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When Should You Cite While Drafting? - Writing With, But Not From, Sources

Many professors require students to write more than a report on a topic for a research paper. Instead students have to assert a thesis and support this debatable opinion using research information. To draft a thesis-driven research paper, you have to move away from research sources in order to answer:

  • After researching my topic, what do I now believe?
However, you also come back to your research information in order to answer:

  • What research information will help me convince a reader of my belief?

The first question requires you to do more than repeat what others have said, but the second question requires you to rely on what others have said to support your thesis.

As you write with, but not from, your sources, it is important to cite little known facts, paraphrased information, unique wording, and direct quotations. It is tempting to draft first then go back and add citations later, but this can lead to unintentional plagiarism. For example, can you detect where citations are missing in the following excerpt from an actual student's draft?

Advanced Placement courses started roughly forty years ago. About 130,000 high schools nationwide off AP classes, and most students in these courses graduate with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Many students also attain a passing grade on AP exams, which qualify them to receive college credit for some introductory courses. Colleges claim that students in high schools that do not offer AP courses are not penalized in terms of admissions, but they also admit that taking these courses helps students get accepted. Thus, there is some inequality when some schools offer AP courses and others do not. For example, a lawsuit has been filed in California on the behalf of some minority students because AP courses are not available at their public secondary schools.

Click here to check on where citations are needed (and aren't needed).