Bringing Sources into the Conversation

Learning Objective

  • Identify the five components of the “source sandwich”

A good way to begin thinking about how to integrate source material into a paper is to consider how we integrate sources into a conversation.  When you’re discussing a topic in person with a few friends, you might make references to outside sources with phrases like these:

“When I was watching the news, I heard them say that . . . I read in the newspaper that . . . John told me that . . . .”

Notice how we automatically shape our sentences to work source references into the flow of conversation. Think about this next time you try to work a source into a piece of writing: if you were speaking this aloud in conversation, how would you introduce the material to your listeners? What information would you give them to help them understand who the author was and why his or her views were worth referencing? After giving the information, how would you then link it back to the point you were trying to make? Just as you would do this in a conversation if you found it necessary to refer to an outside source, you also need to do this in your writing.

Whether you use a direct quotation, a summary, or a paraphrase, it is important to distinguish source material from your own ideas and to explain how the cited source fits into your argument. You can think of this process as a sandwich with multiple parts. You’ll want to: transition into and introduce the source, use a signal phrase to actually move into the material from the source, provide a citation that can be easily connected to the full citation material in your bibliography or works cited list, and explain how this material fits into your argument. This pattern, or convention, of source integration is sometimes called a “source sandwich.”  An illustration of the “source sandwich” appears below.

The Source sandwich

 Transition and Introduction In order to use a new source effectively, you should begin the paragraph in which you will use it with a clear transition from the paragraph that precedes it. This transition should serve both to integrate the new material with the rest of your paper and introduce the new source material.
 Signal Phrase  A signal phrase is an action verb phrase that connects the source’s author with its content.
 Quotastion, Paraphrase, or Summary The source’s content comes after the signal phrase. This content can be summary, paraphrase, or direct quotation.
 Citation The in-text citation connects the body of your paper with the references page and identifies the source in relation to the references page.
 Explanation of the Material's Relevance The explanation of the source content’s relevance is your synthesis or analysis of the content and an illustration that shows how it relates to your own work.

Use the source sandwich convention to integrate material from sources into your own writing so that your readers will understand the material’s importance and purpose. The activity below will provide practice in constructing a source sandwich. Read the passage about “mindful me” rooms in elementary schools and answer the questions that follow.


Read the following passage and answer the questions below.

Reflective practice has also started to replace detention in schools across the country. Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is one of the first to adopt this method. As of 2014, this school has had no suspensions. When students fight or misbehave, they are sent to a “mindful me” room instead of the principal’s office, and they learn to peacefully solve these conflicts themselves (Khorsandi). Administrators at the school claim to have seen a marked improvement in student behavior.  Coleman Principal Carillian Thompson explains, “The mindfulness practices have actually taught the students how to redirect that negative energy into something positive” (Khorsandi). The changes have resulted in more focus on academics and extracurricular activities at Coleman, which has made parents in the district happy.  In fact, many parents have switched their thinking from once believing punitive measures are necessary to modify children’s behaviors to now seeing reflective practices as meaningful alternatives to detention.


Use the feedback you got from working through the practice activity to work through the self-check quiz on the next page.