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Citing Sources

The Value of Citations

Before scholars can contribute to the body of knowledge on a particular subject, they begin by learning from the work of others. By citing their sources, scholars are

  • Practicing academic honesty and avoiding plagiarism;
  • Respecting the intellectual labor and property of others;
  • Participating in a scholarly community;
    • Demonstrating their command of knowledge in a particular field;
    • Positioning their own intellectual work in relation to that tradition.

The purpose of citations is to provide readers with all the information they need to find the source of an idea or piece of data (i.e., who wrote it, when it was published, and where). Different disciplines have preferred citation styles that organize this information differently.  The most commonly used styles are:

Your instructors usually will tell you which style manual to use. If they have no preference, you should still choose a style and use it correctly and consistently.

When to Cite

Provide a citation whenever you paraphrase or quote the ideas of others. You do not need to cite a source when you are stating your own opinions and ideas or reporting common knowledge, such as the boiling point of water or the capitol of the United States.

When in doubt, provide a citation.

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