Avoid plagiarism. By citing, you let your reader know what words and ideas are yours and what was borrowed from someone else.
Provide a way for the reader to retrieve the sources you used. Your reader may be fascinated by the material and wish to read further, or your reader may question your use of the material and wish to check up on you. Your accurate documentation of the material will protect you and allow the reader to see if you have correctly interpreted the original source.
Establish your reputation as a competent and credible researcher and writer. Your reader will see that you have used information from experts and authorities on your topic.
Show how your work relates to a scholarly conversation. Citing the previous work of others may show the reader how knowledge of the topic has developed among experts and authorities over time, and can help provide context for your contribution to that conversation.
What Should Be Cited?
Any information you quote exactly. Use quotation marks around the text quoted. Keep direct quotations to a minimum. Only quote text expressed in such a unique way that it would lose impact if you did not do so.
Any information you summarize or paraphrase. State the ideas entirely in your own words, using neither the words nor the sentence structure of the original. You do not need to include quotation marks, but you must still include a citation. Use paraphrasing or summarizing for the majority of your cited information.
What Should Not Be Cited?
Your own opinions or unique ideas. Any conclusions that you draw are your own. If others are impressed with your opinions and ideas, they will need to cite you as a source!
Information that is common knowledge. If information is commonly known to be true it does not need to be cited, even if you found the information in a source. Examples include historical dates and facts (such as birth and death dates, dates of historical events, the fact that George Washington was the first President of the United States). If you are not certain whether something is common knowledge, cite it.
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