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Citing Sources & Plagiarism - Citing Sources


Why Cite Your Sources?

  • To acknowledge or give credit to the person whose work you quoted, paraphrased, or summarized
  • To allow readers to find your sources
  • To provide evidence to support your argument
  • To avoid plagiarizing
  • To let your professor know that you did your research
  • To participate in the academic conversation on your topic

When to Cite...

Cite your source when you are quoting, paraphrasing, or just referencing any of the following:

  • Anyone else's articulated ideas, arguments, opinions, or experiences.
  • Any artwork, pictures, videos, or other creative works produced by others.
  • Direct quotations of any words written or spoken by others.
  • Unique phrases or terms coined by others.
  • Data, statistics, or facts produced or documented by others.
  • Published research details and results, whether conducted by you or others.

When NOT to Cite...

According to the Purdue OWL, you do not need to cite for purposes of credit when:

  • You are writing about your own lived experiences, your own observations and insights, your own thoughts, and your own conclusions about a subject
  • You are writing up your own results obtained through lab or field experiments
  • You use your own artwork, digital photographs, video, audio, etc.
  • You are using "common knowledge".  This can be a little tricky, but a general rule of thumb is: If the majority of people already know the information, then it is "common knowledge".
  • You are using generally-accepted facts, e.g., pollution is bad for the environment, including facts that are accepted within particular discourse communities, e.g., in the field of composition studies, "writing is a process" is a generally-accepted fact.
  • You find the same information not documented in five or more authoritative sources.

Helpful Resources in the Library

A Complete Citation

A citation usually has 2 parts:

  • An in-text or parenthetical citation, which appears within the text of your paper, immediately following a direct quote or paraphrased text.
  • A corresponding citation in the works cited or bibliography, which provides detailed information about the source

When to Cite

What is a Citation?