Integration Tips in Preparation for Peer Editing or Editing

The following comments can be applied either to one’s paper or others’ work.  Each challenge appears enough that it is worth noting generally.

We shouldn’t be seeing many quotes at the starts or ends of paragraphs for the obvious reason that they would not get integrated.

You’re not complimenting a reader’s intelligence if you define, say, drug use or what a computer game is.  That would be filler.

Sometimes, students pad papers by overusing long quotes.  Avoid this.  Those quotes are rarely that well-worded.  Mostly, they are used for filler.  Summarize so you can set up interpretations and commentary instead..

Consider that the default source use option isn’t quoting, but paraphrase.  With that in mind, we should see drafts which contain paraphrases.


Topic Sentences Related to the Thesis?  Where are These Legendary Creatures? 

Early in semesters, students get caught deferring—passively letting sources take over—far too much.  I cannot tell what your topic sentences are, much less the causes—even much less the ways that those causes relate to the claim you are making.  Partly, this is because the thesis statements were too broad and didn’t argue much.  A valid thesis must be an arguable opinion about which others may disagree.  It’s not a fact.  If the claim you’re working with is one on which a book could be based, it’s too broad!

Consider recognizing the boring, obvious causes outright in your introduction, but then pivoting to make some claim about lesser-known causes that must be known if the topic is to be understood properly.  You provide those lesser-known causes while acknowledging the ones most other people immediately think about.  Again, show that you know how to get beyond the obvious.  (Read a few papers and see if anyone’s causes taught you anything or were surprising in how they were combined with the other causes.)  The claims must change so that you show how the causes work together—which are relatively more or less important.

Oh, and add transitions . . . . there ought to be a logic that you provide to readers as to how the causes are ordered.  Causes being time-based, that should be easy, but you can focus on importance as well.  Not all causes are equally important, so not all causes get equal attention.


Setup is Something Critical Readers Expect

Provide a signal phrase.  It’s a must.  Readers need to know that you know why a source is valid.  Don’t just name drop.  If you say that Robinson says _____ about video games, who are good readers to care about Robinson yet?  The yet is the key.  It’s for you to establish.  Use a signal phrase that does this.

  • Save author’s name for the in-text citation if there’s no page to put in there, as there wouldn’t be a page with a HTML database article or a website.  There would be a page for a book or PDF article.
  • Establish the credentials and context in a signal phrase.  Example: In his acclaimed 1991 book on Africa’s migration crisis, Harvard researcher Tudo Bom notes

That example has time, status, context, and name all folded in.  See how much better this is than “cold quoting”—starting a sentence with a quote.  If you compound the problem by not following up with any interpretation, readers are checked out and your impressive quote has utterly backfired.  This is what we expect at the college level.


Interpretation: Comment to Varying Extents and Adopt Tones

Readers are less interested in a quote than in what the writer does with it.

Do more writing around the quote (signal phrase, interpretation) than the quote is long.  If you can start there, you might have an integrated paragraph.  There are writing moves that ought to occur after a quote.

Statistics and misleadingly vivid, atypical cases got overused in too many people’s drafts.  Instead of marshaling support for your side, they erode credibility.

“In other words,” is a common after-citation move.

Relate the cited material to the topic sentence and/or the thesis claim.  Do something afterwards!

In no case should I be seeing over 60% of any paragraph coming from sources.  (Summaries, remember, are from “them” and are theirs.)

These are not skill-based issues, folks.  They are attentiveness challenges.  We are overlooking the basics and filling space.  Having errors like the extra spaces in the heading, around the title, between paragraphs, etc., will lead to automatic letter-grade deductions by most instructors. The topics will become more arguable if you break them down.

Why not note that “In discussions of the supposed link between video games and violence, television media have tended to suppose _______ and ______; this paper instead focuses on ________.”  Set apart your paper.  In my example, too, you’ll see that some people in D1 entirely mistook the purpose and ended up supporting those mistaken media presumptions rather than arguing anything of their own.

Think about what you think here.  Read aloud the work you have.  You’ll notice gaps in logic, areas needing transitions, and unfounded presumptions needing reworking.  You can do it!