Behind every good piece of writing is a good list of sources. As is the case in several aspects of life, we turn to our sources to gain knowledge, to make our arguments stronger, and sometimes, to enlighten others. When writing a piece of nonfiction—and more specifically, a piece of Christian non-fiction—external sources are crucial to achieving all of these things. As kingdom authors, you aim to be well-versed in your field, maintain a convincing voice, and of course, make an impact. Here are some Vine verified tips on the best, and most efficient ways to use your external sources:

"Don’t let your thoughts get lost in quotes."

  1. As a primary rule of thumb, make sure your sources are viable and credible. This is important because your readers are not only trusting you, but they are also trusting your supporting evidence that you utilize to strengthen your argument and/or points. You want to be sure that this evidence is reliable because it affirms the credibility of your argument (especially if your readers choose to refer to your sources on their own time—and don’t think they won’t!).
  2. Remember that this is supporting evidence, not primary evidence. In other words, these are not your ideas; they belong to someone else. So, it is important that you use your sources to strengthen your arguments—not to articulate them. One common mistake people make is beginning, and/or ending their paragraphs with quotes from an outside source. Unless you are sharing a particular Bible verse that you will spend the following paragraph analyzing, quotes that function as supporting evidence should not open or close your sections of writing. This is important because the first, and last lines of your paragraphs either introduce or solidify an idea; if quotes are used in either place, you run the risk of sounding unsure of your argument. Always begin and end your paragraphs in your own voice.
  3. Check with your style of formatting(MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) to make sure you are citing your sources correctly. This one goes without saying; different citation styles have different guidelines and rules, so be sure to check the necessary rulebook! Click the following links for additional information.
  4. Don’t overload. Again, these are not your ideas, and this should be clear to the reader. If you’re overloading with quotes from external sources, it’s hard for the reader to not only distinguish your voice from your sources, but it will also be difficult for them to discern your ideas and intent. Use your sources to bolster your claims, but don’t let your thoughts get lost in quotes.

"Credible arguments are best backed by credible sources."

Using outside sources in your writing is a great way to strengthen your claims—as long as you use these sources efficiently, and effectively.  First, remind yourself that credible arguments are best backed by credible sources. Second, remember that your sources should strengthen your claims, not equate them. And finally, remember that supporting evidence should never overpower your own work; its purpose is to aid the argument, not out-shadow it. As a writer, your voice should always be loud and clear in your writing; don’t let your sources cause any hiccups! #VineVerified

~Kara-Jianna Undag (Vine Publishing - Summer Intern).


Kara-Jianna Undag is one of Vine Publishing’s summer interns. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in both English and Chinese (double major) at the College of the Holy Cross. 


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