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Citing Sources

Citation Basics

When you research a topic you may use information from articles, books, or the Open Web to support your ideas. Building upon the ideas and knowledge of other people is the way we as individuals build and contribute to the knowledge around us.

When you integrate other peoples' ideas and work into your own, it is importent to give those authors credit for their hard work. This enables others, who see your work, to also look at those peoples' ideas that have contributed to your project. To cite means that you state where you found the information so that others can find the exact item again.

Tips for researching and citing:

  • Take clear, accurate notes about where you found specific ideas.
  • Write down the complete citation information for each item you use.
  • Take advantage of online citing tools.
  • Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words.
  • Always credit original authors for their information and ideas.

Burke, A. (Project Lead), Dorafshar, D. (Animation), Langdon, K. (Narrator), Orphanides, A. (Script), & Duckett, K. (Team Lead). (2014). Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction. NCSU Libraries. Video retrieved from http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/citation/

In general, any citation will include the

  • author(s) name,
  • the complete title of the work,
  • publication information, and
  • the date of publication.

Different types of sources will dictate the inclusion of different elements in the citations. Consult the Citation Styles Guides page for more examples in different styles.

Examples

Books

Articles

Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting

Summarizing

Paraphrasing

Quoting

  • Must reference the original source
  • The text is much shorter than the original text. (For example, one may write a single page to summarize a four-page article.)
  • Must use your own words, usually with a very limited use of quotations.

  • Must reference the original source
  • The text produced may be shorter or longer than the original text
  • Must use your own words

  • Must reference the original source
  • The text produced is the exact length of the original text quoted (unless ellipses are used)
  • Use the original author’s exactwords
  • Put quotation marks around the original author’s exact words
  • Include the page number of the original source from which you borrowed the author’s original language.

Paraphrasing from Media

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.  Paraphrases also help one shape the meaning from the text to one’s specific project.

Some instructors will say that 4 consecutive words will make a paraphrase too close to the original language. This is certainly a grey area; check and see what your instructor says.


5 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing:

1. Read and then reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.

2. Take notes on the most essential elements of the passage—the main claim, supporting claims, evidence, explanations, etc. 

3. Set the original aside, then write your paraphrase on another sheet of paper.

4. Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.  This takes time to master; don’t worry if you have trouble changing the original language into your own language. 

5. If you have borrowed any unique terms or phrases from the original source, use quotation marks to identify them and include an internal citation.

*These templates and examples are derived from Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein's "They Say/I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, second edition.


How To Quote Others

Using the words of others can be tricky business. You typically only want to use a direct quotation in the following situations: if you’re using that statement as a piece of evidence for your own argument, if you’re establishing another’s position, or if another person has said something better and more clearly than you can. 

The main problem with using quotations happens when writers assume that the meaning of the quotation is obvious.  Writers who make this mistake believe that their job is done when they’ve chosen a quotation and inserted it into their text.  Quotations need to be taken from their original context and integrated fully into their new textual surroundings.  Every quotation needs to have your own words appear in the same sentence.  Here are some easy to use templates* for doing this type of introduction:


Templates for Introducing Quotations

X states, “__________.”

As the world-famous scholar X explains it, “________.”

As claimed by X, “______.”

In her article _______, X suggests that “_________.”

In X’s perspective, “___________.”

X concurs when she notes, “_______.”

You may have noticed that when the word “that” is used, the comma frequently becomes unnecessary.  This is because the word “that” integrates the quotation with the main clause of your sentence (instead of creating an independent and dependent clause).  

Now that you’ve successfully used the quotation in your sentence, it’s time to explain what that quotations means—either in a general sense or in the context of your argument.  Here are some templates for explaining quotations:

In other words, X asserts __________.

In arguing this claim, X argues that __________.

X is insisting that _________.

What X really means is that ____________.

The basis of X’s argument is that ___________.

*These templates are derived from Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein's "They Say/I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, second edition.

So how do you know when to cite? A few basic rules apply.

1. If you quote a resource, cite it.

2. If you paraphrase someone else's idea or statement, cite it.

3. If you're unsure, cite it.

4. If you state a fact that is not common knowledge, cite it.

Fact Statement Cite? Reason
The Internet has brought many changes to the field of journalism. No Most people are aware of this.
Newspaper circulation has dropped by 20 percent because of the Internet. Yes This is a specific fact that is not common knowledge.
Also, readers may want to know where this information came from so that they can use it for their own research.

This guide was adapted from the Citing Sources guide by the Librarians of  Milner Library, Illinois State University. Many thanks for their hard work and permission to use this guide.