Citing sources to demonstrate critical analysis

Citing sources is not just a mechanical process of making sure you acknowledge what you’ve read, but also an important mechanism for demonstrating depth of understanding and analysis. When you cite a source, you have the choice of two citation patterns :

  • Information-prominent (source at end in brackets)
  • Author prominent (source is at beginning or within sentence is brackets)

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules about when to use these patterns, there are some contexts where it is logical to use one or the other and this can help you to demonstrate critical analysis in your writing.

Information-prominent citation

When to use?

  • You want to focus on the information not the source in order to develop an argument OR
  • Multiple citations, where more than one writer is saying the same thing

How does it look?

Author's surname/name of organisation + date of publication at end of sentence in brackets, for example

  • ...(Smith 2009)
  • ...(Jones 2003, Smith 2014, Young 2007)
  • ...(Green et al 2012)
  • Inflation has fallen steadily over the last 18 months (RBS, 2016)

Information-prominent (IP) citations are often used when writers are presenting background information, for example in an introduction or when a writer is showing consensus of opinion

Author-prominent citation

When to use?

  • You want to provide research evidence for a specific perspective OR
  • You want to contrast perspectives

How does it look?

Author's name + (date) + reporting verb + paraphrase or direct quotation, for example ... Smith (2014) points out that citing is not simply a mechanical process of acknowledgement, but also an important mechanism for demonstrating depth of understanding and analysis

Have a look at the sample paragraphs in What makes a good paragraph for examples of how these citation formats are used.