Contributed by:


Intended Learning Outcome:

 To use citations to build an argument in academic writing


Students often find it hard to cite texts and use them to build their own argument. This exercise addresses this and gets them doing short writing exercises in the room. It can generate useful discussion of the topic as well as the writing process.

You may want to use this as an introduction into Harvard Referencing.


1. Before the session compile a list of quotes taken from sources related to your lesson. For example, comments on the music industry, releasing songs or how to interview a pop star.

2. Start the session with a brief discussion of the topic – maybe using an Essential Question.

3. Ask students to discuss what the following means to them:

“If you are quoting, try to break up long quotations with discussion, and do not depend for your argument on the plan and construction of the other author’s work – make those elements of their arguments you use fit in with your plan of argument – use theirs as illustrations, or points to argue with or against, setting up and pulling down points, and so on. Do not just fall into re-describing and paraphrasing, make it your own and, of course, reference it fully and carefully. Disputing and arguing with authorities is all part of developing your own contributions and ideas, as is agreeing with them. Do be careful to reference fully and so avoid any accusations of plagiarism.” (Wisker, 2001)

4. Students choose one of the quotes you gave them and use it to argue a point in a paragraph of 100-200 words. Ask them not to use the whole quote, but rather weave it into their argument.

5. Students read aloud their paragraph and discuss how they found writing it.



“Boardrooms once reverberated to people bellowing that failure was not an option, but in 2018 that’s not just a figure of speech. Acts who might once have gone AWOL are now going with AWAL. But for some artists, avoiding Dumperdom may simply be a stay of execution, and in many cases may not be ideal for mental health or longterm careers: it can’t be easy checking streaming stats each week in the way some people check their Lottery numbers, forever hoping that there’s a pot of $0.004 streams at the rainbow’s ungraspable end.” (Robinson, 2018)

This can be worked into an argument such as this:

Today, it is harder for artists to place themselves within the music industry. Self-releasing recordings doesn’t give the same exposure and feedback that the cut and thrust of signing to even a minor label would give. This can’t be good for mental health if, as Robinson (2018) says, we are ‘forever hoping that there’s a pot of $0.004 streams at the rainbow’s ungraspable end’. Receiving poor record sales was a reality check that maybe this isn’t a viable long term career. Being dropped by a record label and having to go back to small pub gigs and temping as the only option would be a clear point of reassessment. Where once record labels saw ‘failure as not an option’ (ibid.), failing on your own time and money is now a reality and many artists can carry on chasing the elusive dream.

Large Group Teaching:

With large groups, you can either run this as a solo activity, in pairs or small groups. You could have an initial group discussion and then write solo coming into small groups to read to each other and discuss how they found the process.

Online Teaching:


This is a powerful exercise to use when students haven’t written using references before and it generates lots of discussion about writing in general, paragraph construction and the difficulty of critiquing/building an argument.

Next Steps:

You can discuss critical thinking and how this generates questions to use in your writing. – See the READ Backwards TLA on the Plymouth Critical Thinking Model.

Links to other activities:

See the READ Backwards TLAs for setting up critical thinking:

READ Backwards –

READ Backwards Applied –

Further reading:

Wisker, G. (2001). The Postgraduate Research Handbook: Succeed with your MA, MPhil, EdD and PhD. Palgrave.

Robinson, P. (2018) ‘The music industry of 2018 is witnessing the end of failure’, Music Business Worldwide. Available at: (Accessed: 8 July 2019).



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *