"Ethics, copyright laws, and courtesy to readers require authors to identify the sources of direct quotations
and of any facts of opinions not generally known or easily checked."
--Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press), p. 594
When doing research, it is necessary to consult and gather information from a variety of places and authors. Therefore, it is important to cite the author (and the work) for a variety of reasons:
- Credit the author and avoid plagiarism - Giving credit to the author or the work helps you to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is presenting someone else's words or ideas as your own. The university has a strict policy on academic dishonesty.
- Give credibility to your facts and statements - Readers are often skeptical of sources they do not know or cannot find. By letting the reader know where you got your facts (and allowing them to check theses sources if they wish), readers will be more willing to accept how you came to your conclusions. It will also demonstrate to the readers the depth and scope of your research.
- Help readers extend their own research - Readers use citations to check facts and statements, but also to extend their own research by viewing the topic through a different focus.
Different styles: which one?
There are a number of different styles or formats for citations, though APA, MLA, and Chicago/Turabian are most common. Which style you use depends on the subject discipline you are working in. Each style includes the same basic parts of a citation (author, title, page numbers, etc.), but is organized slightly differently.
How do I know which citation style to use?
- APA (American Psychological Association)
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Reference Desk BF76.7 .P83 2001)
Often used in the social sciences disciplines and many others.
- MLA (Modern Language Association)
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Reference Desk LB2369 .G53 2009)
Often used in the languages and English disciplines and some others.
A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (Reference Desk LB2369 .T8 2007)
Often preferred in the social sciences and humanities disciplines.
The ACS style guide: Effective communication of scientific information. (Sciences Engineering Library Reference Area QD8.5 A25 2006)
Often prefered by sciences.
If you are still unsure which citation style to use, consult with your professor for advice.