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Signal Phrases

How to use signal phrases

Signal phrases introduce the ideas you want to use from another source. These ideas can be the actual words which you take from the original text (a quotation) or a restatement of these ideas in your own words (a paraphrase Text rewritten in different words or phrasing in order to simplify or summarise the original text. more...). Signal words can be very simple (states that …, writes that …). They can also indicate your opinion about the writer’s ideas (argues convincingly that …). You, at least, were convinced by the writer; other readers might be less persuaded.

Here is an example:

Freebody and Anderson suggest that "cohesion, in the specific sense of linguistic ties, simply is not very important in reading" (1983 p91).

"suggest that" is a typical signal phrase. A signal phrase introduces an idea (or a proposition, argument, rebuttal etc.) which the writer found during her research. In this case we have a quotation. These are the exact words found in that particular article in that journal indicated in the citationWhere did you get this information? Words spoken or written by another person, the source of which is declared. more... and which you can find in the bibliography A list of sources referenced in your text, or consulted during the preparation of your text and relevant to your topic. more....

The word "suggest" was chosen by the writer who found this quotation during her research. She could have used other words (claim, state, argue ....). But you should choose your signal words carefully; they can give clues about the information presented in the quotation, information about the writer's stance The writer's opinion, approach, or position on a topic, including feelings, critiques or assessments. Stance may be expressed grammatically or lexically. more..., and clues to your attitude to the information in the quotation.

We could also rewrite this in the form of a paraphrase Text rewritten in different words or phrasing in order to simplify or summarise the original text. more.... For example: Freebody and Anderson (1983 p91) suggest that, as far as linguistic ties are concerned, cohesion is not of much importance in reading.

The signal phrase makes it clear that the comment about cohesion in reading belongs to the writers Freebody and Anderson.

There are many verbs which can be used in signal phrases but there is a limited set in common use. These are the ones you are most likely to see (or need to use):

acknowledge, add, admit, affirm, agree, argue, assert, claim, comment, concede, conclude, concur, confirm, declare, demonstrate, deny, emphasize, explain, find, hold, hypothesise, imply, indicate, insist, maintain, mention, note, observe, point out, predict, propose, reason, reflect, remark, reply, report, respond, reveal, say, show, state, suggest, theorise, understand, verify, write

You can see how signal phrases are used in real texts Go to the Examples of signal phrases in authentic texts page, do a practice exercise Go to the Practice your understanding of citation terminology page, and test your understanding of the terminology of citing Go to the Test your understanding of citation terminology page.


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