How to Confidently Refer to Other Texts in Your Writing – TUB-Thump 014


Talking about other people, concepts, and theories in your coursework doesn’t need to be difficult. But it does need getting your head around.

That’s why Episode 014 of TUB-Thump is a quick-fire round of advice on how to confidently refer to others as you write. And you’ll get my take on what it really means to be original in your writing.

I’ve even got a bell to identify each of the points as I whizz along. What’s not to like?

That said, I was clearly too near the mic in today’s edition of the show, and I said “put” far too many times…a lethal combination! Bonus game: count how many times I annoy the mic by making a P sound.


Here are the show notes for the 7-min episode:

  • 00:50 – Originality in your writing isn’t about creating brand new theories and ideas. It’s generally about bringing your voice to what’s already out there and casting your own mark on it. That means referring to other people, other theories, and other works.
  • 01:10 – Explain in your own words.
  • 01:50 – Get the meaning/explanation right when putting it in your own words.
  • 02:10 – Use a direct quotation when making a powerful point or their specific words matter.
  • 03:00 – Don’t spend too long describing in your own words. Distil it so you make the point, then get on with your own point.
  • 03:40 – Refer to a range of texts. Don’t focus too much on a limited number of sources.
  • 04:15 – Let your voice shine through.
  • 04:40 – Make all your references abundantly clear. The most annoying thing is accidental plagiarism (useful video from the University of Reading below).

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Standing out and finding success

When the economy is in trouble and the job market isn’t brilliant, a standard choice for many is to stay in education (or return to it) and take a higher qualification.

Getting another shiny new piece of paper that sets you above the rest seems like a good idea.

But how distinctive is it really?

photo by Mike Bailey-Gates

photo by Mike Bailey-Gates

BBC’s Director of the North, Peter Salmon, spoke to students at Edge Hill University recently about opportunities and finding success.  He said something that may lead you to question why another qualification isn’t necessarily enough to truly make you stand out:

“You have to be able to develop your own voice and make yourself distinctive and ask yourself how far you’re prepared to go to make it.”

The sentence may appear quite vague and difficult to achieve, but there’s a deeper point here.  Another BBC employee, the head of editorial development, Pete Clifton, said to Salford students:

“When somebody like me looks at job applications, I’ve got to come up with a way of distinguishing between people. One of those ways is if they’ve got a link to what they’ve done. If I can go away and look at it and see it’s good quality then they’re probably going to have a chance.

“This is why you should think about ways in which to showcase what you do.”

What makes you tick? Where have you made a difference? What can you show off right now?

The main point here is that you can start being distinctive right now.  You don’t need to wait for someone to give you a green light and permission to shine. And you don’t always need to rely on another qualification just to look better on paper.

If you want to do more study, great!  If you simply want to use that study as a gateway to distinction, start thinking about the other gateways out there.  There are more than you think.

Qualifications support your quest for future success.  But you are the driver.  How far are you prepared to go to make it?

20/20 – Day 2: 20 ways to find your own voice

“I am not saying that I have completely found my voice. I see it more as a journey. We are all on the same path. Some of us are further along than others. The important factor is to be consistent and keep writing. You will run into frustrations for the rest of your life, so keep your eyes on the long-term.” – Henri Junttila writing on kikolani.com

For all the help out there, most advice is on the right way of doing something, or the best way of succeeding.  But that help can also bog you down so you stop listening to yourself.

For instance, these 20 lists of 20 that I’m writing will not be to the liking of some writers who dislike list articles and suggest it’s not a good way forward.

But if I had listened to that advice, I wouldn’t be publishing 20 blog posts and I’d miss out on offering some of this advice.  On the other hand, if I listened to that advice, I’d then be ignoring the people who heartily encourage list articles.

Advice is something you can choose to listen to or ignore.  It’s advice, not an order.  Take in the advice you want, stir it all up, add your own ideas, and do what makes you feel comfortable.  Here are some ways to go about finding the magic:

  1. Stop caring about others. They don’t matter when you’re searching for what makes you tick.
  2. Don’t try to emulate someone else. It’s a trap. You want to catch a style that you like, which means you stop developing your own style.
  3. Enjoy the process. It’s not meant to be a chore. The search is meant to create excitement and give you all sorts of positivity for the future.
  4. Experiment. Take chances, be playful. If you don’t, you can’t surprise yourself and you’ll get nowhere.
  5. If feasible, publish your output in a blog or similar. Public output helps focus what you’re doing. It doesn’t always work, but it can be the kick you need.
  6. Don’t expect anything. You won’t know what to expect until you find it. It can take years before you’re satisfied that your own voice can be heard.  I’m sure many never find it.  At least you’re looking, which is a major start. Just let the process grow organically.
  7. Stop taking it personally. You are you. That’s a good thing.
  8. Don’t hide behind a front. No matter how comfortable you feel putting on a front, it’s still not you.  If you’re serious about finding the true you, throw the fake attitude away.  The moment you hide is the moment you’ll stop being heard at your best.
  9. Devour more from other people.  How does it make you feel? You can only develop a unique voice when you listen to other voices.
  10. Keep going. Persevere.
  11. Acknowledge that even original work may not be your true voice. There’s a difference between you being you and you being original.  If all you crave is originality, you don’t need to take such a wild journey.
  12. Write on different topics. Who knows what you’ll stumble upon?
  13. Use different styles. Same reason as above.
  14. Be prepared to throw away a lot of material. Whether you write, paint, or sculpt, you’re on a learning curve.  That said, you don’t need to actually throw stuff away.  A lot of it will probably be useful even if it’s not ‘your voice‘!
  15. Ask “What do I want to use my voice for?”
  16. Finding your voice is about more than confident writing, success and original output.  You can find success and create amazing works without catching the intensely personal spark of ‘voice’. ‘Voice’ is an ambiguous term, so be careful to know what you want here.  Do you crave something more personal? Like, really crave it? If that’s not the point, you might as well focus on more important things.
  17. Don’t stop searching until you’re totally satisfied. For some, it means finding what works and striving to give it even more clarity and zest.
  18. Don’t stop once you are satisfied. You’ve found what works, you’ve developed to a tee, now there’s nothing more to do, right?  Wrong. There’s always something to do. If you drop your guard and work to old standards, you’re working to formula.  At some point in time, you’ll be pushing out content that you don’t even believe in and you won’t even notice. Unless you don’t care at that stage, stay on your toes.
  19. Don’t feel constrained.  If you only need to make 19 points, don’t feel the need to make 20.
  20. Meh.

Okay, I’ll give you a Point 20. Because I want to:

  • Don’t listen to any of the advice I’ve given above. Finding your own voice is your job. You may find it when you least expect it, with the help of nobody but yourself. Happy searching!

Title image: original by tiffa130 (cc)  /  Bottom image: original by G|o®g|O (cc)