If your arguments and conclusions are to be sound, they will be based on extensive reading and research. This breadth of reading must be apparent to your reader for them to give you the credit for your research. Ensuring that your reading is accurately reflected in your writing can sometimes be a challenge. It does not mean including everything you know or have learned in the course of researching the assignment. An essay is only a representative sample of what you know; it demonstrates that you can locate appropriate material and apply it to answer the question set. Researching the subject thoroughly almost always means that you will have done more reading than will fit into your essay. Attempting to include everything you have read may lead to a superficial, unfocused essay that contains too much descriptive and irrelevant material. You could consider your aim as to demonstrate that you argue from a well-informed position, without allowing your reading to take over the essay. The ideal is to aim for a balance between integrating other scholars' work, and foregrounding your own voice, which is, after all, what your reader is interested in.
As an English student, you will be referring extensively to both primary sources (the literary text is your data or evidence) and secondary sources (literary criticism is the debate with which you engage). The way in which you integrate both these types of source into your writing has an impact on the authority of your voice as a scholarly writer.
The following pages will suggest strategies for demonstrating your breadth of knowledge in your writing. For more information on how to locate material in literature searches, reading lists and reading strategies, see the resource on Managing the process of writing an essay.