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English 105 - College Writing: Citation Dos and Don'ts

When to Cite Sources: Dos and Don'ts

Here is a list of things you need to do to ensure your citations are complete.

  1. Did I provide an in-text citation each time I used, summarized, paraphrased, referred to, or quoted an idea OR words that weren't originally mine?
  2. Cite all of your sources, even if you put the information in your own words by paraphrasing, summarizing, or referring to another author offhand.

  3. Do all of my in-text citations have a corresponding bibliography entry in my Works Cited page, bibliography, etc.?
  4. Remember you need both in-text citations in the main body of your essay which point the reader to a specific page number, and the end bibliography entry that gives full bibliographic information so that your reader can locate the article or book in the place or edition where you found it.

  5. Have I explained how the source's ideas OR words relate to my argument and have I incorporated my own ideas?
  6. When we use sources without contextualizing them or responding to them, we fall into the trap of what is called patchwriting or patchwork plagiarism. This is when our writing is so lacking in our own ideas and original contributions that it becomes essentially just a patchwork of other people's ideas and work. The remedy for patchwriting is to remember that academic writing is a conversation: They Say, I Say to quote the title of Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein's book. If we do not assert our own ideas and contribute to the ongoing conversation, then we are not fulfilling our responsibilities as academic writers.

And here is a list of misconceptions, or things many beginning writers think you have to do when citing which you do not actually have to do.

  1. You do not have to cite sources for "common knowledge."
  2. Factual information that can be found in numerous sources such as dates or widely-known information does not need to be cited. Do cite information that goes beyond basic facts like dates or that is not widely known.

  3. You do not have to add a new in-text citation multiple times in a paragraph when you are still using the same source.
  4. It is only necessary to add a new in-text citation if you change to using another source, or the information you are using is found on a different page. Until you indicate otherwise, the reader can infer that you are still using the same source (although it is helpful to signpost the source's name if you've gone a handful of sentences without mentioning them, e.g. "SourceName also writes that [...]")

  5. You do not always have to use a direct quote when citing a source.
  6. Direct quotes are best used when you want to highlight the source's exact words as being interesting or notable in themselves. Summarizing and paraphrasing can also be powerful tools, however, because they allow you to demonstrate your clear understanding of the source's ideas and add context by putting them into your own words.

Additional Tips

Additional Tips:

Whatever style you use, citations typically include author, title of the work, and publication information (for books, publisher and year published; for articles, the journal, volume, date, and page numbers; for websites, a URL is needed).

The title of a larger unit of work (a book title, an album title, or the name of a magazine, newspaper, or journal) goes in italics, whereas the title of a smaller unit within the work (a chapter title, a song title, or the title of an article in the magazine, newspaper, or journal) goes in "quotation marks".

"Come on, I know how to use Microsoft Word." If you are already a pro at using word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, good for you! However, you will achieve a higher degree of precision in your formatting (and save time) if you familiarize yourself with the Show/Hide button, the Paragraph menu (specifically the Before and After values and the line-height value), the use of page breaks and section breaks, how to edit the Header/Footer and add page numbers, and how to stop the header/footer for a section from being Linked with Previous.

One way to master formatting is to view a tutorial from InfoBase, which is accessible through the GTS website. There is one tutorial, for example, on "MLA (8th Ed) Research Paper Basics."