What does citing references mean?
According to Dictionary.com, to cite means to quote a passage from an authority, or to recall something. When we write, we recall who owns the copyright of the information we are quoting.
We live in a world where everything we create is copyrighted the moment it is saved to a device. According to Google, anything that is a work or invention of creativity, including a manuscript, is considered intellectual property, that which may be copyrighted, patented or trademarked. To use someone else’s words without giving him or her credit for positioning those exact same words in that exact order is theft of intellectual property, also known as plagiarism. In other words, to use someone else’s words without citing the person who wrote them, is illegal and subject to prosecution.
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How do I protect myself from plagiarizing?
The answer is simple: cite, cite, cite!
How do I cite my references?
Citing references is a two-step process.
For step one, a note must be made at the exact place where you use someone else’s words. This is usually called an “in-text” citation, as it places the author’s name and other information (depending on whether you are using APA or MLA notation) in parenthesis (brackets) inside your text.
Step two is to include the complete reference for the original source material in a works cited list. Although the exact information and formatting will vary depending on the style you use, the basic information will include the author’s name, year and place of publication, and URL or publisher, depending on whether the source is print or digital in nature. Works cited are listed in alphabetical order, preferably by author’s last name.
Do I really need to use in-text citations if I have a works cited page?
The answer to this question is an emphatic yes!
Imagine a report card with a list of marks and no reference to teacher or course. This is kind of like a works cited list without in-text citations. Without indicating which information came from which source, a works cited list is useless. The idea is that you, as the author, uses in-text citations to show where a quotation comes from. If I’m interested in reading further, I know to go to the works cited list to find more information about the publication so I can find the same article and do more research. Without the in-text citation, I am left with a list of sources and no indication of which information came from where.
How often do I need to include in-text citations?
Any time you paraphrase, summarize, or directly quote anything that you didn’t write, you must cite it using in-text citations. This could mean having 1 or more citations for every sentence in your composition, depending on the type and requirements of the manuscript.
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It is always better to over-cite than to under-cite and be accused of plagiarism. I don’t know of any teacher who has ever complained because there were too many in-text citations in a term paper.
A final word
When it comes to citing sources, it is best to subscribe to the CYA school of thought–cover your ass! Cite everything you learn as a result of your research. Even if you think you might already know about the topic, cite one of your sources.
Give credit where credit is due; don’t forget to cite your sites.