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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Writing WHST.9-10.8

Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate the information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Set the Stage

Yikes; that’s a hefty list. This standard asks students to determine the quality of their sources, integrate source material effectively, and cite sources properly. Let’s break this thing down.

Students need to:

  • Gather relevant info – So you’ll need to discuss what constitutes relevant research for a given topic.
  • Use multiple print and digital sources – So you’ll want to require a variety of source material and discuss both library and Internet research techniques.
  • Use advanced searches effectively – This is an important skill that often gets skipped over. Spend some time teaching students how to use search terms and search fields effectively to find exactly the information they need.
  • Assess the usefulness of sources – Students have a tendency to allow the research to direct them (often right off their topic), rather than directing the research themselves. Before students get excited about using a source, they need to assess whether that source actually does help them answer their research question. If it’s not quite on point, they should keep looking.
  • Integrate source information without disrupting flow – So you’ll want to model some strategies for good source integration, including when to summarize and paraphrase, and how to cut or shorten quotes and shape original sentences around them for seamless syntax.
  • Cite sources properly – So you’ll want to spend time discussing proper citation style for your discipline, especially since it may be different from the citation rules students are learning in English class.

Example

Dress Rehearsal

Your teacher’s latest torture device, better known as a writing assignment, is to research a topic of your choosing in order to define and describe a process. You’ve chosen to explore the amazing world of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. At your computer, you type “DNA” into a search engine, but unfortunately, just over 373 million websites mention the term. Yikes!

Try another approach. To refine your search, you use the advanced search option, which excludes and includes certain criteria. You might limit the results by date, type of document, or by where the term is found, such as in the title only. You can also use this feature to search only specific websites that you know are credible. This strategy helps you get right to the good stuff.

In a video segment titled “DNA Structure” by Patrick Roisen, an AP Biology teacher, you learn that “the building blocks of DNA are nucleotides with three basic components: a phosphate group with a negative charge; a pentose sugar of five carbons; and a base composed of nitrogen. The phosphate and carbons are arranged in strands; the sequence of nitrogenous bases determines the genetic code. A molecule of DNA is made up of two strands known as the double helix. The strands are held together by the hydrogen bonds between the nitrogenous bases in an anti-parallel arrangement.” This information supports what your textbook explained about the structure of DNA. Got it? Not so much?

An image found on the Internet gives you a better picture of what a double-helix looks like:

Oh, why didn’t they just say that?

Are these sources reliable, accurate, and credible? Can you use them in a research-based project? You decide to look into the authors to be sure. An analysis of each determines that Roisen has been a science teacher for 16 years; Freundenrich has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a PhD in physiology; and the five authors of your textbook (published by National Geographic), Alton Briggs (high school biology teacher), Peter Rillero (Professor of Science Education with ASU since 1994), Lucy Daniel (educational consultant for Rutherford County Schools, North Carolina), Edward Paul Ortleb (science consultant, St. Louis, MO) and Dinah Zike (educational consultant, San Antonio, TX) are degreed and experienced writers of science. They’ve got more degrees than a Fahrenheit thermometer!

Since the authors of the information are all experts in their fields, you determine that they are credible and reliable sources, certain to be giving accurate information. The information given here is appropriate for your project since they all address the structure of DNA. The information is also current which is important for science topics. Now it’s time to analyze the information in order to draw conclusions about what it all means and why it matters. This is what makes the paper yours. Yep, all yours.

In writing your report, it will be necessary to give credit to these sources for their ideas and information. Even if you paraphrase or summarize, you must cite where those facts and ideas originated. Finally, be sure to use quotation marks around material that is exactly as written in the source, even if it’s only a phrase or part of a sentence.

Following these steps will help you avoid plagiarism, taking credit for someone else’s work. You know, the act that earns you a zero in the grade book and an uncomfortable meeting with your mother. Follow the rules about MLA or APA formatting of parenthetical references and your bibliography or works cited page

Sources:

Biggs, Alton, et al. Biology. McGraw Hill: New York, 2009.

“DNA Structure.” Biology. Cosmo Learning, 2007-2011. Web. 25 May 2012.
http://www.cosmolearning.com/video-lectures/dna-structure-12369.

Freundenrich, Craig, Ph.D. “How DNA Works.” How Stuff Works. How Stuff Works, Inc., 2012. Web. 25 May 2012. http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/cellularmicroscopic/dna1.htm.

That’s a Wrap

Because sources are important in the development of sound essays and arguments, students must be able to confidently use information that is accurate and credible. You’ve given them the basics on how to analyze sources, and they also understand the importance of proper citations in avoiding plagiarism. Now they can replicate that every time.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

True/False

Mark (T) for statements that are true and (F) for statements that are false.

  1. Putting quotations marks around exact words and phrases is giving credit to another source.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). The use of quotation marks in writing can mean a lot of different things; identifying source material is only one use for quotation marks, but the punctuation alone doesn’t do the job. You also need to identify your source through a parenthetical citation or footnote—whichever is appropriate for the citation style you’re using.


  2. Only information that is relevant to the topic should be used in your writing.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). No kidding; that was an easy one.


  3. As long as a person has a doctorate degree, the information is accurate.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). You might like to believe so, but it’s not true. There are no guarantees that a piece of information is accurate based solely on one source because anyone can be mistaken. The best way to verify source material is to have more than one credible source that gives the same information. That’s one reason your teachers require multiple sources for research papers. See? It isn’t just to torture you.


  4. An essay is more than just cutting and pasting information from a variety of sources.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Hopefully you know this is true. The most important part of any paper is your ideas, your thinking, and your interpretations of the researched material. Cutting and pasting tons of source material to meet your research and page requirement is lazy writing, and your teacher will spot it every time. We promise.


  5. Information from sources can be textual, visual, audio, and graphic.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Source material can be in any format so long as it’s providing credible facts.


  6. A parenthetical reference is the only way to cite a source.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). Nope. You may think so if you’ve only ever used MLA style, but there are other citation styles out there and you will probably encounter them at some point in your non-English classes.


  7. In an advanced search, you determine exclusions and inclusions of relevant sources.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Advanced searches allow you to be more selective about the information that your search returns by choosing to include or exclude certain types of documents. If you are having trouble finding the right kind of info for your research, try one of these guys out.


  8. The skill of inserting quotations into your writing can be learned.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Of course. Everything can be learned; why else would you be in school?


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