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Attributive tags are short phrases that help you indicate that an idea in your writing comes from somewhere else. In other words, you "tag" ideas and other evidence to show that they should be attributed to outside sources. Attributive tags have some key benefits:
- They help you avoid being accused of plagiarism, since they ensure that you clearly indicate all paraphrased, summarized, and quoted material.
- They help your reader understand when outside evidence starts and stops.
- They help you establish the authority of your evidence, since they give you an opportunity to establish the credentials of your source.
Quotations which have been "dropped into" a paragraph with no in-text attribution are sometimes referred to as "orphan quotes," since they can often feel misplaced and unclearly related to the material around them. In general, avoid orphan quotes in your writing!
Choosing the Right Attributive Tag
There are lots of verbs that you can use in attributive tags, so choose one that works appropriately for your writing:
- Neutral tags: says, writes, claims, comments, notes, discusses
- Tags to suggest that an idea may not be fully accepted: contends, suggests, asserts, believes, proposes, speculates
- Tags that allow you to emphasize a source's key ideas: points out, emphasizes
- Tags for adding information to an idea you're establishing: adds, agrees, confirms
- Tags to introduce counter-arguments or alternate views: argues, disagrees, warns, contends
- Tags related to future actions/solutions: proposes, predicts, speculates
Below is an example of an "orphan quote" where evidence is dropped into a paragraph without the use of the proper attributive tag.
Many adults today believe that teenagers are uninterested in social activism. However, most adults fail to realize that activism is not dyinginstead, it is merely taking new forms. "Sixty percent of the 28,692 fans of the ‘Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus' Facebook page were between the ages of 13 and 18" (Johnson 268). Many adults think social activism still requires sit-ins and protests, but today's teens are finding different ways to support and create change.
Here is a revised version, with the quote properly integrated:
Many adults today believe that teenagers are uninterested in social activism. However, most adults fail to realize that activism is not dyinginstead, it is merely taking new forms. Technology, especially, provides a way for teens to participate in meaningful social change. For example, Bret Johnson, director of SPPNTO (Society for the Preservation of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus), points out that teens are huge supporters of current awareness campaigns; he notes that "sixty percent of the 28,692 fans of the ‘Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus' Facebook page [are] between the ages of 13 and 18" (268). Many adults think social activism still requires sit-ins and protests, but today's teens are finding different ways to support and create change.