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Citing Sources - Tip Sheet: Why Cite?

Use this guide to find examples of proper MLA and APA style citations, and information about avoiding plagiarism.

Top 3 Reasons to Cite Your Sources

1. Avoid Plagiarism.

In academic writing, you're frequently expected to draw upon outside sources to strengthen your argument or analysis. However, when you incorporate the ideas of an outside source into your work, it's also expected that you will give the author credit. Failure to properly document another author's words or ideas is plagiarism. In addition to being unethical, plagiarism is a violation of Germanna's academic honesty policy. Cite your sources to avoid plagiarism.

2. Establish your credibility.

You can show your reader that outside experts support your view: you're not just relying on your opinion.

In addition, even with a cursory glance at your citations, the reader of your paper can make judgments about the quality and relevance of the sources you're using.

A reader can also use your citations to find your sources, and to verify that you're accurately and ethically paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting information.

Finally, by using a particular citation style, such as MLA or APA, you're showing the wider scholarly community that you should be taken seriously: you adhere to the established conventions of academic writing.

3. Join the scholarly conversation.

You're showing others how your ideas fit into the scholarly conversation on a topic.

The reader of your paper may want to find a source you've cited in order to conduct additional research. In your Works Cited or References page, you provide all of the information necessary to identify any outside source you've used.


Examples of Plagiarism

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • When taking notes, use a system to keep the distinction between your original ideas and the ideas of your sources clear. For example, you could add a Q after any direct quote, a P after any paraphrase, an S after any summary, and an M after your original thoughts.

  • Be sure to include the page number in your notes. Otherwise, you'll have to go back and figure out which page you borrowed the information from!

  • Be sure to keep track of which source you're taking notes on. This sounds very straightforward, but if you're working with many different outside sources, it's easy to make a mistake.

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