In academic writing, it is important to do research and include information from outside sources. However, you need to do more than just present the words and ideas of others. You need to add your own ideas, analysis, and interpretations.

This is important because if you only include information from outside sources, it is no longer your paper; it is just a summary of what others have stated. Remember that it is important to use research to support your ideas, not replace them.

How to tell if you have NOT added your own academic voice:

  1. If your paragraph is made up entirely of information from sources.

    When you only quote or paraphrase in a paragraph, you have not added enough of your own voice. You should never have a paragraph that is made up entirely of quotes or paraphrased information. Body paragraphs should be a combination of information from sources and your own academic voice.

  2. If your body paragraph begins or ends with a quote or paraphrase.

    If you begin or end with information from outside source, then you haven’t properly introduced or explained the information in your own words. A body paragraph should always begin with a topic sentence that states what the paragraph is about and it should end with your own thoughts, ideas, interpretations, or analysis. Research is done so you can become more knowledgeable about your topic to develop your own analysis.

  3. If you get a high Turnitin similarity score.

    A high Turnitin score can indicate that you haven’t included enough of your own thoughts.  A good rule of thumb is to include 2-3 sentences of explanation or analysis for every body paragraph.

Here is an example of a body paragraph where the student has only included information from sources. This is an example of “cut & paste” or “mash-up” writing.

In this paragraph, the student has included information from multiple sources, but has not included a topic sentence or any of his/her own ideas, interpretations, or analysis about the topic. The paragraph reads: "37% percent of animals used for science suffer moderate to severe stress and discomfort or severe pain (National Statistics, 2014). “The American Veterinary Association defines animal pain as an un-pleasant sensory and emotional experience perceived as arising from a specific region of the body and associated with actual or potential tissue damage” (Dunnuck, n.d, para. 6). Some of the animals used in biomedical research are not given any pain relief and are subjected to painful conditions and physical procedures that leave them in intense cold or heat, or have limbs crushed and spinal cords damaged (Callanan, 2009). Psychological distress, fear, and sadness have been demonstrated amongst a wide variety of species (Ferdowisiann & Beck, 2011). “They’re very similar to us in terms of their emotional lives and their intellectual and physical and social experiences, and using them in painful, invasive ways is to harm them; they don’t consent to it” (Lee, 2015, p. 3)."

 

How to Add your Own Academic Voice

Follow these best practices to help you incorporate your own thoughts and ideas into your writing:

1. Begin with a topic sentence that indicates the main point of the paragraph.

 To help you write a strong topic sentence, try answering these questions:

  • What is this paragraph about?
  • What claim is being made in this paragraph?
  • What will this paragraph prove or discuss?

2. Explain your topic further by adding evidence (statistics, expert opinion, research studies, or facts) and elaboration.

To help you elaborate, try answering questions like these:

  • What research has been done?
  • What have experts in the field stated?
  • What statistics are available?

Remember: All information from outside sources must be cited (in-text and in your references list). See our APA/MLA/Chicago page for more help with citing your sources in the correct format required for your paper.

3. Add your own analysis, conclusions, or ideas.

To do this, ask yourself:

  • Why is this information important, significant, or meaningful?
  • How does this evidence relate to your thesis?
  • What conclusions have you reached by doing the research you’ve included here?
  • What is your interpretation of the research? How do you understand it?

Here is a body paragraph where the student has integrated research and added his/her own academic voice too:

The example reads: "Animal testing comes with a high cost. It comes with the cost of animals being subjected to tests that put them through distress and can harm or kill them. Research shows that 37% percent of animals used for science suffer moderate to severe stress and discomfort or severe pain (National Statistics, 2014).  “The American Veterinary Association defines animal pain as an un-pleasant sensory and emotional experience perceived as arising from a specific region of the body and associated with actual or potential tissue damage” (Dunnuck, n.d, para. 6). Some of the animals used in biomedical research are not given any pain relief and are subjected to painful conditions and physical procedures that leave them in intense cold or heat, or have limbs crushed and spinal cords damaged  (Callanan, 2009). Psychological distress, fear, and sadness have been demonstrated amongst a wide variety of species (Ferdowisiann & Beck, 2011). “They’re very similar to us in terms of their emotional lives and their intellectual and physical and social experiences, and using them in painful, invasive ways is to harm them; they don’t consent to it” (Lee, 2015, p. 3).  When it comes to using animals for science and experimentation, people tend to focus on the fact that non-human animals are inferior to humans. Regardless of whether or not this is true it does not take away from the fact that animals experience pain and seek pleasure. Pain and suffering are unique to every individual. Every person’s and even animal’s pain threshold is different. However, evidence clearly shows the pain that is experienced by these animals is experienced the same way that it is in humans. Considering the horrific psychological and physical pain that animals have to go through in the midst of testing for biomedical research, alternative testing methods are in order."

 

Related Video Tutorial

Integrating Research Tutorial
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