Why Cite?:
To Cite or Not to Cite? Part 2 of 5

Why Cite?

Learning Outcome: By the end of the lesson, the student will be able to

Approximate Completion Time: 10 minutes

**To receive credit for completing this tutorial you must complete the online assessment provided by your instructor.**



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The Purpose of Citation

In writing, if you do not acknowledge your sources of information, your audience is led to believe that everything presented is your own work. Citing helps your audience differentiate between your own work and that of your sources.

Using the work of experts can increase your credibility but for that to work the audience has to know that you are using the expert's work and be able to assess the credibility of the expert.

For instance if I tell you that in 2016 Social Security is going to start spending more than it takes in, you must assume that I am making that statement from my own knowledge, and what do I know about Social Security spending? However if I tell you that in a July 2010 report the Congressional Budget Office (a non-partisan Congressional agency charged with evaluating Congressional proposals for their financial impact.) projects that in 2016 Social Security is going to start spending more than it takes in, you can evaluate whether you trust the Congressional Budget Office as a source of information. You can go and find that report and read the statement for yourself and decide whether I have interpreted it correctly. 

Social Security Benefits -2009-2083

Figure 1. Chart of Social Security Benefits - 2009-2083. Reprinted from Rcragun. (7 October 2009). Social Security Benefits - 2009-2083.png [Chart]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Social_Security_Benefits_-_2009-2083.png Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


Additional Uses for Citations

Providing citations also gives your audience the means to find your sources.

Have you ever read something and thought that a particular web site, article or book referenced sounded really interesting and wanted to find it for yourself? Conversely have you ever heard about a particular web site, wanted to read it, and found that the person who told you about it did not give you enough information to actually find it? Providing citations allows your readers to discover any sources used to fill their own intellectual curiosity.

Watch this 4 minute video to learn more about why it is important to cite your work and avoid plagiarism.

Note: This video may take a moment to load.


Why Cite in a Particular Format?

Following a set of rules ensures that all the information needed to find a particular source will be included in the citation. As the ways we look for information change citation styles also change. Certain elements may no longer be needed, and other new elements are included.  

The rules are also designed to ensure consistency. If you become accustomed to a certain style, citations written in that style become much easier to read. The elements of the citation will always be in the same order, and you will recognize that order.

Which list below is easier to read?


Example 1) 


2009.  Kevin Bales. U of California P. THE SLAVE NEXT DOOR: human trafficking and slavery in america today. Rod Soodalter. Berkeley.Print.

Time. 7 July 2010. "Human Trafficking Rises in Recession." Fetini, Alyssa. 18 June 2009. Web.

Santana, M. C. Who is worth saving: human traffic news in the Caribbean and the United

            States. (2009). Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.International Journal of Academic Research 1(2), 206-11.

V. MIzELl. T3.Web.Washington Post "Working to Shed Light on Very Dark Practices – Activists Seek to End

            Human Trafficking in D.C." 8 Oct. 2009. Newsbank. 7 July 2010."Trafficking in Persons Report 2010." U.S. Department of State. June 2010. Web. 7 July 2010.


Example 2)


Bales, K. & Soodalter, R. (2009). The slave next door: Human trafficking and slavery in America today. Berkeley: U of California P. 

Fetini, A. (2010). Human trafficking rises in recession. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1905330,00.html

Mizell, V. (2009, October 8). Working to shed light on very dark practices: Activists seek to end human trafficking in D.C. Washington Post.

Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Santana, M. C. (2009). Who is worth saving: Human traffic news in the Caribbean and the United States. International Journal of Academic Research, 1(2). 

Retrieved from http://www.ijar.lit.az/

U. S. Department of State. (2010). Trafficking in Persons Report 2010. Retrieved from www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2010/ 


Sources Used in this Module - Cited in APA Format



Congressional Budget Office. (2010). Social Security Policy Options. Retrieved from http://www.cbo.gov/publication/21547

Films Media Group. (2011). Plagiarism 2.0: Information ethics in the digital age [H.264]. Retrieved from http://digital.films.com



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