Output Better Information
Home ] Up ]



Studies: Publications

Educational Resources

Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights

Links for Toronto Links


Scarboro Heights Record

Search This Site

Table of Contents



Outputting "Better" Information
Some Rules of Writing

This page is an on-line supplement to Neigh The Front- Exploring Scarboro Heights.

Once you have gathered your information from various sources and read it over and developed an understanding for the material, you should say to yourself "How can I make this better?" In otherwords "How can I turn these piles of notes from all over the place into a more organized package that other people will find more valuable and ‘user-friendly’?" This is the purpose of "composition" -- of using your own words to give clear meaning and context to a wide variety information from various sources. This process of outputting information in a more useful form is also called "writing".

Many people think that writing is difficult. Actually, the difficult part is the "analysis" of the information which we discussed in our "Information Processing" page. Writing is a snap once you’ve got your draft Outline finished. Here are some important things to remember as you write.

  • Quoting
  • Plagiarism
  • Paraphrasing
  • Providing References
  • Approximation
  • Introduction and Concluding Remarks


You know how famous people are often "quoted as saying" something? For instance:

"The value of history is neither that which is written, nor that which is preserved. Rather, the value of history is that which serves to improve our lot in the future."

Bruce McCowan, 1990

Ok, Ok. Bruce McCowan isn’t a famous person, but he did say it and it is in writing! So, if your teacher asks you on an exam "What is the value of history? and you answer:

"The value of history is neither that which is written, nor that which is preserved. Rather, the value of history is that which serves to improve our lot in the future."

... then you should get a zero! You would perhaps get part marks if you included a credit to Bruce McCowan for saying it before you. Quoting someone directly is Ok as long as you give credit.


If you state exactly what someone else stated before you and you don’t give credit to that person in some fashion and you pretend that the statement was originally your own, then you have committed "plagiarism". 

The Internet -- A Quick Note About the "Cost" of Your Work (Rev Jan4/13)

Outputting better information -- the topic of this web page -- costs time and money.  Of course, the research / analysis phase costs money too.  If you do choose to publish your work in print, you would expect to get something for it -- ie get paid when someone buys a copy. Consider this statement:  If you say, "my research cost me $1000.00 and I tell you who said it in my $10.00 book", then society should "let you off the hook", especially in this era of The Web.  On the internet there is an abundance of information that is not "traceable", as it were. On the McCowan Society web site we either tell you the original source or at least indicate the McCowan society publication where you can find the original source. While the world wide web may have began as a place to get free information, more and more of the web's information cannot now (Jan. 2013) be obtained unless you pay for it first. We can only hope that all people who make you pay for information and data that they sell actually obtained that information / data "fair and square". 


To get full marks, you have to state your answer in your own words. If your answer was:

"History is valuable because it can show us how to build a better future. We can start this process by writing down the mistakes and achievements of the past and by preserving other evidence of past experiences."

... then you should get full marks. To paraphrase something is to explain a passage in your own words. Please note that you can’t just take someone’s quote, put the last sentence first and the first sentence last and change a few verbs. You have to show that you understand the issues by taking whatever input information is available (eg what you read), processing it in your mind (using reason) and outputting (ie writing) it to your exam paper.

Providing References

"Providing References" is similar to giving credit to the person who said or wrote something. In fact, if you have paraphrased something that was written by someone else, you should probably give proper indication of who it was that you were paraphrasing. For example: "... is the essence of being Canadian. For a discussion of the question ‘what is a Canadian’, refer to D.B.McCowan, Fairs and Frolics: Scottish Communities at Work and Play, page 1".  By referring to the sound arguments of someone else, this may help convince your readers that you, too, actually have a really good point about Canadianism!


Processing information using reason is not always a particularly exact science, even when your input information is completely accurate. And when your input information is not precisely known, you have to say so. If you are uncertain of the exact year when a certain event happened, you should say "ca 1990" or "circa 1990", meaning "about 1990". Being this honest will neither hurt your argument nor your mark!

Introduction and Concluding Remarks

Apart from your Outline which you drafted at the end of the analysis stage, your finished paper should include an Introduction and a Conclusion (or at least Concluding Remarks.) You can prepare an Introduction in the early stages and use it to keep you focused. You can also modify the Introduction as your paper comes together. Your Concluding Remarks are very important since this is where you should summarize what it was that you were trying to do in the first place. Recall that your purpose was to get your point across on a particular issue by making better sense out of a vast amount of disorganized data.

Individual Exercises

1) Paraphrase the section above, "Introduction and Concluding Remarks".


Class Discussions

1) Discuss the author's statement above: "If you say, 'my research cost me $1000.00 and I tell you who said it in my $10.00 book', then society should 'let you off the hook', especially in this era of The Web."

2) How has the World Wide Web affected the "outputting of information".

Previous      Next