Writing with sources

Good academic writing is supported with evidence to back up any claims being made. When incorporating evidence into your writing, it needs to be well linked, relevant, and you have to explain what it shows.

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources.

Your own voice

Start from the points you want to make, not by patchworking together all the good ideas and quotes you’ve read. If you start from your points, your voice won’t get lost. See this video with examples of where your own voice comes in:

Incorporating sources

Integrating sources into your writing involves choosing whether to paraphrase or quote, and how to introduce, link, and interpret the evidence. Look at this overview of how to include evidence well, and this bank of useful phrases for referring to sources:

Using reporting verbs

The language you use when introducing the ideas of other people indicates what you think about that source. For example, the verb ‘speculates’ in the phrase, ‘Ahmed (2021) speculates that wearing green shoes is illegal’ suggests you think their evidence for this claim is weak and possibly based on guesswork. Compare this with the effect of using the verb ‘demonstrates’. Your choice of reporting verb is a key way of expressing your voice in your writing. See this list of more reporting verbs and the stances they signal:

Quotations or paraphrases?

The decision whether to quote or paraphrase is important. Generally only use a direct quotation when you need to focus on the exact words the author used. If you find you are quoting a lot because you’re not confident with paraphrasing, make it a target to develop your paraphrasing skills. See our pages for more on when to quote and how to paraphrase:


Sometimes people are so concerned with the need to include evidence, that they just find anything related to the general topic and put that in. Stop and consider: Why are you including the evidence? How does it relate specifically to the point you are making? Do you fully understand the evidence? If you can’t answer any of these questions, take time to understand the evidence or find something more suitable. Look at this example and exercises on relevance in writing: