In order to make our work a bit easier, we can try to come up with some aids for our citations. Basic situations when we’re using citations in a text (for example in a seminar paper) can be divided into 2 x 2 types. We’ll list examples in paragraphs that are relatively independent units within a text and typically focus on one main thought.
Citing “from reading to writing”
Indirect citations = paraphrasing
The basic type of citation is indirect citation, a.k.a. paraphrasing. We paraphrase when we’ve read a sufficient amount of literature to have gained an overview of a topic and be able to fluently write down ideas that appeared in our minds by linking various information together.
Practically speaking, we do this by retelling the information or part of a text written by author “A” in our own words; we put this into the new context of our text on a specific topic and, for example, add our own commentary or comparison with the thoughts of another author.
So what does this look like? Have a look at the following examples.
In the seminar paper Testing Learning Applications for Secondary School Students, we‘ll write the following paragraph:
A part of testing learning applications for secondary school students was the “think aloud” method, in which respondents attempted to speak about their feelings, methods and intentions (JASPERS, 2004).
Why and what did we paraphrase here? In the text, we list the method that we’re using for research, which in this case is “thinking aloud”. Thinking aloud isn’t something that everyone would know, and we’ve probably read about it somewhere. For example, we’ve found out that respondents (i.e. participants in research) express their feelings, methods and intentions while using this method. We thus have to say which author has described this method. In our case, it’s Jaspers.
Or when we write the following paragraph in the seminar paper Perception of Inequalities in Secondary School Students’ Education:
The education that can be achieved in the Czech Republic is influenced by what socio-economic status the child’s parents hold. In some countries, however, dependence between family background and education is almost non-existent (Prokop, 2020). This means that there are still barriers in our society and schools, and help for these children is lacking. In the context of our work, we ask how secondary school students view these inequalities and what role they can play in the inclusion of their peers.
Why and what have we paraphrased here? In this seminar paper, we wanted to cite the problem that we want to deal with. We are emphasizing its importance using statements from a book by an established author, whom we are paraphrasing and elaborating upon using our own commentary. A direct citation would look like this, but it’s not very useful: “Completed education in the Czech Republic is very dependent on the socio-economic status of the family in which the child is raised. You might say to yourself that this is logical – talent is inherited and richer parents simply raise their children better. But this isn’t the case. For example in Finland, Estonia or Poland, success in school depends little on family origin” (Prokop, 2020, p. 69).
What might things look like when you’re just starting out (without a manual)? Have a look at these incorrect examples:
- The education that can be achieved in the Czech Republic is influenced by what socio-economic status the child’s parents hold. In some countries, however, dependence between family background and education is almost non-existent (Prokop, 2020).
- Error: the paragraph is formed only by the thoughts of the author who we’re taking them from.
- Completed education in the Czech Republic is very dependent on the socio-economic status of the child’s family. But this isn’t the case. For example, in Finland, Estonia or Poland, success in school is only minimally dependent on family origin (Prokop, 2020).
- Error: We have only modified the original text of the author by replacing certain words and leaving out a sentence.
This isn’t paraphrasing, it’s plagiarizing, even though we’re citing the author.
Logically, it’s best to avoid incorrect paraphrasing from the start so bad habits aren’t formed. Typically, however, you’ll get there by practicing your writing with your second, third or fifth text. If an error repeats itself, there can be several reasons for it:
1) You’re writing the text itself while you’re reading the literature. If you’re just getting acquainted with the topic, we recommend taking notes and creating thought maps. We don’t recommend beginning authors to jump directly into writing. If you haven’t read your basic literature, you can’t have thought out your topic properly. This leads you to simply retelling the text you’re reading, and you can mix up your reading notes with what you’re writing. After reading several sources, we usually start to come up with new viewpoints, and only then can we compare and synthesize.
2) You haven’t read enough and new ideas aren’t coming to you. This point is linked to the one above. If we have too little information, it’s difficult to come up with new things. That’s why it’s important to take enough time to read everything.
3) You’ve read enough but you’ve left out a creative pause. Reading isn’t everything. Try a thought map. It’s necessary to acquire information and process it, think it over, mix it up, and look at it from various angles. You can use various creative techniques to do so.
Indirect citation isn’t just the same sentence or paragraph with several words changed. A high-quality indirect citation in a high-quality text isn’t just a retold thought of another author without new understanding or commentary.
Direct citation is using parts of a text word for word using quotation marks. Direct citation comes after paraphrasing – we use it as little as possible, and only if we have a good reason to. This is usually when we need to cite a statement in a text verbatim in order to analyze, comment or criticize it. Citations should never replace your own ideas. It’s necessary to think about the length of the citation. It should usually be one sentence or two shorter ones. If there are more, you should have a really good reason for it.
What does a direct citation look like?
Prokop sees the problem of education in its fragmented nature and describes poor organization. “Schools are often small. It would help them if they could share administration, IT services and the psychologists mentioned above.” (Prokop, 2020, p. 69) We completely agree with this statement, but we can also continue to ask questions. Is it at all necessary in today’s connected world for this sharing to take place only within schools? Couldn’t schools share IT with libraries, whose goal it is to support the development of information literacy and the use of technologies in education?
Why have we used a citation here? Because we wanted to use the most accurate statement from this author.
Errors in citation:
“Completed education in the Czech Republic is very dependent on the socio-economic status of the family in which the child is raised. You might say to yourself that this is logical – talent is inherited and richer parents simply raise their children better. But this isn’t the case. For example in Finland, Estonia or Poland, success in school depends little on family origin” (Prokop, 2020, p. 69)
Error 1: The citation replaces the whole paragraph and thus wholly replaces our thoughts. A work containing many citations just looks like a conglomerate of someone else’s work.
Error 2: The citation adopts the speech of the author, which doesn’t fit into our new work. The phrase “You might say to yourself” simply can’t be used here.
Error 3: The citation is too long. Citations that are three lines long are used only rarely.
Sometimes we need use a citation in a specific way. Examples are as follows:
- Leaving out the beginning of the sentence: “… in Finland, Estonia or Poland, success in school depends little on family origin.” (Prokop, 2020, p. 69)
- Leaving out the middle: “Completed education in the Czech Republic is very dependent on the socio-economic status of the family in which the child is raised. (…) in Finland, Estonia or Poland, success in school depends little on family origin.” (Prokop, 2020, p. 69)
- Leaving out the end of the sentence: “Completed education in the Czech Republic is very dependent on the socio-economic status of the family…” (Prokop, 2020, p. 69)
- Citations that are longer than two lines should be written as a paragraph in a smaller font.
A tip for beginning writers:
Set a limit for direction citations in your text. For example, this can be two direct citations at a maximum length of two sentences for a five-page term paper. This is only for training purposes so you learn to express your own ideas and paraphrase. There can be papers in which you’ll want to cite more often in order to point out various facts.
Citing “from writing to reading”
We can create another category for working with literature. We approach this category in the opposite manner, i.e. not from already-read literature that we weave into a text, but the other way around. We write and find out that we should add something. We should also be careful here when carrying out the final revision of the text.
Mentioning and referring
Referring to “used” information has broader significance. We’re not only referring to information that we’ve specifically used, e.g. the result of specific research or the thoughts of an author, but also to information and authors that we mention and to sources that have inspired us or ones we’ve taken a position against. We refer to information or authors that we want to make more visible as they are a linking and elaborative source for readers.
What does this look like?
In the Czech Republic, several universities are studying technologies in education, for example Brno’s Masaryk University (KISK MUNI, 2020).
Furthermore, it’s necessary to look out for areas that aren’t substantiated. When we’re studying something, some things might soon seem “clear” to us, but lo and behold – we’ve left a hole in the text in the form of a speculation that we haven’t substantiated in any way.
What does this look like?
While writing a paper, we’ve studied up and have written the following:
Information on completed education and its relationship to family background can be taken from research reports.
“I guess we could”, says the reader. But from which ones? Here it’s suitable to add examples of the research studies that we’re talking about. Otherwise we’ll seem unreliable, and those research reports don’t even necessarily have to exist if we don’t prove it.
Information on completed education and its relationship to family background can be taken from research reports (see e.g. PISA, 2016).
Both cases are in fact just citations of the first type above in disguise. The problem is that they like to hide while we’re writing. Therefore, it’s necessary to create a habit in which we add additional citation references even after finishing our text.