This section of The Craft of Research deals with the drafting process, which to me is so intimidating that I sometimes forgo it altogether. (I know! So terrible.) With an undertaking this large, though, I understand the necessity of clearing the pipes, so to speak, before anything useful comes through.
That being said, let’s see what Booth and his friends think about drafting. (Although, looking at the quotes I selected now, I’m realizing that this is more about properly citing sources, which isn’t something I have to do for this draft. Shh, just go with it.)
But evidence never speaks for itself, especially not long quotations or complex sets of numbers. You must speak for such evidence by introducing it with a sentence stating what you want your readers to get out of it.
First of all, let me say how relieved I am that I don’t have to introduce “complex sets of numbers,” because that would be terrible. That being said, this is something to important to keep in mind when using any type of source or data. I mean, the idea behind using others’ work is that you want it to be meaningful in the frame of your argument, so if you’re quoting something important and your reader says, “So what?”, that’s a huge problem. The book uses a great example on page 191 (I won’t reproduce it here because it’s rather long), showing exactly how vague introductions to quotes leave the argument unproven and frustrating to the reader.
If the person you borrowed from read your report, would she recognize your words or ideas as her own, including paraphrases, summaries, or even general ideas or methods? If so, you must cite that source and enclose any of her exact words in quotation marks or set them off in a block quotation. No exceptions, no excuses.
Plagiarism is scary stuff, and it’s something about which I’m extremely paranoid. For me, the idea of imagining your sources reading your work really resonates with me, and that makes it easier to identify what needs citing. Honestly, I tend to over-cite–maybe I get exCITEd when I’m doing research (in the distance, an angry mob of pun-haters gathers), but imagining an author of a source reading my draft gives me a strong sense of what needs to be cited and what is more common knowledge in the field.
Now the only thing left to do is start the first draft of my primary analysis… and to outrun all these people with pitchforks trying to break down my door.