On Working with the Words of Others

In the “On Working with the Words of Others” essay in Habits of the Creative Mind, Miller and Jurecic encourage novice writers to notice how experienced writers use sources for specific purposes. In order to become more fluent in the foundation academic Discourses you’re apprenticing in during your first two years of undergrad, and therefore to be recognized as emerging members of the Discourse, you should go beyond noticing how experience writers use sources, and start using sources the same way.  With practice, their ways of using sources will become your ways, and you’ll be able to integrate your own ideas with others’.

Six ways experienced writers use sources:

  • as background
  • as the focus of analysis
  • to introduce key ideas or concepts that they use to analyze and interpret phenomena*
  • to provide a position or argument to build on or wrestle with*
  • to shift the direction of the conversation*
  • to introduce new perspectives*

*The asterisk indicates more sophisticated uses of sources. fluent use of which will enable other academics to recognize you as a fellow fluent member of the Academic Discourse.  Restricting your use of sources to background or focus of analysis uses will mark you as a beginner in or pretender to Academic Discourse. Whether you’re acquiring Academic Discourse or mushfaking it, you’ll need to use sources in all five of these ways to gain the social goods that Academic Discourse has to dispense.

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