We might worry that if we cite too often, it may seem like we don’t have any ideas of our own. In actuality, a paper using citations correctly proves we’ve done enough research to make credible arguments. It also shows our experience with scholarly standards. By citing your sources, your ideas will be taken more seriously by other scholars (including your professor!).
Giving credit to the original source rewards other scholars for the hard work and creativity they contribute to advancements in their fields. Recognition inspires us to reach new heights. In some fields, citations even lead to career advancement.
Establish Your Credibility
The more you know about your topic, the more credible your arguments become. By citing your sources, you prove that you have researched existing information and multiple viewpoints. In turn, readers will see that your theories and ideas are well-supported.
Help Your Readers
Citations are like a roadmap to your sources. Sometimes seeing a quote in its original context helps readers understand it better. Citations can also guide your readers to more information about your topic.
Participate in an Academic Conversation
No scholar works in isolation. We develop our ideas by learning about the work of others and researching existing information. In turn, your work contributes to this ongoing intellectual conversation and supports new research. When you cite your sources, you show how your work fits into your field of study.
Quote: direct quotations from another writer. You must both use quotation marks around direct quotes and cite them.
Paraphrase: restatement of someone else’s ideas.
Summary: summary of someone else’s work.
Data: reference to someone else’s research, findings, or data.
Charts/Graphs: inclusion of someone else’s charts or graphs.
Facts (sometimes): Knowing which facts require citation requires practice. Generally, when information is not well known, is specialized knowledge, is in dispute, or might be colored by subjective interpretation, a citaiton is warranted. (Example: that Shakespeare was a Renaissance playwright is well known and generally accepted. This would not require a citation. However, the theory that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was the real writer of Hamlet would be in dispute and require a citation.) When in doubt, provide a citation.
Websites: cite from websites just as you would from print sources.
Class Discussions: give credit for the ideas of someone else raised in a class discussion.
Your Own Paper: cite from your own work just as you would from published sources.
When Don’t I Have to Cite?
You don't have to cite common knowledge. It's not always easy to know what will be considered common knowledge. You might think of common knowledge as information that can be found in a reputable general encyclopedia. (Example: George Washington was the first U.S. president.)
How Do I Cite?
You should cite both within your paper and at the end of your paper. You should cite according to the citation style (e.g., MLA, Chicago, APA) recommended by your instructor or common to your field.
Within your paper: use an in-text citation immediately following the quote, summary, or paraphrase. Depending on the citation style you use, an in-text citation may include the author’s last name, page number, and/or year of publication. Alternatively, some style guides recommend the use of footnotes.
At the end of your paper: list all sources you used in your paper. Each listing should include the complete citation information (author, title, year of publication, place of publication, etc.). Your instructor will tell you whether this should include only sources you directly cited within your paper (“Works Cited” page), or a list of all sources you researched, even if you did not cite them directly (“Bibliography” or “Works Consulted” page).
What Are Citation Styles?
A citation style is a set of agreed-upon rules for presenting citations in a standard format. Among other things, a citation style tell you whether or not titles should be capitalized, where to list the date of publication, and how to cite a webpage. When everyone uses the same format, it makes it easier to understand citations accurately. Different academic fields use different styles, so ask your instructor which one you should use. Some examples of common citation styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago.
Take good notes. Always include basic citations in your notes, including page numbers. Put quotation marks around any text quoted verbatim. If you are finding it difficult to take notes using your own words, quote directly instead and use quotation marks. (Paraphrases that are too similar to the original are considered plagiarism.) Don’t copy notes from someone else, since that person may have quoted another source without citing it appropriately.
Use citation management software. Use Zotero, RefWorks, or another citation management tool to help keep track of your sources. Many of these tools allow you to take notes, link to resources and files, and automatically generate bibliographies.
Cite as you write. Include any needed in-text citations or footnotes as you write your paper. Develop your bibliography as you go.
Don’t wait. You may feel more pressure to rely too heavily on other sources if you wait until the last minute to write your paper. Writing earlier ensures that you will have the time to cite correctly. If you don’t think you can meet the deadline and are tempted to overuse other sources or skimp on your citations, request an extension. A late paper, even with a lower grade, is still better than dealing with the consequences of plagiarism.
Use multiple sources. Using more than one source makes it less likely that you will inadvertently overuse a single source.
Get comfortable with your own writing. Your instructor doesn’t expect you to sound like a published scholar, and neither should you. Published scholarly work is usually produced by academics with years of writing experience and research expertise in their field. Their articles and books have been through multiple drafts, revised, and edited by professionals. It’s ok to explain your ideas in your own words. If you need to use someone else’s words, just quote and cite them.
Ask. Not sure if you are citing correctly? Need help figuring out if your paraphrase is too close to the original quote? If you have any questions about how to cite correctly, or if you need help figuring out what would be considered plagiarism, ask your instructor, a research librarian, or a writing tutor.
What Happens If I Don’t Cite?
If you do not cite your source correctly, it is plagiarism. Plagiarism is academically dishonest and a violation of the Middlebury Honor Code. When you plagiarize, you are not giving credit to those whose research paved the way for your own. You also do a disservice to your readers, who are not able to consult your sources for more information.
According to the Middlebury Honor Code:
"Plagiarism is a violation of intellectual honesty. Plagiarism is passing off another person's work as one's own. It is taking and presenting as one's own the ideas, research, writings, creations, or inventions of another. It makes no difference whether the source is a student or a professional in some field." --Student Policies
“Any infraction of the honor system is normally punishable by suspension from the College. However, the penalty may be modified when, in the opinion of the Academic Judicial Board, conclusive reasons warrant such action." --Honor Code
As long as I cite, it’s ok to use someone else’s work, right?
Wrong. Even if you cite the work of someone else, you may be plagiarizing, committing academic dishonesty, or violating copyright guidelines in some instances:
The EPH Survival Guide. Academic Resources and Williams College Libraries, 2008. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.
Using Sources. Yale College Writing Center. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.