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Use Scholarly Articles and Books as References: How to Read for References and Citations

A short list of ways you can use scholarly articles and books as references in your academic writing

How to Read for References and Citations

Flower (1990) describes three reading strategies employed by students in assimilating scientific literature for academic text production. These are termed ‘gist and list’, ‘TIA’ (True, Important and I Agree) and ‘dialogue’.

The ‘gist and list’ strategy is characterized as follows: ‘‘The writer goes through the text looking for the main points, finds an idea or term that links them, and uses that to organize the text’’(Flower, 1990: 235). This approach is even taught at school. It is strongly text oriented, permits fast and efficient work, keeps close to the text, and thus allows rapid progress for the reader.

The ‘TIA’ strategy, in contrast, is oriented to the reader’s individual interest . The text is processed through a special evaluative filter. Reading is determined less by the text and its rhythm than by the readers’ (existing) knowledge and their attitudes, assumptions, motivation, and interest. ‘‘TIA is an effective method for selecting the ideas you like, already know about, and could write on—and for deleting the rest’’ (Flower, 1990: 235). The advantage of this method is that it leads to ideas which can be used to organize one’s own text and further developed there. A major limitation of the strategy, on the other hand, is that the readers tend to learn little new.

Only the ‘dialogue’ strategy promises a real gain in knowledge, combining as it does the first two forms of text assimilation mentioned. ‘‘By questioning what the text means, the writer using the dialogue strategy begins to move toward a qualified, negotiated understanding of the ideas in question (Flower, 1990: 236). Whereas the‘gist and list’ and the ‘TIA’ strategies primarily help the users to organize their knowledge or reorganize existing knowledge, the ‘dialogue’ strategy supports a modification of knowledge (in the sense of ‘knowledge transforming’). The dialogue may take different forms. Flower (1990: 237) mentions the following variants:


1. Comparing statements by authorities in the source text: ‘‘This one says X and/but that one says Y.’’


2. Elaborating statements in the source text: ‘‘Building on a TIA response, the student goes on to extend or elaborate the source’s meaning with an inference, an example, or a reason (a supportive dialogue).’’


3. Contextualizing ideas: The reader develops a scenario or an instance for an idea, or a hypotheticalsituati on in which the idea has to prove itself. ‘‘As a result of these contextualizing dialogues, readers end up adding qualifications to their own ideas or to those of the supposed authorities. They start seeing claims as conditional.


4. A combination of (1), (2), and (3).


In the course of an academic career, an individual develops the ability to enter into a dialogue with other opinions. In the most elaborated form, other opinions are examined with respect to their tenability, and positions are reassessed, discarded, and/or followed up on.

Reading-to-write : exploring a cognitive and social process / Linda Flower ... [et al.]. New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.

Jakobs, M. Reproductive writing-writing from sources. Journal of Pragmatics, Volume 35, Number 6, June 2003, pp. 893-906(14) doi:10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00124-8