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Research for Writing: Why Citing Sources Matters

A guide for librarians, other faculty, and students. Background and resources for the research-for-writing information literacy model.

Plagiarism and Authority

They often say that students must learn about citing sources to avoid plagiarism. Students themselves often echo this thought.

While avoiding plagiarism is important, I want to emphasize some other, positive reasons for citing your sources.

  • -- You become more credible by showing you've been responsible in arriving at your position (that is, by doing research). You've done some work that might benefit your readers. The sources you cite demonstrate the work you did.
  • -- By acknowledging the valuable work of other researchers, you establish a cooperative ethical framework that appeals to your readers.
  • -- You invite your reader to engage in a continuing conversation. They might want to join in the broader conversation. You help them do this by citing the sources you are responding to.
  • -- You invite your reader to check your sources to make sure you're being unbiased in how you present source information. This contributes to your factual and ethical persuasiveness.
  • -- You establish the basis for your own authority, and make your writing more effective.

What about plagiarism? Yes, by citing your sources you avoid that as well.

Articulate, Select, Use, Present, Cite: The Research-for-Writing Outcomes

Why We Cite Sources, Camden-Carroll Library

APA Style

The APA style guide was developed by the American Psychological Association and is primarily used in the field of psychology, although many other professional fields have adopted the APA style.

Chicago / Turabian Style

The Turabian style is an easier version of the Chicago style guide.  In these styles citations are made at the bottom of the page instead of on a works cited page at the end of the paper.

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