How to Signal When You Are Borrowing the Words and Ideas of Other Writers

In order not to plagiarize, you must clearly signal when you are using words borrowed from another writer.

Eric Drown
Jan 9, 2014 · 2 min read

In order not to plagiarize, you must clearly signal when you are using words borrowed from another writer. How do you do this? First, be sure to enclose any words that you borrow from another writer in quotation marks. Second, use signal phrases to show that the ideas and words you are conveying originate with another writer.

The simplest signal phrases look like the ones below:

· According to _____, “…” (#). Direct quote

· As _____ claims, … (#). Paraphrase

· _____ argues, “…” (#). Direct quote

· In an article titled “____” sociologist _____ examines … (#).

Use signal phrases when you are summarizing or paraphrasing other writers’ ideas as well as when you are quoting them directly. While this form meets basic requirements, you should try to use attributional phrases in a more sophisticated manner as soon as possible.

Besides acknowledging authorship, signal phrases often give information about the writer’s expertise and authority to write about her subject:

According to pop culture analyst Liz Colville, “We give ourselves anxiety trying to decipher the tone of a text or the meaning of a tweet’s punctuation. Some relationships thrive online, only to be dismantled by awkwardness over dinner. Technology encourages us to be bold, but traditional social interaction leave us feeling awkward” (n.p.).

Works Cited Entry: Coleville, Liz. “Surfing Alone: Is Digital Technology Destroying Relationships?” Pop Matters. N.p. 15 June 2009. Web. 13 April 2012. http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/94800-surfing-alone-is-digital-technology-destroying-relationships/

It is important that you do not allow quoted passages to stand alone as complete sentences. Instead always embed quoted passages in sentences of your own composition, preferably ones that go beyond simple attribution to provide context to your readers:

In an article asking whether digital technology is undermining face-to-face relationships, pop culture writer Liz Colville explains that our devotion to digital communication may be eroding our willingness to invest in fully-embodied relationships: “Technology has established it as a luxury, rather than a disorder, that we do not as often have to deal with the physicality of people—to watch and be watched as facial expressions and body language unfold in reaction to words. Instead, we stare at phones and bring our laptops to bed” (n.p.).

Finally, provide readers with an in-text citation containing abbreviated publication information. All of our citation examples so far have included such a reference in parentheses at the end of the sentence containing the quoted passage. In MLA, parenthetical references include the author’s last name (when not included in an attributional phrase) and the page number where the passage appears.

110 Seconds from Now

what should we think about today….?

110 Seconds from Now

what should we think about today….? (cultural criticism from the ne(x)t gen) — The views represented here are those of each author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the editor. Want to write for us? Tweet @EricDrown.

Eric Drown

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110 Seconds from Now

what should we think about today….? (cultural criticism from the ne(x)t gen) — The views represented here are those of each author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the editor. Want to write for us? Tweet @EricDrown.

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