rebranding or sending a political message.

Context: Are there historical or cultural details that we should recognize as important to the message? In analyzing an advertisement, should we be aware of the brand’s pre-existing reputation or its prior advertising campaigns? Many corporations repeatedly emphasize specific core values in their advertising. Others update their strategies and messages over time. Political and cultural messages may be apparent in visual images as well, whether overtly or in subtle ways.

Details: What should we notice about the concrete, visual aspects of the item? What choices were made regarding color or font, for example? What choices were made in the writing of the individual lines of text or dialogue? Are there certain details about the characters the image that stand out?

Problems: Does the item have blind spots? Does it mischaracterize or misunderstood certain characters or themes? Does it make assumptions that may be problematic or culturally insensitive?


Add link to YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1vnsqbnAkk

We might use this 2015 video from Mattel, titled “Imagine the Possibilities,” to put these concepts into practice. In the ad, Mattel sends a message that playing with Barbie dolls can help young girls imagine themselves as successful professionals. The purpose of the ad isn’t just to sell more Barbies, though doing so is certainly part of the plan. In addition to boosting sales, Mattel is likely hoping to rebrand the toy by moving away from the stereotype of Barbie dolls as superficial and materialistic.

We can develop context by noting that earlier decades saw the company focusing on advertising more materialistic, luxury items, such as Barbie’s Dream House. However, in the 21st century, our culture has become more wary of narratives that depict women largely as housewives. In response, Mattel’s advertisement shows the brand moving toward a focus on women’s career prospects. In “Imagine the Possibilities,” the five young female actors imagine themselves as working professionals.

We can take a close look at the details of the ad to note that the young girls are succeeding in fields that have traditionally been male dominated. Three girls work in STEM-related fields; one is a biology professor, another is a vet, and the third is a museum docent working in the field of paleontology. One of the other two girls is a coach for a men’s soccer team. The other is a CEO. While Mattel is clearly working to appeal to consumers who want their daughters to break the glass ceiling, the ad does have some problems. The girls are frequently given silly lines that emphasize their naivete. Additionally, the girls working in the sciences offer incorrect “facts” that children their age should know. Ultimately, one gets the sense that Mattel wants to empower these girls — but hasn’t quite figured out how to do so. The ad also lacks diversity. While many of the secondary actors in the ad are people of color, the ad is much less inclusive in its casting of the primary actors.


Practice Exercise 7.4:

Many brands work to communicate a set of core values in their advertisements over time. Coca-Cola, for example, often aims to link its products to concepts like patriotism or unity. Watch the ads linked below, and examine how each sends the message that Apple products offer people a sense of individuality and freedom. As you discuss the ads, try to identify exactly what Apple is offering people freedom from. Does Apple’s emphasis on freedom reflect the nature of the relationship that you have with products like the ones that Apple offers?

“1984” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtvjbmoDx-I

“Homework” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpoLty28Alg

“Bounce” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR1OQmLoyI0




This section was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Tracey Watts. It also includes materials adapted from two other OER texts:


Sections of this chapter were created by Jennifer Schaller and Tammy Wolf in their free textbook, Introduction to College Writing at CMN. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sections of this chapter were created by Steve Covello in his free textbook Visual Communication. It is licensed under CC NC-SA 4.0.





















Emilie Zickel, Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




“I write out of ignorance. I write about the things I don’t have any resolutions for, and when I’m finished, I think I know a little bit more about it. I don’t write out of what I know. It’s what I don’t know that stimulates me.”Toni Morrison, author and Northeast Ohio native.

Think of a research paper as an opportunity to deepen (or create!) knowledge about a topic that matters to you. Just as Toni Morrison states that she is stimulated by what she doesn’t yet know, a research paper assignment can be interesting and meaningful if it allows you to explore what you don’t know.

Research, at its best, is an act of knowledge creation, not just an extended book report. This knowledge creation is the essence of any great educational experience: you get to design the learning project that will ultimately result in you experiencing and then expressing your own intellectual growth. You get to read what you choose, and you get to become more knowledgeable about a topic.

That sounds, perhaps, like a lofty goal. But by spending some quality time brainstorming, reading, thinking or otherwise tuning into what matters to you, you can end up with a workable research topic that will lead you on an enjoyable research journey.


Suggestions for choosing a topic


Choose a topic that you want to understand better.

Choose a topic that you want to read and learn more.

Choose a topic that allows you to understand differing points of view and others’ opinion.

Choose something that is relevant to you, personally or professionally.

Do not choose a topic because you think it will be “easy” – those can end up being even quite challenging.

Avoid choosing a topic that is self-evident, that will not provide opportunities for research or differing points of view. An example of this is that “Cruise ships should tighten regulations to avoid spread of food poisoning and infectious diseases on board.” The Claim is perfectly sound, but there are not likely to be contrary opinions or much academic research available.

Similarly, avoid a topic that is too broad, such as “Global Warming is an existential threat to the planet”, or “Technology is dangerous for children.” What aspects of global warming are you interested in learning more about? Perhaps your claim can be along the line of a need to regulate CO2 emissions from newly produced cars. And with regards to technology, perhaps you can write about the threats of unsupervised social media on teenagers. The more specific your paper, the more direct your research will prove.


The video below offers ideas on choosing not only a topic that you are drawn to, but a topic that is realistic and manageable for a college writing class.


imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=148#oembed-1


“Choosing a Manageable Research Topic” by PfaulLibrary is licensed under CC BY


Brainstorming Ideas for a Research Topic


Which question(s) below interest you? Which question(s) below spark a desire to respond? A good topic is one that moves you to think, to do, to want to know more, to want to say more.

There are many ways to come up with a good topic. The best thing to do is to give yourself time to think about what you really want to commit days and weeks to reading, thinking, researching, more reading, writing, more researching, reading and writing on.


What news stories do you often see, but want to know more about?

What (socio-political) argument do you often have with others that you would love to work on strengthening?

What would you love to know more about?

What are you passionate about?

What are the issues facing your peers and school?


What are the key controversies or current debates in the field of work that you want to go into?

What is the biggest issue facing [specific group of people: by age, by race, by gender, by ethnicity, by nationality, by geography, by economic standing? choose a group]

If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be? Can identifying that person lead you to a research topic that would be meaningful to you?

What area/landmark/piece of history in your home community are you interested in?

What global problem do you want to better understand?

What local problem do you want to better understand?

Consider researching the significance of a song, or an artist, or a musician, or a novel/film/short story/ comic, or an art form on some aspect of the broader culture.

Go to a news source (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, etc) and skim the titles of news stories. Does any story interest you?


From Topic to Research Question


Once you have decided on a research topic, an area for academic exploration that matters to you, it is time to start thinking about what you want to learn about that topic.

Think of sources as helping you to answer a research question or a series of research questions about your topic. These should not be simple questions with simple answers, but rather complex questions about which there is no easy or obvious answer.

A compelling research question is one that may involve controversy, or may have a variety of answers, or may not have any single, clear answer. All of that is okay and even desirable. If the answer is an easy and obvious one, then there is little need for argument or research.

Make sure that your research question is clear, specific, researchable, and limited (but not too limited). Most of all, make sure that you are curious about your own research question. If it does not matter to you, researching it will feel incredibly boring and tedious.


The video below includes a deeper explanation of what a good research question is as well as examples of strong research questions:



Developing Good Research Questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YHv3vFJMG0]imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=148#oembed-2


Rashida Mustafa and Emilie Zickel

Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




You have chosen a topic on your own, from parameters provided by your instructor or from an assigned topic. You have taken that topic and developed it into a research question or a hypothesis that is arguable and manageable for the length of the assignment. Now it is time to begin your research. But before heading to your favorite search engine and academic databases, first think about what kinds of information you want and/or need.

You may want to begin by asking yourself questions relating to your chosen topic so that you can begin sifting through and perusing sources that you will use to further your understanding of the topic. When you begin the research phase of your essay, you will come across an array of sources that look helpful in the beginning, but once you have a clearer idea of your research topic (it may change as you research), you might see that the sources you were once considering to use in your essay are now irrelevant. To make your research efficient, start your research with a research strategy.

A research strategy involves deciding what you need to know to answer your research question.


What kinds of sources do you need?

What can different kinds of sources – popular or academic, primary/secondary/tertiary – offer you?

Whose perspectives could help you to answer your research question?

What kinds of professionals/scholars will be able to give you the information you seek?

What keywords should you be using to get the information that you want?


Where should I look?


As you seek sources that can help you to answer your research question, think about the types of “voices” you need to hear from.


Scientists/researchers who have conducted their own research studies on your topic

Scholars/thinkers/writers who have also looked at your topic and offered their own analyses of it

Journalists who are reporting on what they have observed

Journalists/newspaper or magazine authors who are providing their educated opinions on your topic

Critics, commentators or others who offer opinions on your topic

Tertiary sources/fact books that offer statistics or data (usually without analysis)

Personal stories of individuals who have lived through an event

Bloggers/tweeters/other social media posters


Any of these perspectives (and more) could be useful in helping you to answer your research question.


Wikipedia, the place that we have all been told to avoid, can be a great place to get ideas for a research strategy


Wikipedia can help you to identify key terms, people, events, arguments or other elements that are essential to understanding your topic. The information that you find on Wikipedia can also offer ideas for keywords that you can use to search in academic databases. Spending a bit of time in Wikipedia can help you to answer essential questions such as:


Do you fully understand the history of your topic?

Do you understand the current situation/most recent information on your topic?

Do you know about key events that have shaped any controversies surrounding your topic?


Wikipedia is a wealth of information, much of it accurate and valuable. A 2005 study by the journal Nature claimed that the information found in Wikipedia is as accurate as that found in Encyclopedia Britannica. So why shouldn’t you cite Wikipedia as a source in your research paper? First, beacuse Wikipedia is considered an encyclopedia and college level papers seek higher level source materials such as peer and academic journals, books from reputable publishers, and other primary, secondary, and tertiary sources that demonstrate a student’s ability to recognize credibility within source material.


Additionally, Wikipedia possesses the danger of being an Open Source. Open source means that it is available for modification. Though modification is overseen by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, hot topic pages, celebrity pages, as well as popular and culturally dissenting events often lead to pages frequently altered with troll-like vandalism.


In this excerpt of a vandalized Wikipedia page, you can see that it is not only celebrity and culturally divisive pages that invite modification. Someone has made a joke of the entry to echo the sentiment of the film Fight Club, which may not prove useful to you when doing research on a physics paper.


. image

[source: https://www.boredpanda.com/funny-wikipedia-edits/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic]


Wikipedia as a resource, not a source


Should you cite Wikipedia? NO. Should you be using a Wikipedia page as a source? NO. But Wikipedia can give you some wonderful access to the context surrounding your topic and help you to get started. Wikipedia pages provide reference links to most of its information, which you can link to and decide whether it is a credible source. The video below offers more tips on how you can integrate Wikipedia into your research strategy.

imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=150#oembed-1


“Using Wikipedia for Academic Research” by Michael Baird (Cooperative Library Instruction Project) is licensed under CC BY



Emilie Zickel, Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




Many of your professors will expect you to use academic research databases for research papers in college. Getting used to doing research in an academic database can be challenging, especially if you have only used Google for research. Becoming familiar with the way that research databases work can take some time. However, with some understanding of what academic research databases can do for you, and with some practice and tinkering around, you will soon be more comfortable doing your research in these databases instead of Google.

Becoming fluent on Academic databases takes practice but will prove invaluable for students. We have all been spoiled by Google, which has been designed to provide us what we want before we have even fully articulated (or sometimes even know) what we want. Academic databases do not have the same sort of funding as Google, which profits by algorithms that deliver desired information in nanoseconds. But what our academic databases lack in immediate gratification, they deliver in peer-reviewed, invaluable content.

The guidelines offered in the videos below offer basic but important information about using research databases effectively. While the content on the rest of this page applies most specifically to Academic Search Complete (also called EBSCO), the tips are relevant to any research database.


How Can You Use an Academic Research Database Effectively?


Avoid typing your whole research question into the search field. Use only keywords, in various combinations

Use several keywords at once, and be willing to change each word for a synonym if you hit a dead end with one set of words

Use “AND” or “OR” to retrieve more results or to limit your results

Use the database’s own Subject Terms to help you to refine your searches within that database


The video below explains what doing all of those things means in a practical sense.

imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=152#oembed-1


I was DENIED ACCESS to video

“Tracking Down Articles” by Research Therapists


What is Academic Search Complete?


Academic Search Complete is one of the more user-friendly databases for conducting college research. It is a great “starter” database for several reasons. In Academic Search Complete, you can find popular articles from some of the more credible newspapers and magazines. You can also locate scholarly articles from a variety of academic disciplines. Academic Search Complete provides a wide array of information on a range of topics, and chances are that you will find something useful for your project there.

When you realize how many filters you can apply to your search query so that you only get certain types of information, you will see how valuable this database (or database researching in general) can be.

The video below offers a quick overview of how you can use Academic Search Complete to


Limit your search results to only get peer reviewed (scholarly) articles

Limit your search results to get articles that are accessible via download

Refine your searches so that you get the information most relevant to your research project

Refine your search to specific dates so that only articles from a certain time period are found

Access articles that you find

Locate article abstracts

Find subject terms and understand how they can be useful to your research strategy


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[Access denied]

“Academic Search Complete Database in 3 Minutes” by Seminole State Library is licensed under CC BY


A Note about Google Scholar vs Academic Search Complete


Many students report using and liking Google Scholar. If Google Scholar works for you – and it certainly can work well – then by all means continue to use it along with Academic Search Complete. What may happen,

however, is that while you can find article titles via Google Scholar searches, you may not get access to the full article because you do not have a paid subscription to the journal in which the article is published.


Academic Search Complete, and the many, many other academic research databases that can be accessed from the university library “Research Databases” page, will give you access to most articles. If you find a title via Google Scholar that you cannot access, try to find it in Academic Search Complete or another database.

Do not ever pay for an academic article when you can get access to it through your university library. If the library does not have access to the journal in their databases, you can order it through Interlibrary Loan which might take a few days.



Robin Jeffrey, Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




Good research involves taking the time for creative searching. If you already have taken the time to think through what types of information you want and what types of sources you want that information from, then you are already off to a great start in terms of searching creatively.

However, finding credible sources is another important step in the research process. Successfully finding credible sources means using effective keywords.


Some tips for getting the results that you want from a search


Use quotation marks. Are you searching a phrase? Put it in quotation marks: “textbook affordability” will get you results for that exact phrase.

Use AND/+. Are you searching for two terms that you think are topically related? Use AND (or +) to connect them: education AND racism, or, education + racism, will only bring up results that include both terms

Use NOT/- to limit what you don’t want. Are you searching for a term that’s commonly associated with a topic you don’t want to learn about? Use NOT (or -) in front of the keyword you don’t want results from: articles NOT magazines, or, articles – magazines, will bring up results that are about articles, but exclude any results that also include the term magazines.

Use an asterisk to get a variety of word endings. Do you want to get back as many results on a topic as possible? Use * at the end of a word for any letters that might vary: smok*, will bring up results that include the term smoke, smoking, and smokers.

Remember to search terms, not entire phrases or sentences. And swap out synonyms for your core

keywords. This video helps to explain how you can play around with key terms:




imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=154#oembed-1


“Search Keywords Tutorial” by Ray W. Howard Library at Shoreline Community Collegeimage


Research Strategy: Coming Up with Keywords for Your Topic


What are at least two phrases related to your research topic that you can search “in quotation marks”?

What are your NOT words — the words that you want to exclude from your search?

For which words would the asterisk be helpful?

What are three core keywords (using the guidelines in the video above) that you can use in a search for your topic? What are synonyms for each of those three words?

imageThis page contains material from “About Writing: A Guide” by Robin Jeffrey, OpenOregon Educational Resources, Higher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY 4.0



Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel

Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




Keeping Track of Your Sources


While finding and collecting sources, it is easy to get lost in a sea of information. Here are some tips and tools that you can use throughout the stages of your research process to keep sources organized.

As you find articles, keep them! Here are some ways

that you can store articles that you find:


Create a Google Doc or a Word file to keep track of the sources that you want to read. Copy and paste the full citation (many databases, like Academic Search Complete, create a Works Cited reference for you). Or, if you are using a source that you found via google, copy and paste

Always keep a working digital bibliography of the sources that you are considering or using. If you construct your Works Cited as you go along, you will save yourself a lot of time.

the URL of the source (it will need to be cited properly by author name, article title, source, etc. if you use it in a paper).

If you are searching in Academic Search Complete, Create a “Folder” in Academic Search Complete

to save the articles that look interesting

Emailing hyperlinks of web sources to yourself often seems like the easiest idea. However, be aware that if you email URLs of articles that you find in the library’s research databases, they will not open if you are not logged in to CSU’s library. Instead, email the citation (with article title, author name) to yourself so that you can go back and find the article later.

Print. If you find an article that you think will be useful, go ahead and print it out. You may want to have a folder dedicated to your research project where you keep print outs of all the articles you plan to use. You will end up saving yourself time if you add the Works Cited info in with all of your

other sources.


Components of an Annotated Bibliography


An annotation often offers a summary of a source that you intend to use for a research project as well as some assessment of the source’s relevance to your project or quality and credibility. Your instructor may have a specific kind of annotated bibliography assignment so keep in mind the information below is typical but not assumed.


Works Cited Reference


You will provide the full bibliographic reference for the source: author, title, source title, and other required information depending on the type of source. This will be formatted just as it would be in a typical Works Cited ie. in alphabetical order with hanging indents after the first line. Reference style will be up to the instructor.


Summary of the source


After the works cited reference, start your annotation with a summary of the source.

The first sentence should mention the title of the text you are summarizing, the name of the author, and the central point or argument of the text. Describe the key sections of the text and their corresponding main points. Try to avoid focusing on details; a summary covers the essential points.

Use signal phrases to refer to the author(s)

Always maintain a neutral/objective tone and use the third-person point of view and present tense (i.e. Tompkins asserts…).

Keep the focus of the summary on the text, not on what you think of it, and put most of the summary in your own words. If you must use exact phrases from the source that you are summarizing, you must quote and cite them but this isn’t necessary.

Check the Annotated Bibliography assignment sheet for additional

requirements. Instructors often require more than a simple summary of each source. Do you need to go beyond summarizing each source? Do you need to evaluate the source’s credibility or relevance? Do you need to explain how you plan to integrate the source in your paper? Do you need to point out similarities or differences with other sources in the annotated bibliography? Any (or all) of those things may be required in an annotated bibliography, depending on how instructor has designed this assignment as part of a larger research project.



Annotated bibliographies require formatting, which is different depending on what type of style guide you must adhere to: MLA, APA, CMS, etc. Be sure to check the formatting and style guidelines (resources abound online, including visual models) for your annotated bibliography assignment.

The Annotated Bibliography Samples page on the Purdue OWL offers examples of general formatting guidelines for both an MLA and an APA Annotated Bibliography.

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Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel




imageThis chapter will help you learn about the difference between types of sources. Here is a quick and useful reference:
imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=160#oembed-1



“Scholarly and Popular Sources” by Carnegie Vincent Library is licensed under CC BY

Determining a text as “popular” or “scholarly/academic” is one way to classify and to understand what type of information you are engaging with. Another way to classify sources is by considering whether they are primary, secondary or tertiary. Both popular sources and scholarly sources can be primary, secondary, or tertiary.

imagePrimary sources are texts that arise directly from a particular event or era. They may be letters, speeches, works of art, works of literature, diaries, direct personal observations, newspaper articles that offer direct observations of current events, interviews and survey responses, tweets, other social media posts, original scholarly research (meaning research that the author or authors conductWhat is a Primary Source?


imagethemselves) or any other content that comes out of direct involvement with an event or a research study.Primary research is information that has not yet been critiqued, interpreted, or analyzed by a second (or third) party. It is up to the person analyzing the data to understand what it means.Primary sources can be popular (if published in newspapers, magazines or websites for the general public) or academic (if written by scholars and published in scholarly journals). They can also be found in archives found in government, library, or museum collections. Primary sources can also be created by the researcher such as surveys and interviews.Examples of primary sources:journals, diariesblog postsa speechdata from surveys or pollsscholarly journal articles in which the author(s) discuss the methods and results from their own original research/experimentsphotos, videos, sound recordingsinterviews or transcriptspoems, paintings, sculptures, songs or other works of artgovernment documents (such as reports of legislative sessions, laws or court decisions, financial or economic reports, and more)Newspaper and Magazine articles that report directly on current events (although these can also be considered Secondary)Investigative journalism (sometimes considered Secondary as well)

imageSecondary sources summarize, interpret, critique, analyze, or offer commentary on primary sources.In a secondary source, an author’s subject is not necessarily what he or she directly experienced. The author of a secondary source may be summarizing, interpreting or analyzing dataWhat is a Secondary Source?


imageor information from someone else’s research, offering an interpretation or opinion on current events. Thus, the secondary source is a step away from the original, primary topic/subject/ research study.Secondary sources can be popular (if published in newspapers, magazines or websites for the general public) or academic (if written by scholars and published in scholarly journals).Examples of secondary sources:book, film or art criticism summaries of findings from other people’s researchinterpretations or analyses of primary source materials or other people’s researchhistories or biographiespolitical commentarynewspaper and magazine articles that mainly synthesize others’ research or primary materials (remember, newspaper and magazine articles can also be considered primary, depending on the content)



What is a Tertiary Source?image



Tertiary sources are syntheses of primary and secondary sources. The person/people who compose a tertiary text are summarizing, compiling, and/or paraphrasing others’ work. These sources sometimes do not even list an author. You can use a tertiary source to find both Primary and Secondary sources. Keep in mind that it may sometimes be difficult to categorize something as strictly tertiary, and that it may depend on how you decide to use the item in your research and writing. Your instructors will often not accept the sole use of tertiary sources for your papers, such as encyclopedias. Instead, you should strive to only use tertiary sources to find more academic sources, as they often have titles of other works and links (f they are web-based) to more academic primary and secondary sources that you can use instead.

Tertiary sources can be popular or academic depending on the content and publisher. Examples of tertiary sources include:



imagefact booksdictionariesguideshandbooksWikipedia
imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=160#oembed-2



“Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources” by sccclibrary


Now that you know what kinds of sources exist, remember that various disciplines find certain types of evidence to be more acceptable and appropriate than others. For instance, while the Humanities may consider anything from passages of text to art appropriate evidence, certain sciences may prefer data and statistics. What is most important to remember is that no matter the discipline for which you are writing and pulling evidence, evidence must explain why, and how, that evidence supports your claims or ideas.imageWhat kinds of primary sources would be useful for your research project? Why? Where will you find them? Are you more interested in popular primary sources or scholarly primary sources? Explain.What kinds of secondary sources could be useful for your project – and why? Are you more interested in popular secondary sources or scholarly secondary sources? Explain.What kinds of tertiary sources might be helpful? Explain.Thinking about Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources and your Research Strategy




Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel




What is a Popular Source?


Popular sources are articles written for general audiences. These sources are published so that members of the general public can access, read and understand the content. There is little jargon or highly specific or technical vocabulary. Sometimes popular sources are freely available to the public, and sometimes the content is available only with a paid subscription. Popular sources include newspaper articles, magazine articles, websites, webpages, letters to the editor, blog posts and more.


Reading Newspaper Articles, Magazine Articles, and Website Articles


Even though popular sources might lack academic credibility, we should not be tempted to write off all popular sources as unacceptable for research writing. We should, however, be willing to evaluate any popular source’s authority and credibility before choosing to accept its validity or choosing to include it in an academic assignment.

How can we evaluate newspaper, magazine, and website sources? Use rhetorical reading skills to understand both the text and its context before you incorporate it into any assignment. Additionally, criteria to evaluate sources have become a staple on most library websites. In general, you want to assess the following:


Understand the Context


Publisher. Who published this article? Remember that a publisher is not always the same as the author of a particular text. Does the publishing source cater to a particular audience? Does the publisher have an ideological identity or bias? A bit of research on who published the article you have found (which

newspaper. magazine, website, or organization) can give you some insight into any purpose or agenda that may shape the content of the article. Additionally, you might ask: How is the publication being supported? If it is advertising-driven, might that affect the credibility of the article. If the magazine is receiving millions of dollars yearly from one of the major pharmaceutical firms, do you trust an article on a new heart medicine to be unbiased? These are the types of conflicts one should consider when deciding credibility.

Author. Is the author an expert on the topic? A journalist? An academic or scholar? A person with direct experience of the topic or are they offering second hand commentary or analysis?


Assess the Quality of the Text

Identify the author’s main claim. Pay attention to what the author uses to support their claim:


Do you see relevant, evidence-based support, the use of personal or first-hand knowledge, or mainly emotional examples?

Do you see statistics used consistently and fairly, with an explanation of their origins?

Does the author consider opposing viewpoints, and if so, how thoroughly?

Do you see logical fallacies in the author’s argument?

What kind of language is being used? Is it appropriate to the audience?

Does the author present all sides equally so as to avoid clear judgment?

Does the author effectively summarize sources used? (Please note that magazine and newspaper writing style does not require the types of in-text citations that we use in our papers).




Depending on the information you are using, the currency of the site or source could be vital. Check for the date of publication or the date of the latest update. Most of the links on a website should work – if they no longer do, that may be a sign the site is too out of date to be useful.




Perhaps the article is interesting or easy to read. But is there something about the text itself or its context that makes it useful for your assignment?

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imageEducational Resources, Higher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel




Academic sources (also called scholarly sources) are different from what most of us read each day. We are constantly exposed to “popular” media – news websites, TV channels, magazines and newspapers. It is generally only in college that we get exposure and access to scholarly articles and books.

An Academic Source (Scholarly Source) is material that is


Authoritative: The article has been produced by an expert in his or her field (often this means that a person has a Ph.D. in his or her field and/or works as researcher or professor at colleges or universities), and therefore has the authority that expertise affords.

Peer-reviewed: The article has been rigorously read and reviewed by other experts or authorities in that same field for credibility, relevance, and contribution to the field.

Published in a Scholarly Research Journal: Academic articles are often published in special journals that focus on one academic discipline or an area of study that is interdisciplinary. These articles are published for an audience highly involved in that academic discipline (often other people who have Ph.D.s in the same field or are pursuing studies within it). Open source peer reviewed journals have begun publishing online in recent years, making their content available to larger audiences, but most scholarly research journals require a paid subscription. As a college student, you have access to many academic articles because your university has databases that give students and faculty members access to scholarly research journals.


Academic articles tend to more challenging to read than popular sources. They often contain academic jargon, highly specialized vocabulary that is used within a particular academic field. They tend to be longer than a typical popular source article in a newspaper or magazine. They may contain many in-text citations, diagrams, tables, or other visual representations of data but lack many of the visuals you would find online or in popular sources.


Considerations for Evaluating Academic Sources


While academic sources are often deemed credible because they come out of a rigorous process of peer review- before-publication and are written both by and for the academic community, we should still take time to examine and evaluate such sources before using them because even scholarly sources contain embedded biases.




How prolific is the author in his or her field? Have they written extensively on the topic that is addressed in this paper? Often you can check the Works Cited to see if the author has any previous publications on the topic addressed in the current paper. If so, that could be an indication of the author’s long-term commitment to this research topic or question.


Length of the Article


Sometimes articles will be labeled in academic databases as “scholarly articles” even though they are only a couple of pages long. If your article seems rather short and does not follow the general structure of an academic article then you should spend time considering whether the article is a relevant or credible source for the purposes of your assignment? Is there a more thorough or detailed source that you could use?


Date of Publication


How current is the article? If you are looking for a historical perspective on your topic, then an older article may be useful. But if you need current information and your article is 10 or 15 years old, is it as relevant and useful for your assignment?




Perhaps you have a wonderful academic article that is authoritative, credible, interesting, full of credible and compelling research. But if the article is not answering your research question or the assignment question in any meaningful way, then the source is not relevant to you. Just because a source is “good” does not mean that it is good for your particular assignment.

Joe Moxley’s article “Questions to Evaluate the Authority of the Researcher’s Methods,” is an excellent

resource for thinking about how to approach a critique of scholarly work..

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Emilie Zickel




While reading academic articles (scholarly journal articles) can be one of the more intimidating aspects of college-level research projects, the purpose, format, and style of scholarly/academic journal articles are rather straightforward and patterned. Knowing the template that scholarly articles follow can enhance your reading and comprehension experience and make these reading materials much less intimidating. Moreover, understanding the purpose of scholarly publication can help you to understand what matters most in these articles.


Basic Format


Information in academic journal articles is presented in a formal, highly prescribed format, meaning that scholarly articles tend to follow a similar layout, pattern, and style. The pages often look stark, with little decoration or imagery. We see few photos in scholarly articles. The article title is often fairly prominent on the first page, as are the author(s)’ name(s). Sometimes there is a bit of information about each author, such as the name of his or her current academic institution or academic credentials. At either the top or bottom of the first few pages, you can find the name of the scholarly journal in which the article is published.




On the first page of the article, you will often find an abstract, which is a summary of the author’s research question, methodologies and results. While this abstract is useful to you as a reader because it gives you some background about the article before you begin reading, you should not cite this abstract in your paper. Please read these abstracts as you are initially seeking sources so that you can determine whether or not reading the article will be useful to you, but do not quote or paraphrase from the abstract.

Works Cited


At the end of academic articles, you will find a list of Works Cited (also called a List of References). This is generally quite long, and it details all of the work that the author considered or cited in designing his or her own research project or in writing the article. Helpful hint: reading the Works Cited in an article that you find to be particularly illuminating or useful can be a great way to locate other sources that may be useful for your own research project. If you see a title that looks interesting, see if you can access it via your university library!


Literature Review


Scholarly sources often contain Literature Reviews in the beginning section of the article. They are generally several paragraphs or pages long. Some articles are only Literature Reviews. These Literature Reviews generally do not constitute an author’s own work. Instead, they are summaries and syntheses of other scholars’ work that has previously been published on the topic that the author is addressing in his or her paper. Including this review of previous research helps the author to communicate his or her understanding of the context out of which his or her research comes.

Like the abstract, the Literature Review is another part of a scholarly article from which you should generally not quote. Often, students will mistakenly try to cite information that they find in this Literature Review section of scholarly articles. But that is sort of like citing a SparkNotes version of an essay that you have not read. The Literature Review is where your author, in his or her own words, describes previous research. He or she is outlining what others have said in their own articles, not offering his or her own new insight (and what we are interested in in scholarly articles is the new information that a researcher brings to the topic). If you find that there is interesting information from the sources that your author discusses in the Literature Review, then you should locate the article(s) that the author is summarizing and read them for yourself. That, in fact, is a great strategy for finding more sources!


The “Research Gap”


Somewhere near the end of the Literature Review, authors may indicate what has not been said or not been examined by previous scholars. This has been called a “research gap” in the social sciences – a space out of which a scholar’s own research develops. The “research gap” opens the opportunity for the author to assert his or her own research question or claim. Academic authors who want to publish in scholarly research journals need to define a research gap and then attempt to fill that gap because scholarly journals want to publish new, innovative and interesting work that will push knowledge and scholarship in that field forward.

Scholars must communicate what new ideas they have worked on: what their new hypothesis, or experiment, or interpretation or analysis is.


The Scholar(s) Add His/Her/Their New Perspective


Typically the bulk of an academic article focuses on the author’s original work and analysis. This is the part of the article where the author(s) add to the conversation, where they try to fill in the research gap that they identified. This is also the part of the article that is the primary research. The author(s) may include a discussion of their research methodology and results, or an elaboration and defense of their reasoning, interpretation or analysis. Scholarly articles in the sciences or social sciences may include headings such as “Methods,” “Results,” and “Discussion” or synonyms of those words in this part of the article. In arts or humanities journal articles, these headings may not appear because scholars in the arts and humanities do not necessarily perform lab-based research in the same way as scientists or social scientists do. Authors may reference others’ research even in this section of original work and analysis, but only to support or enhance the discussion of the scholar’s own discussion. This is the part of the scholarly article that you should cite from, as it indicates the work your author or authors have done.




To conclude a scholarly journal article, authors may reference their original research question or hypothesis once more. They may summarize some of the points made in the article. We often see scholars concluding by indicating how, why, or to whom their research matters. Sometimes, authors will conclude by looking forward, offering ideas for other scholars to engage in future research. Sometimes, they may reflect on why an experiment failed (if it did) and how to approach that experiment differently next time. What we do not tend to see is scholars merely summarizing everything they discussed in the essay, point by point. Instead, they want to leave readers with a sense of why the work that they have discussed in their article matters.


As you read scholarly sources, remember


to look for the author’s research question or hypothesis

to seek out the “research gap”: why did the author have this research question or hypothesis?

to identify the Literature Review (if there is one)

to identify where the author stops discussing previous research and begins to discuss his or her own

Most importantly: remember to always try to understand what new information this article brings to the scholarly “conversation” about this topic?


Melanie Gagich




Up until this point, Chapter 10 has described the differences between types of sources and helped you learn how to read academic sources. However, to conclude the chapter, this section provides you with information about how academic research is conducted by academics in the social sciences. It is possible that at some point in your college career that you will be asked to conduct research yourself, and in that case, this chapter will be very useful. Yet, even if you are not asked to conduct your own research, this chapter provides helpful information to aid you in understanding the primary research created by academics in the social sciences.

Specifically, this section provides you with information pertaining to research questions, research methods, research instruments, and research article methodology sections in the hopes that it will help you read academic research and eventually conduct and/or propose your own study.

A key fact to keep in mind: methodological choices must align with the research question(s), which informs the type of instruments used.


Research Questions


Research questions guide an academic study. These questions should not be easily answered. For example, the question, “How many people live in the US” is not an appropriate research question because it is easily answered (i.e. you can Google to find the answer) and it does not add new knowledge to a field or discipline.

While you might sometimes be asked to write a research question in college writing, these are often questions that will lead you to arguments and evidence that already exist. In the “real world” of academia, a research question represents a researcher’s attempt to create new knowledge in the field.


Research Methods


The word “research methods” broadly refers to how you plan to conduct your study. There are three types

of research methods: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed. Your choice of research methods depends on your research question and the type of data you need to collect to answer that question.


Qualitative Methods


Some research questions focus on opinions, individual experiences, motivations, etc. and generate non- numerical data. These types of questions require qualitative methods to answer them.

Qualitative methods are often used if:


You want to study a phenomena/occurrence in detail

Example research question: How does a freshman ENG 102 student describe their writing processes?

You want to focus on individual interpretations/experiences

Example research question: What are the experiences of 18-25 year old using Fitbits for dieting?


To gather qualitative data, researchers often use research interviews, open-ended survey questions, or focus groups.

Example of open-ended survey questions:





Quantitative Methods



Other research questions focus on quantifying a problem and generate numerical data. These types of research questions require quantitative methods to answer them.

Quantitative methods are often used if:


You want to understand the relationship among variables.

Example research question: What is the relationship between gender and 4.0 GPAs among first year students?


You want to understand differences among variables.

Example research question: What is the difference between attitudes in male and female students in a freshman level writing course?


To gather quantitative data, researchers often use surveys that include closed-ended questions and Likert-Scale items.

Example of closed-ended survey questions:



Example of Likert-Scale survey items:











Mixed Methods


Sometimes you need to use both quantitative and qualitative methods to answer a research question. This is known as mixed methods and produces numerical and non-numerical data, which can be collected using a variety of research instruments (including those described above).


The Methodology Section in an Academic Research Article


In an empirical research article, there will be a section outlining the methodology for the study that was conducted. Empirical research refers to knowledge that is gained “by means of direct and indirect observation or experience.” Including a methodology section in an academic research paper provides the audience with important information such as the participants and the setting of the study as well as descriptions of data collection and analysis.





Yvonne Bruce, Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




Students are often concerned with the details of correct citation—when to include an author’s name in parentheses, how to format an MLA bibliography, how to indicate a quotation within a quotation—and while these are all important and helpful to know, what is more important is understanding the larger ethical principles that guide choosing and using sources. Here are a few of these larger ideas to keep in mind as you select and synthesize your sources:


You must represent the topic or discipline you are writing about fairly. If nine out of ten sources agree that evidence shows the middle class in the United States is shrinking, it is unethical to use the tenth source that argues it is growing without acknowledging the minority status of the source.

You must represent the individual source fairly. If a source acknowledges that a small segment of the middle class in the United States is growing but most of the middle class is shrinking, it is unethical to suggest that the former is the writer’s main point.

You must acknowledge bias in your sources. It is unethical to represent sources that, while they may be credible, offer extreme political views as if these views are mainstream.

Even if your source is an informal one, from Wikipedia or a dictionary, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t acknowledge it. Quoting a dictionary definition is still quoting: you need quotation marks. Wikipedia is not “common knowledge”. Cite it.

You must summarize and paraphrase in your own words. Changing a few words around in the original and calling it your summary or paraphrase is unethical. Don’t steal someone else’s.


Melanie Gagich, Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




What are Direct Quotes?


Direct quotes are portions of a text taken word for word and placed inside of another piece of writing. Readers know when an author is using a direct quote because it is denoted by using quotation marks and an in-text citation.


In his seminal work, David Bartholomae argues that “Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion-invent the university…”(4).

Direct quotes might also be formatted as a “block quote”, which occurs if the borrowed language is longer than four (4) lines of text. In MLA, A block quote requires the author to indent the borrowed language by 1/2 an inch, place the citation at the end of the block, and remove quotation marks.


In his seminal work, David Bartholomae argues that

Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion-invent the university, that is, or a branch of it, like History or Anthropology or Economics or English. He has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing that define the discourse of our community. (4).

Most important is to be careful when directly quoting because failing to write the text exactly as it appears in the original text is not an ethical use of direct quotes. Also, failing to bracket the quote with quotation marks and/or citing it inside the text is also unethical and both mistakes are a form of plagiarism.


When Should I Use Direct Quotes?


Generally, direct quotes should be used sparingly because you want to rely on your own understanding of material and avoid over-relying on another’s words. Over quoting does not reinforce your credibility as an author; however, you should use direct quotes when “the author you are quoting has coined a term unique to her or his research and relevant within your own paper” (Purdue Owl).


The Basics of Directly Quoting



All quoted material should be enclosed in quotation marks to set it off from the rest of the text. The exception to this is block quotes, which require different formatting.

Quoted material should be an accurate word-for-word reproduction from the author’s original text. You cannot alter any wording or any spelling. If you must do so, you must use a bracket or an ellipsis (see number 2 in the section below).

A clear signal phrase/attribution tag should precede each quotation.

A parenthetical citation should follow each quotation.


The Hard Part about Directly Quoting: Integrating Quotes into Your Writing

As the author of your essay, you should explain the significance of each quotation to your reader. This goes far beyond simply including a signal phrase. Explaining the significance means indicating how the quoted material supports the point you are making in that paragraph. Remember: just because you add a quote does not mean that you have made your point. Quotes never speak for themselves. How and why does that quoted material make the point you think it does? Here are some helpful phrases for explaining quoted materials. “X” is the author’s last name

(quoted material). What X’s point demonstrates is that . . .

(quoted material). Here, X is not simply stating, she is also demonstrating.

(quoted material). This is an example ofbecause.

(quoted material). This statement clearly showsbecause.


Sometimes, in order to smoothly integrate quoted material into your paper, you may need to remove a word or add a word to make the quote make sense. If you make any change to quoted material, it must be formatted correctly using an ellipsis or brackets

Use brackets [these are brackets] to change a word. This article from Writing Commons explains what brackets are and how to use them.

Use an ellipsis (this is an ellipsis…) to indicate omissions. This article from Writing Commons explains what brackets are and how to use them.

When in doubt, strive to allow your voice – not a quote from a source – to begin each paragraph, precede each quote, follow each quote, and end each paragraph. Quotes that are integrated well into a paper allow you to control the paper. That is what a reader wants to see: your ideas and the way that you engage sources to shape and discuss your ideas.


imageAttributionsThis chapter contains material from “About Writing: A Guide” by Robin Jeffrey, OpenOregon Educational Resources, Higher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY 4.0It also contains an excerpt from David Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University.”



Robin Jeffrey, Adam Falik and Doreen Piano




While quoting may be the first thing that many people think of when they think about integrating sources, paraphrasing, summarizing, and citing data are also ways to incorporate information from outside materials into your essays or projects.

This page builds off the previous chapter’s discussion of quoting and outlines the specific considerations for paraphrasing and summarizing as two other ways to integrate material into your work.




Paraphrases allow you to describe specific information from a source (ideas from a paragraph or several consecutive paragraphs) in your own words.

Paraphrases are like translations of an author’s original idea. You retain the detail of the original thought, but you express it in your own way.

Paraphrases of the text should be expressed in your own words, with your own sentence structure, in your own way. You should not simply “word swap”, that is, replace a few words from the original with synonyms.

If you must use a few of the author’s words within your paraphrase, they must have quotation marks around them.

Paraphrases often include attributive tags or signal phrases to let your readers know where the paraphrased material begins.

Paraphrases should be followed by parenthetical citations.

As with a quote, you need to explain to your reader why the paraphrased material is significant to the point you are making in your paper.




Summaries allow you to describe general ideas from a source. You do not express detailed information as you would with a paraphrase.

Summaries are shorter than the original text. You are only pulling out the key terms and information from the text.

Any summaries of the text should not include direct wording from the original source. All text should be in your words, though the ideas are those of the original author.

A signal phrase should let your readers know where the summarized material begins.

If you are offering a general summary of an entire article, there is no need to cite a specific page number.



John Lanning and Amanda Lloyd




A signal phrase, also known as an attributive tag, is a device used to smoothly integrate quotations and paraphrases into your essay. It is important to use signal phrases to clearly attribute supporting evidence to an author and to avoid interrupting the flow of an essay. Signal phrases can also be used as meaningful transitions, moving your readers between your ideas and those of your sources.

A basic signal phrase consists of an author’s name and an active verb indicating how the author is presenting the material. A signal phrase may also include information explaining an author’s credentials and/or affiliations as well as the title and/or publisher of the source text.


Referring to the Author within a Signal Phrase


In many instances, a signal phrase should contain only the last name of the author or authors of the source text (as opposed to the author’s first and last name). For instance, APA style guidelines require no reference to an author’s first name at any point in an essay and few if any gender specific pronouns. But in MLA papers, if you are referring to an author for the first time in your essay, you should include that author’s first name (you might also want to include the author’s credentials and the title of the source—see “Types of Signal Phrases” below). Any future signal phrase should refer to the author by last name only or with a pronoun when it’s perfectly clear to whom that pronoun refers. For example:


Michael Pollan observes that “Americans today are having a national conversation about food and agriculture that would have been impossible to imagine even a few short years ago” (29).

Pollan continues, “But the national conversation unfolding around the subject of food and farming really began in the 1970s” (29).

He then specifies, “I would argue that the conversation got under way in earnest in 1971, when [Wendell] Berry published an article in The Last Whole Earth Catalog” (29).


Notice how each signal phrase verb is followed by a comma (or the word “that”), which is then followed by one space before the opening quotation mark.

In essays written according to MLA and APA guidelines, it is acceptable to refer to the author as “the author”

as long as it is perfectly clear to whom you are referring. In APA, it is common to see general references to “researchers.”


Signal Phrase Verb Tense


In the examples above, notice how the signal phrase verbs are written in present tense. When you are asked to write a paper that follows MLA guidelines, signal phrases should always be written in present (not past) tense. When writing a paper using APA style, signal phrase verbs should be written in past tense. For example:


Pollan (2009) observed that “Americans today are having a national conversation about food and agriculture that would have been impossible to imagine even a few short years ago” (p. 29).


Notice how APA in-text citations also differ from MLA style in that APA citations include the year of publication and the page number is preceded by a “p.”



Varying Your Verbs


You should also vary your signal phrase verbs (rather than simply using “states” throughout your entire essay) in order to maintain your readers’ interest and to indicate the author’s intended use of the excerpted material. See below for examples of strong signal phrase verbs.


Types of Signal Phrases


In most instances, the first time the author is mentioned in an MLA-style essay, as well as including the author’s first and last name in a signal phrase, it is also a good idea to include the author’s credentials and the title of the source.

While providing the author’s credentials and title of the source are the most common types of signal phrases, there are others we should be aware of. In the examples below, the information relevant to the type of signal phrase is underlined.

Type: Author’s credentials are indicated.


Example: Grace Chapmen, Curator of Human Health & Evolutionary Medicine at the Springfield Natural History Museum, explains…

Purpose: Presenting an author’s credentials should help build credibility for the passage you are about to present. Including the author’s credentials gives your readers a reason to consider your sources.

Type: Author’s lack of credentials is indicated.


Example: Matthew Spencer, whose background is in marriage counseling, not foreign policy, claims…


Purpose: Identifying an author’s lack of credentials can help illustrate a lack of authority on the subject matter and persuade the audience not to adopt the author’s ideas. Pointing to an author’s lack of credentials can be beneficial when developing your response to counter-arguments.

Type: Author’s social or political stance, if necessary to the content, is explained.


Example: Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Roland Hayes, prominent civil rights activist, preaches… Ralph Spencer, who has ties to the White Nationalist movement, denies…

Purpose: Explaining the author’s social or political stance can help a reader to understand why that author expresses a particular view. This understanding can positively or negatively influence an audience. Be careful to avoid engaging in logical fallacies such as loaded language.

Type: Publisher of the source is identified. Example: According to a recent CNN poll…

Purpose: Identifying the publisher of the passage can help reinforce the credibility of the information presented and you can capitalize on the reputation/ credibility of the publisher of the source material.

Type: Title of the Source is included.


Example: In “Understanding Human Behavior,” Riley argues … Purpose: Informs the reader where the cited passage is being pulled from. Type: Information that establishes context is presented.

Example: In a speech presented during a Free Speech rally, Elaine Wallace encourages …


Purpose: Presenting the context that the original information was presented can help the audience understand the author’s purpose more clearly.

MLA Signal Phrase Verbs

















Points out


















































APA Signal Phrase Verbs

















Pointed out



















































Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel




Plagiarism is often viewed negatively by many people, but few people truly understand what it is. Plagiarism can be intentional (such as copying and pasting large chunks of a website into your paper), or it can be unintentional (such as a weak paraphrase or a lack of reference to authors or sources). But plagiarism is plagiarism, whether it is intentional or not, and it is a serious offense in academic writing.

It can be helpful to understand what plagiarism is if you seek to avoid plagiarizing in your own papers. This video offers a thorough explanation of how students might plagiarize if they are not carefully integrating sources into an essay.

imageOne or more interactive elements has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view them online here: https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=186#oembed-1



Hannah says—keep the above link for now. The book it links to is currently private; a person would need to be logged into Pressbooks to see it. When we publish, this issue will resolve. 3/28/22

“10 Types of Plagiarism” by WriteCheckVideos

Following the guidelines for the ethical use of source materials in your papers can help you to avoid plagiarism in your work.

If you are struggling to figure out how to cite a source or how to integrate it into your work while giving your author(s) proper credit, you can


ask for your instructor

visit your university’s Writing Center

set up a meeting with a university librarian


Each school has a plagiarism policy that both defines what plagiarism is and outlines the consequences that will arise due toa student caught plagiarizing.































Melanie Gagich




MLA and APA Documentation


There are many types of documentation styles; however, the two you will use most consistently in college writing classes are MLA and APA. You might think that it doesn’t matter which one you choose…but it does. A documentation style dictates how a manuscript is formatted, the way you cite outside sources inside the text (signal phrases and parenthetical citations), the way you cite bibliographic information (Works Cited or References), and the style of writing that you use. Sections 12.1 – 12.4 focuses on helping you format your paper, citations, and bibliographic information using MLA while Sections 12.5 – 12.7 focuses on APA.


Modern Language Association (MLA)


The Modern Language Association began in 1883 as a “discussion and advocacy group for the study of literature and modern languages” (“Modern Language Association”). The style was created by this group in 1951 in order to provide scholars in this field with a set of shared writing and citation guidelines. MLA is mostly used in the humanities such as English and modern languages. For more help with MLA please visit the OWL of Purdue’s MLA Guide.

You should always use Times New Roman 12-point font (unless otherwise directed by your instructor) and one-inch margins. The entire manuscript should also be double-spaced. Below is an annotated example of other important features you should consider and include in your MLA manuscripts:






John Brentar and Emilie Zickel




In-text Citations


We use in-text citations, also called parenthetical citations, to give our readers brief yet specific information about where in the original source material we found the idea or words that we are quoting or paraphrasing. In order to determine what the in-text citation should look like, we have to know what kind of source we are using.


Is our source print or digital?

Print sources are any source that are on paper or were originally printed on paper, even if you found a copy of it from an online research database like Academic Search Complete. These sources have page numbers. These page numbers need to appear in your in-text citations.

Web/digital sources, in many instances, do not have page numbers. Do not make them up! Page 1 of your computer screen is not the same as an actual page one in a print source.

Do we have a named author or not?

Is the source paginated (i.e., does it have page numbers in its original or current format)? Or is it a digital source without page numbers?


The basics of in-text citation


A complete in-text citation in MLA format includes three components:


a signal phrase

the original source material (quoted or paraphrased), and

a parenthetical citation (also called in-text citation)


For sources with page numbers–books and articles which were originally published in print publications, even if you access them using a research database like Academic Search Complete, place the page number in the citation. In MLA, we do not use the word “page” or the abbreviations “p.” or “pg.” before the page numbers.


imageMiller claims that “this, that, and the other thing are true” (34).Miller claims that = signal phrase“this, that, and the other thing” = the quoted material(34) = the parenthetical citationExample of Basic Citation


Citations for sources with authors and pages


The first time that you mention a source in a paper, you need to introduce the source. For this introduction, you can include the author’s full name and a bit of description about the text that this author or these authors produced.

imageIn discussing the act of reading, Donald Hall, an American writer and scholar, states “it seems to me possible to name four kinds of reading, each with a characteristic manner and purpose” (15).The words in bold show the author’s full name and a bit of description of who the author isHow to cite a source the first time you mention it


After that first time (which, more formally, would be called successive mentions of the source), you can give only the last name. If you name the authors in the signal phrase, you do not need to add the author(s)’ names in the parenthetical citation, too.


imageHuynh and Maroko indicate that neighborhoods are not static but dynamic entities that can experience change across a number of dimensions (212).Only author last names are used in the signal phrase because this is not the first time these authors have been cited in the essayBecause author last names are in the signal phrase, they are not also needed in the the parenthetical citationExample of citing with a successive mention


If you do not name your author(s) in a signal phrase, then you must place the last name(s) only in the citation. In doing so, do not place a comma between the author name(s) and the page number. For more information on signal phrases, visit section 11.4.

imageIn one study of the effects of gentrification upon health, the researchers conclude that “the health implications of gentrification have not been explored comprehensively, despite the likelihood of its effect on neighborhood socioeconomic status” (Huynh and Maroko 212).Author last names are included in the in-text citation because they were not used in a signal phrase at the beginning of the sentenceExample of citing when no signal phrase is used



Citations for sources with no authors, but page numbers


If your source does not list an author, then you must refer to the work by its title. If you name the title of the source in your signal phrase, give the entire title exactly as it appears in the source.image




Citing print sources with no author




Option 1:

The article, “Poverty in the United States: Census Population Report,” reveals that the official poverty rate rose from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009 (298).

The article title forms the signal phrase (in bold)

Note that the article title is written in Title Case – the first letter of each keyword is capitalized

– and is inside of quotation marks, as MLA requires


Option 2:

If you do not mention the article title in the signal phrase, then you must place a shortened version of the title in your parenthetical citation:

Census Bureau data indicate that nearly 44 million Americans lived below the poverty line in 2009 (“Poverty” 298).

Note that the name of the article title – “Poverty in the United States: Census Population Report” – is shortened to “Poverty” inside of the citation.

To shorten an article title for this type of citation, use the first word or first few words of the article title




Citations for sources with no page numbers (i.e., web-based sources outside of research databases)


Some sources have no page numbers. The prime example are web-based sources, such as news, magazine, or website articles published directly to the web.

When you cite an online source, name the author(s) in your signal phrase. If there are no named authors, use the article title in your signal phrase.

However, with online sources, since there are no page numbers, you do not need to make up a page number for your citation. Whereas previous editions of MLA allowed writers to refer to paragraph numbers for works without page numbers, it now instructs writers not to refer to paragraph numbers unless the work contains explicitly numbers its paragraphs. In some instances, you may not need a parenthetical citation for an online source at all.image




Citing online articles with authors




Option 1:

In discussing the pedagogic approach that St, Louis area schools took in the aftermath of the 2014 Ferguson violence, Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Roberston, in their article, “The Case for Contentious Curricula,” note that, “the major focus of concern remained the psychological well- being of the students, not their intellectual or political growth”.

Note that there is a signal phrase that names the authors and the article they wrote (in bold)

Note, also, that after the quoted material, there is no parenthetical citation. Just the signal phrase and the quotation of material taken from their article suffices.

Option 2:

Whereas the approaches may have varied from progressive action to silence, “the major focus of concern remained the psychological well-being of the students, not their intellectual or political growth” (Zimmerman and Roberston)

Since there is no signal phrase before the quoted material, the authors’ names – but no page numbers – are in the parenthetical citation





Examples of citing online articles with no named authorimage




Option 1:

Focusing on the economic woes of long-haul truckers, the article, “The Trouble with Trucking” points out that “over the past several decades, inflation-adjusted driver pay has fallen sharply.”

Notice the signal phrase (in bold) that is based on the article title

Note, also, that after the quoted material, there is no parenthetical citation. Just the signal phrase and the quotation of material taken from their article suffices.

Option 2:

The economic woes of long-haul truckers can be summed up this way: “Over the past several decades, inflation-adjusted driver pay has fallen sharply” (“The Trouble”).

Note that, because there is no signal phrase to introduce the quoted material, the first couple of words in the article title is placed inside of the citation.






Citations for sources with multiple authors


If your source has one or two authors, list all the authors in either your signal phrase or in-text citation.





Examples of citations for multiple authorsimage




If your source has one or two authors, the authors’ names must appear in either your signal phrase or in-text citation

Signh and Remenyi opine that “the extent of cheating at universities is hard to gauge” (36).

While speculation abounds about how widespread the problem is, “the extent of cheating at universities is hard to gauge” (Singh and Remenyi 36).

If your source has more than two authors, list only the first author followed by the abbreviation “et al.” (short for the Latin phrase et ailii, literally, “and others”).

Brenda Bustillos et al. note that “when a campus roadway configuration is changed, introducing new parking facilities or other transportation services also changes campus circulation patterns” (5).

One major problem is that “when a campus roadway configuration is changed, introducing new parking facilities or other transportation services also changes campus circulation patterns” (Bustillos et al. 5).



John Brentar and Emilie Zickel




The Modern Language Association (MLA) system of documentation governs how writers format academic papers and cite the sources that they use. This system of formatting and citation is used most by academic disciplines in the arts and humanities.



Citations according to MLA consist of two elements:


in-text citations (also called parenthetical citations); and


a bibliography called a Work Cited (or Works Cited, if multiple sources are cited) list.


Writers use in-text citations to acknowledge that they have used ideas from external sources to help develop their essays. Those in-text citations refer to the full bibliographic references. Whenever you use sources, whether in direct quotation or in paraphrase, you must use in-text citations. Writers very often combine in-text citations with attributive signal phrases to make clear to the reader exactly what material has come from what source. Every in-text citation you make will be keyed to an entry in your Works Cited list, at which you supply your reader with the full bibliographic information for your sources.

Works Cited Entries


Every source that you quote, paraphrase, or summarize in an essay must be included in your Works Cited list

Your Works Cited list should always be on its own new page, after the end of the text of the essay

At the start of your list, at the top margin of the page, include a heading containing the words Work (or Works) Cited, centered, without bolding, italics, quotations marks, or all-caps

Works Cited entries are in the same font and double spacing as the rest of the paper

Unlike the text of the essay, works cited entries do not begin with an indentation. Rather, they use hanging (also known as reverse) indentation, in which the first line of an entry is not indented, but all successive lines are indented, by .5”.

Sources need to be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter in each entry.

If you have a source with no author, then that source will be alphabetized according to the first letter of its title

The entries will not be numbered or presented as a series of bulleted points.


General order of content in a Works Cited Entry


MLA specifies that certain elements appear in a certain order in a work cited entry. Each element will be followed by a specific piece of punctuation. When you cite sources, never take the information from the cover of the source; rather, always refer to title pages. Here are each of the elements and additional information about them:


Practice with ordering the elements of an MLA-formatted Works Cited page

imageAn interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=196#h5p-6
imageAn interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=196#h5p-7




Emilie Zickel and John Brentar




Here is a model Works Cited, with correct spacing and formatting. You can click on the “+” to get more information about the formatting and structure of the Works Cited.

imageAn interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=198#h5p-8


For step-by-step guidance in looking at what several common types of Works Cited entries need to include, click below.

imageAn interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:https://louis.pressbooks.pub/englishcomp2/?p=198#h5p-9


A final note about Works Cited entries:


Sometimes you may have difficulty deciding whether a source has been published in a magazine or a scholarly journal; after all, the word “journal” appears in the names of some magazines (for example, Library Journal). Here are some tips that can help you:


Kind of paper (especially useful if you have a hard copy). Magazines are printed on glossy paper, scholarly journals on matte paper.

Graphics: magazines print color graphics; if a journal article has graphics, they will be black and white

and usually in the form of tables or graphs.

Citations: only rarely will magazines have in-text citations and bibliographies; journals will almost always have them.

Advertisements: magazines usually have color advertisements; if journals have ads, they will be for other works published by the same publisher as the journal.



Melanie Gagich




American Psychological Association (APA)


The American Psychological Association, established in 1892, is “the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States” with approximately 117,000 members (“American Psychological Association”). The American Psychological Association created their style guide in 1929 and is most often used in the social sciences such as psychology, education, and linguistics. Scholars in English rarely use APA; however, scholars in the field of Composition and Rhetoric do. For more help with APA please visit the OWL of Purdue’s APA Guide.

The newest edition of APA has included changes related to writing and style. While some of these changes are extensive, it is important to note that the APA “has endorsed the ‘singular they’” (The OWL of Purdue) explicitly in the seventh edition.

Also, the APA includes guidelines for “Bias-free language). See below for some examples:


Use “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun instead of “he or she”

“Use specific labels rather than general ones when possible. For example, “cisgender men” is more specific than “men.” Similarly, “Korean Americans” is more specific than “Asian Americans” or “Asians’” (The OWL of Purdue).

“Instead of broad categories, you should use exact age ranges that are more relevant and specific” (Streefkerk).


Your paper should always use Times New Roman, 12 point font, and one-inch margins. The entire manuscript should also be double spaced.


Formatting the Title Page (page 1)


Create a Title Page for your work


Scroll down to the center of the page and center the following:

Your Name

Title of Your Paper

Use title caps

No quotation marks, italics, underline, etc.

University Affiliation

Course Name/Number


Due Date





Formatting the Abstract Page (page 2)


Create a new page. This page should include the header (i.e. the abbreviated title of your work) without the words “Running head.”

Center the word “Abstract” with no bold, underline, or quotation marks.

Hit enter and do not indent. Write a short (150-250 words) summary of your paper.





Formatting the Beginning of Your Written Content (page 3)


Create a new page. This page (and all those that follow) should also include the header without the words “Running head.”

At the top of the new page, center and write the full title of your work. Do not use bold, underline or quotation marks. After the title, hit enter once, indent your paragraph ½ inch, and begin writing.


Levels 1-3 Headings


APA uses various levels of headings to distinguish sections in an essay. According to the OWL of Purdue, “[t]he levels are organized by levels of subordination, and each section of the paper should start with the highest level of heading.” The highest level of heading is 1 and the lowest is 5. However, in this section, only levels 1 through 3 are discussed.


Level 1 Heading


Level 1 Heading (Centered, Bolded, Title Caps)

Shows the section title (e.g. Literature Review, Methods, Results, Implications)



Level 2 Heading


Level 2 Heading (Left-Justified, Bolded, Title Caps)

Shows subsection titles (e.g. main ideas/topics)





Level 3 Heading


Level 3 Heading (flush left, title caps, bold, and italics)

Shows subsections of subsections (e.g. sub-topics of topics)




Melanie Gagich




The purpose of this section is to provide you with information and examples pertaining to APA style in-text citations. It begins with parenthetical citations (those that use parentheses to denote citations in the text), moves into signal phrases citations (those that cite information within sentences), and concludes with a visual annotated example of in-text citations.


Parenthetical Citations


When including parenthetical citations, be sure to place a comma between information and place a period after the parenthesis.

If there is an author, then place the author’s last name and year of publication inside:


Example of a parenthetical citation with an author: (Smith, 2010).


If there is no author, then place the source title (with quotation marks and title caps) and the year inside:


Example of a parenthetical citation with no author: (“Cats are Great,” 2011).


When citing two or more authors in a parenthetical citation, use an ampersand (&) in place of the word “and.”


Example of the use of an ampersand: (Kirchoff & Cook, 2016).


When citing two authors, include both of their names in each citation.


Example of citing two authors: (DePalma & Alexander, 2015).


When citing three or more authors, use the first author’s last name and “et al.”


Example of citations with three or more authors: (Anderson et al., 2006).

If you’re directly quoting, then include page numbers


Example direct quote cited with a parenthetical citation with an author: Multimodal composing offers students opportunities to make meaning and communicate using affordances that “could expand that notion of control beyond words on a page” (Takayoshi & Selfe, 2007, p. 2).


Paraphrased information does not require the use of page numbers


Example paraphrased information: Some universities have developed laptop programs requiring students to either own or lease laptops (Fried, 2008).


Use semi colons to demonstrate the use of multiple authors. This is especially useful when many authors have similar arguments or have found similar results.


Example of paraphrased information from multiple authors:Education embraced emotion research from psychology and argued that emotion affects learning (Efklides & Volet, 2005; Pekrun, 2006; Pekrun, Frenzel, & Peery, 2007)


Signal Phrase Citations


Using signal phrases to cite information means that you add the citation to your sentence(s). This also means that you do not need an additional parenthetical citation.

Insert the author’s name and year into your sentence to act as a signal phrase.


Example of paraphrased information using a signal phrase:Sheppard (2009) argues that there is a need for students to adapt to this changing digital landscape.

Example of a direct quote using a signal phrase: Moran (2003) argues that some teachers think “technology is good and that it will bring good” (p. 344).


Do not use an ampersand (&) in signal phrases; instead, use the word “and.”


Example using a signal phrase for two authors: Kirchoff and Cook (2016) argue that some overlook the importance of teaching basic computer literacy skills when teaching multimodal composition.

Example of APA Style In-Text Citations



For more information about APA style in-text citations, please visit the OWL of Purdue:


Click here for information about general layout and formatting in an APA paper.

Click here for information about in-text citations, which look quite different than what we see in MLA.

this page will help you understand how to introduce authors/sources in APA, which, again, looks different from MLA

Click here for information about APA formatted References, particularly electronic sources (which are what we often use in research projects.


Melanie Gagich




APA is a common documentation style used in the social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, education, criminology), business, nursing, linguistics, and composition. While the style, organization, and formatting of APA differ from MLA, similarities between the two styles remain. For example, to avoid plagiarism, provide readers with important source-related information, and give credit where credit is due, you must include bibliographic information at the end of the document (the Reference page) and in-text citations in the form of signal phrases and/or parenthetical citations. You should also double-space the entire document, use Times New Roman, 12 point font, and 1 inch margins on all sides.

The remainder of this section provides basic information pertaining to creating the Reference page. Information about formatting your paper and/or incorporating APA headings can be found at the OWL of Purdue.


Reference Page Entries


Every source that you quote, paraphrase, or summarize in an essay must be included in your Reference page

The Reference page should appear on its own page. It should include the header (i.e. abbreviated title with the page number in the righthand corner).


At the start of your list, at the top margin of the page, center the word “References.” Do not bold, italicize, or use quotations marks. Do not change the font, font size, or color

Reference page entries are in the same font and double spacing as the rest of the paper

Like MLA Work Cited pages, Reference page entries use hanging (also known as reverse) indentation, in which the first line of an entry is not indented, but all successive lines are indented, by .5”.

Sources need to be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter in each entry.


If you have a source with no author, then that source will be alphabetized according to the first letter of its title

The entries will not be numbered or presented as a series of bulleted points.

Examples of Reference Page Entries


Formatting an Article from an Academic Journal with DOI


Author’s last name, first initial. middle initial. (Year, Month Date Published). Title of the article. Title of the Academic Journal, Volume # (Issue #), page numbers, DOI.


Example of an Article from an Academic Journal with DOI


Werner, C. L. (2015). Speaking of composing (frameworks): New media discussions, 2000-2010. Computers and Composition, 37, 55-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2015/06.005


Formatting an Article from an Academic Journal with no DOI


Author’s last name, first initial. middle initial. (Year, Month Date Published). Title of the article. Title of the Academic Journal, Volume # (Issue #), page numbers, URL.


Example of an Article from an Academic Journal with no DOI


Yancey, K. B. (2004). Made not only in words: Composition in a new key. College Composition and Communication, 56(2), 297-328. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4140651


Formatting an Article from an online magazine


Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number(issue number if available).



Example of an Article from an online magazine


Wong, A. (2015, April). Digital natives, yet strangers to the web. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ education/archive/2015/04/digital-natives-yet-strangers-to-the-web/390990/



Formatting an Article from a Website with an Author


Last, F. M. (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. URL.


Example of an Article from a Website with an Author


Braziller,A.&Kleinfeld,E.(2015).Mythsofmultimodalcomposing. http://www.digitalrhetoriccollaborative.org/2015/09/03/myths-of-multimodal-composing/


Example with an Organization as Author


National Council of Teachers of English. (2005, November). Position statement on multimodal literacies.



Formatting an Article from a Website with No Author


Title. (Year, Month Date Published). URL.


Example of an Article from a Website with No Author


Mobile campus laptop loan program (2019). https://www.csuohio.edu/services-for-students/mobile-campus


What is the DOI?


DOI stands for “digital object identifier” and it helps categorize scholarly articles. However, not all scholarly articles will have a DOI. If that is the case, then you should provide the URL where you retrieved the article.

Sample Reference Page










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