In academic writing, it is important to do research and include information from outside sources. However, you need to do more than just present the words and ideas of others. You need to add your own ideas, analysis, and interpretations.
This is important because if you only include information from outside sources, it is no longer your paper; it is just a summary of what others have stated. Remember that it is important to use research to support your ideas, not replace them.
How to tell if you have NOT added your own academic voice:
- If your paragraph is made up entirely of information from sources.
When you only quote or paraphrase in a paragraph, you have not added enough of your own voice. You should never have a paragraph that is made up entirely of quotes or paraphrased information. Body paragraphs should be a combination of information from sources and your own academic voice.
If your body paragraph begins or ends with a quote or paraphrase.
If you begin or end a paragraph with information from an outside source, then you haven’t properly introduced or explained the information in your own words. A body paragraph should always begin with a topic sentence that states what the paragraph is about and it should end with your own thoughts, ideas, interpretations, or analysis. Research is done so you can become more knowledgeable about your topic to develop your own analysis.
If you get a high Turnitin similarity score.
A high Turnitin score can indicate that you haven’t included enough of your own thoughts. A good rule of thumb is to include 2-3 sentences of explanation or analysis for every body paragraph.
Here is an example of a body paragraph where the student has only included information from sources. This is an example of “cut & paste” or “mash-up” writing.
How to Add your Own Academic Voice
Follow these best practices to help you incorporate your own thoughts and ideas into your writing:
1. Begin with a topic sentence that indicates the main point of the paragraph.
To help you write a strong topic sentence, try answering these questions:
- What is this paragraph about?
- What claim is being made in this paragraph?
- What will this paragraph prove or discuss?
2. Explain your topic further by adding evidence (statistics, expert opinion, research studies, or facts) and elaboration.
To help you elaborate, try answering questions like these:
- What research has been done?
- What have experts in the field stated?
- What statistics are available?
Remember: All information from outside sources must be cited (in-text and in your references list).
3. Add your own analysis, conclusions, or ideas.
To do this, ask yourself:
- Why is this information important, significant, or meaningful?
- How does this evidence relate to your thesis?
- What conclusions have you reached by doing the research you’ve included here?
- What is your interpretation of the research? How do you understand it?
Work toward paraphrasing information from your sources rather than directly quoting them. This allows you to provide your own understanding of the information and your own academic voice in communicating that information to your reader.