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An Example of Proper Writing from a Student Research Paper

Bob Harbort and Bob Brown
School of Computing and Software Engineering
Southern Polytechnic State University
Copyright © 2004

Students are sometimes confused about the proper mix of original work and material (with citations) from outside sources that is appropriate in academic writing assignments. This can lead to problems ranging from a bad grade on the assignment to a charge of plagiarism. In the example below, we consider in detail an example of a properly written paragraph from an actual student paper (used with the permission of its author) on technical aspects of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This is only a general guide to good academic writing; the format shown is similar to the the APA reference format. Each student should make sure to understand the instructor's specific requirements in any specific writing assignment.

The general rule is that you use citations and, where necessary, quotation marks in the body of your work to show where you have used the words and ideas of others. You provide references at the end of the work to allow others to find the information you used. The differences for different classes will be in the form by which you show this information, not in whether to include it.

Here is the example paragraph; the references cited in it are included below the line of asterisks:

The HIPAA rules provide for civil and criminal penalties for misuse or disclosure of protected health information. There may also be a right of individual action if a covered entity fails to comply with its own published notices of information practices (Christiansen, 2000). As Margret Amatayakul writes, “The healthcare industry will be left to establish its own baseline, and will likely be judged on the basis of ‘common practice’ within the framework of the rules” (Amatayakul, 2000). These common practices establish a standard of care against which health care institutions will likely be measured. Health care institutions must not assume that compliance with the HIPAA security rule will automatically offer the protections needed for compliance with the privacy rule. The privacy rule applies to all protected health information, but the security rule applies only to electronic protected health information (Gardner Carton & Douglas LLP, 2003).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

References

Christiansen, J. (2000). Electronic Health Information: Privacy and Security Compliance under HIPAA, Washington, DC., American Health Lawyers Association.

Amatayakul, M. (2000). “Security measures required for HIPAA privacy,” Journal of Healthcare Information Management, 14-4, (5-13).

Gardner Carton & Douglas LLP (2003). Final HIPAA Security Regulations (Client Memorandum) retrieved November 20, 2003 from HIMSS Web site: http://www.himss.org/content/files/FinalHIPAASecurityRegs.pdf


Let's look at this in some detail and see what the various parts are.

Introductory sentence written by the student:
The HIPAA rules provide for civil and criminal penalties for misuse or disclosure of protected health information.

Sentence containing a specific fact, with the source of the fact cited:
There may also be a right of individual action if a covered entity fails to comply with its own published notices of information practices (Christiansen, 2000).

Direct quote from another source, marked with quotation marks and with the source cited:
As Margret Amatayakul writes, “The healthcare industry will be left to establish its own baseline, and will likely be judged on the basis of ‘common practice’ within the framework of the rules” (Amatayakul, 2000).

Original work by the student giving an interpretation of the information so far:
These common practices establish a standard of care against which health care institutions will likely be measured. Health care institutions must not assume that compliance with the HIPAA security rule will automatically offer the protections needed for compliance with the privacy rule.

Another sentence containing a specific fact, with the source of the fact cited.
The privacy rule applies to all protected health information, but the security rule applies only to electronic protected health information (Gardner Carton & Douglas LLP, 2003).

The paragraph of text includes facts and quotes (always explicitly marked) from appropriate external sources, as well as original writing by the student giving a specific interpretation of the material. Both parts are essential. The proper use of external sources indicates that the student has become familiar with the subject and with what other people are saying about it. The contributions by the student demonstrate that this is not just a collection of other people's ideas, it also contains an element of organization of the outside ideas and an original interpretation of them to support the student's research thesis.

Now let's look at the references:

Christiansen, J. (2000). Electronic Health Information: Privacy and Security Compliance under HIPAA, Washington, DC., American Health Lawyers Association. [one correct form of citation for a book]

Amatayakul, M. (2000). “Security measures required for HIPAA privacy,” Journal of Healthcare Information Management, 14-4, (5-13). [one correct form of citation for a journal article]

Gardner Carton & Douglas LLP (2003). Final HIPAA Security Regulations (Client Memorandum) retrieved November 20, 2003 from HIMSS Web site: http://www.himss.org/content/files/FinalHIPAASecurityRegs.pdf [One correct form of citation for an Internet source. In this case, the document has a corporate author, the name of a law firm.]

In each case, the citation gives enough information for an interested reader to find the source. This includes the names of the authors, the date of publication, the location or origin of the published material, and any specifics needed to locate the item within a larger collection. The exact format of the bibliography entries in any specific case is determined by the requirements set out by the teacher who made the writing assignment.

In summary, a good piece of academic writing should include

  • material from external sources, used in enough depth to demonstrate that the student has become familiar with the subject, and with any direct use of another's words either marked with quotes or offset from the rest of the text;
  • original writing and organization of concepts by the student, to demonstrate the student's organization and interpretation of ideas;
  • proper and complete citations to the external sources used, to show their suitability to the topic and allow an interested person to find them for further study.

The student who produces an assignment which includes these components, subject to the specific style and formatting requirements of the instructor, will have achieved mastery of the material, and demonstrated that mastery to the instructor.

Colophon: The creation of this document involved several rounds of editing and benefited from critical comments by the authors' colleagues. The same is true of the student paper from which the example is taken. Student writers should expect to have to write, edit, and revise their work, and should take every opportunity to have it critiqued by their colleagues.

This document is available in a printer-friendly format:   http://bbrown.spsu.edu/papers/writing_example_apa.html

This document may be copied, reproduced, redistributed or republished without payment of royalty provided it is copied unchanged, including preserving the authors' names, the copyright notice, and this notice. If you are using An Example of Proper Writing from a Student Research Paper in a formal program, the authors would appreciate a note.


Creative Commons License
Copyright © 2004 by Bob Brown. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Originally published: 2004-08-18
Last update:

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