Aligning Yourself with Experts
When establishing credibility with a jury, attorneys often call witnesses to the stand who have expertise in a given field. The "expert witness" provides opinions and presents facts regarding the technical aspects of a case. This is done because the attorney does not have the professional credentials of the witness. By borrowing the credentials of the "expert" the attorney is better able to argue his or her case.
For instance, a brain surgeon has the medical expertise to explain whether, why or how a certain type of brain injury leads to memory loss. The attorney does not and banks on the jury trusting the "expert testimony" of the surgeon.
As a student, you are often put into this same position. You will be writing about unfamiliar subjects; topics in which you have little or no expertise. By including source material in your writing you, too, are calling upon "expert witnesses."
Researching outside sources helps you find statements from authorities on the subject that you then can quote or paraphrase within your paper. The ideas you express then become not just yours, but those of men and women who have studied and worked in your field of study for years. In effect, you make your case by "borrowing" the knowledge of experts and including it in your paper.