May 20, 2009

How To Properly Cite A Source

You’re sweating bullets over the keyboard, pounding out those last few pages for a research paper. You’re on a deadline and you need to finish. You’re at your weakest, but stay strong- it can be tempting to fall into the trap of plagiarism!

Plagiarism is when you present someone else’s ideas or words as your own. This form of literary fraud is actually very easy to circumvent- all you need to do is give credit where credit is due. If you find a really good passage or snippet of information, don’t hesitate to take it! Just make sure to cite the author afterwards.

Citations allow the audience to find the source you use. This is very useful to anyone looking into the background of your arguments or topic. Additionally, citations help support your ideas by demonstrating how others would validate your claims.

There are many different forms a citation can take, and often, your teacher or professor will give you a set of guidelines to follow when formatting your sources. These are considered citation “styles”, and each comes with its own unique way of quotation (used in the body of a paper) and bibliography (which comes at the very end). These differ with the type of source you are citing (electronic, book by one author, encyclopedia, etc.). Check out for free downloads of a few popular citation styles.

By far the most common citation is the electronic source, or information you find on the Internet. Unfortunately, electronic sources can be some of the most challenging to correctly cite, as particulars about the who, what, and where of the information you access may not be immediately given. For these, you usually need to find out who the author is, the title of the article, version number, date of publication (or posting), website title, date that the material was accessed, and finally, the URL. Printed books will have most of this data printed on the first few pages, but websites tend to hide this kind of stuff in the margins and nooks and crannies of a page.

There are many types of plagiarism that are obvious, like copy/pasting a whole paragraph as if you wrote it. However, there are other, more subtle forms of plagiarism as well. Check out for a well-rounded list of possible ways to cheat at writing.

If you find yourself stretching for those last few paragraphs, remember: adding quotes and an author’s name will always fill more space than just a copy/paste.

1 comment:

Jonathan Lopez said...

Some time saving tips, courtesy of