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How to bring in past research

Writing about your research topic involves integrating past studies that are relevant to your own. You have two main options for this. You can choose to focus on:

  • what the research is about, or
  • who did the research

Each of these choices influence what your reader notices.

Alternative in-text citations highlighting what was said vs who said what

Focusing on ‘what’

One reason to focus on ‘what’ is to make the scope of the research clear. This helps your reader identify the broader research area which you can then narrow down to your own research area.

Example text demonstrating move from broader to narrower ideas

Above, the writer moves from the broad research area of candy consumption and gradually narrows to their own specific research area. The writer uses referencing to make clear who has done the research.

Focusing on ‘who’

One reason why you might focus on who is to identify influential researchers, including those who have made original, significant or recent research contributions.

Example text identifying influential researchers

You can show that different researchers have arrived at contrasting findings, and you can select significant and supporting studies to develop your argument.

Too much ‘who’

Early drafts can sometimes be hard to read because too much focus on ‘who’ makes the writing disjointed.

Example text with attributions highlighted

If you focus too much on ‘who’, your reader might not be able to follow what you are writing about and what your argument is.

Video (2.18)