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Information Literacy


Once you have found some information sources, it is time to start thinking about how you will incorporate this information into your writing. According to the ACRL Framework for Higher Education, scholarship is a conversation: "Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occuring over time as a result of varied perspectives and intepretations." Academic writing is participating in this conversation. You listen to what other people have said on the subject before through searching for and reading sources, and then you add in your own voice in response.

Using Information from Sources: "They Say, I Say"

Graff and Birkenstein wrote a book called They Say, I Say, in which they give practical tips and templates for making your stance within the scholarly conversation clear.

"They Say"

When you use sources, you should generally start by referring to what the authors you have read in your research said ("They Say"). There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Direct Quote: you quote the material word-for-word and use “quotation marks” around the text. 
    • According to [author], "____."
  • Paraphrasing and Summarizing: you rephrase or restate ideas or concepts in your own words
    • [Author] argues that ____.

Regardless of which of these you choose, you should be sure to cite your sources so that your readers know who "they" are.

"I Say"

After stating the positions of others, you then include your own perspective on what they have said ("I say"). You may agree, disagree, or agree with some portions and disagree with others.  You may also compare/contrast your own experience and context with the experience and context of the authors, or provide other reactions. Here are some sentence stems you may use when introducing your own perspectives:

  • Agreeing:
    • "I agree that ____ because ______."
    • "[Author] stated _______. This matches my experience of ___________."
  • Disagreeing:
    • "[Author]'s claim that _____ rests on the questionable assumption that _____."
    • Author does not consider _______.
  • Both Agreeing and Disagreeing:
    • "Although I agree with [Author] that _____, I cannot accept their overriding assumption that ________."
    • "While [Author's] argument that _____ is strong, it fails to consider __________." 
    • Does not apply to this context because____.
  • Other Reactions:
    • "I was surprised to find that ___________, because ______________."

You can view some of Graff and Birkenstein's templates here.


Using Research/Theory to Justify Instructional Practices

Effective teachers identify the needs of their students, read research and theory on how to meet that need, and then use the research to inform their instructional decisions. 

One specific way that you may be asked to integrate research as a teacher is to defend an instructional strategy.  When you use research in this way, you must clearly connect the research to the strategy. Do not merely name-drop or describe a concept without making an explicit and well-developed connection between the theory/research and your instruction and your knowledge of your students. 

Be sure that you:

  • Name or describe the instructional move
  • Describe exactly how you used that instructional strategy in your classroom
  • Explain how research/theory supports your instructional move. Paraphrase or quote the research, and describe why it is relevant.

The following sentence stems may be helpful as you justify your instructional decision making with research:

  • Research by [author] suggests [paraphrase or quote the conclusions of the author]. With this in mind, I [describe how you used the strategy in your classroom]
  • The decision to [describe the strategy] was informed by [paraphrase or quote the research].
  • [Author] says [paraphrase or quote the conclusions of the author]. This influenced how I [describe how you used the strategy in your classroom]

Example 1:

Strategy: Visual Anchor

Research: Echevarria , J., Vogt , M.E. & Short , D. (2010 ). Making Content Comprehensible for Secondary English Learners: The SIOP®  Model. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Example: “One way I will support student learning of this initial goal is through visual anchors in the classroom. I created a chart for the classroom naming each device as we learn it with its definition and an example, called our Writer’s Toolbox. …. Research shows visual aids are a helpful tool for ELL scholars and can be beneficial for all students in reviewing and retaining new information (Echevarria, Vogt & Short 2010).”

Example 2:

Strategy: Connect Learning to Real World Situations

Research: Gay, G. (2010). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, & Practice (2nd Edition). New York: Teachers College Press

Example: “My students are also very motivated by examples relevant to their lives. As Geneva Gay states in Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, & Practice, culturally responsive teaching ‘builds bridges of meaningfulness between… academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities' (2010).  Many examples throughout the learning segment are real world situations these students encounter. For example, in the first question…”


Strategy: POW + TREE

Research: Harris, K. R., Graham, S., & Mason, L. H. (2003). "Self-regulated strategy development in the classroom: Part of a balanced approach to writing instruction for students with disabilities." Focus on Exceptional Children, 35(7), 1-16

Non-Example: I decided to implement the POW + TREE strategy during instruction.  The student will be given visuals with the use of kiniesthetic movements to help her internalize the components of a persuasive essay  (Harris, K. R., Graham, S., & Mason, L. H., 2003).

Why this is a non-example: While the author includes a citation, the research by Harris, Graham, & Mason was not paraphrased or quoted, and it is unclear how the research supports the strategy chosen.