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Information Literacy: 05. Why Cite Sources?

Strategies used to incorporate research skills for the College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Management.

Why Cite Sources Video

Why Cite Sources
Students will learn some of the reasons it is important to cite sources when writing a research paper.

CLIP video, length 3:01 minutes)

Citation Tools at WU

Citation Tools

Learn four common tools that will make citing resources much easier: the library catalog, library databases, Google Scholar, and Zotero. Additional info is available on the Why Cite Sources page.

Why Cite Sources?

Why you should cite sources?

When you conduct research for your papers and projects, you always need to cite your sources.  To cite means you are pointing readers to the evidence.  You need to show where you found the information you compiled in your projects.

It does not matter what type of source it is. It can be in print or online. It can be an image or a conversation.

Examples:  table of data, journal or newspaper article, chart, graph, book, diagram, course lectures, emails, phone conversations, conference papers, blogs, wikis… We could go on, but you get the idea.

When to cite?

Quoting and paraphrasing are two important concepts when you are writing a research paper.  You need to cite every time you quote any source. You also need to cite whenever you paraphrase a source.

  • To quote means that you are using the author's exact words in your text.  Quoted text should be within "quotation marks".
  • To paraphrase means you are restating someone else’s concepts through your own words. Your restatement should not be in quotation marks. Remember to cite your source for the concept!

Why do I need to cite?

  • To give credit so readers know the original source of your information.
  • To clearly separate your own thoughts from others.
  • To give authority to your own work and demonstrate that you compared and contrasted other's work.
  • To help the reader retrieve the sources and verify the information. 
  • To ethically use sources of information in order to prevent plagarism. Being found guilty of plagiarism can lead to disciplinary actions or possible expulsion.  

Where to cite?

There are three places where you can cite your sources:

  • In the body of your document (either intext or as a parenthetical comment)
  • As footnotes at the bottom of each page.
  • As a list of sources at the end of your paper.

Your list of sources at the end of your paper might also be called a Bibliography, Works Cited List, or Reference Sources.

What are Style Manuals?

Style Manuals (sometimes called Style Guides) tell you where and how to properly and consistently cite your sources.  For example, they will tell you how multiple co-authors should be arranged or abbreviated; whether the title of an article should be either italicized or underlined.

The library provides copies of different Style Manuals, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago.  Ask your instructor which Style Guide to use.