Module 10: Why cite sources?

Notes... bibliography ... it all seems like a huge hassle, but citing sources is very important. For one thing, your research paper grew out of the ideas of others. Citing your sources is like showing your paper's family tree: your bibliography highlights those who came before you, whose ideas helped shape your own. Acknowledging your debt to other thinkers is an essential part of scholarship.

Citing sources is also important, because it allows the reader to follow in your steps along the road you took toward formulating your ideas. Any reader who has a question about one of your sources should be able to consult it herself. Your bibliography points the way.

And finally, you must cite your sources, because you do not want to claim someone else's work as your own, even unintentionally. Doing so is called plagiarism and it is a serious academic offense.

So, when should I cite my sources?

You should cite the source for any idea that was not originally your own. For example:

  1. Cite any direct quotation from another author's work. (Also put the quotation inside quotation marks, or if it's a lengthy quote, indent it.)
  2. Cite any idea that originated with someone else that you have paraphrased in your paper.
  3. Cite any source that you refer to in the course of your paper, even if you do not quote from it or paraphrase its content.