To Cite or Not to Cite, That Is The Question
The in's and out's of source citations and plagarism
What is plagarism?
Plagarism is using another person's words or ideas without giving credit to the other person. When you
use someone else's words, you must put quotation marks around them and give the writer or speaker
credit by revealing the source in a citation. Even if you revise or paraphrase the words of someone else or
just use that person's ideas, you still must give the author credit in a note. Not giving due credit to the
creator of an idea or writing is very much like lying.
When should you cite?
Anything that you originated (thought of, created, discovered) does not need to be cited.
Whatever does not originate with you does need to be cited.
The one exception to the latter rule is common knowledge. Common knowledge does not need to
cited. This includes whatever an educated person would be expected to know or could locate in an
Easily observable information
Commonly reported facts (Napoleon's army was decimated by the winter march on Moscow
during the War of 1812, The 95 Theses were nailed to the church door in Wittenberg on
October 31, 1517.)
IMPORTANT---If you use someone's words, you must quote and cite them, even if they
contain an idea that is common knowledge.
IMPORTANT II---"If in doubt, cite it."
How do you cite sources?
For EXACT WORDS…Boundaries are marked by opening and closing quotation marks and a citation.
Part of a sentence
Two or three sentences
EX. Louis XVIII's correspondent in Rome, speaking on the Treaty of Tolentine said, "Your
Majesty will doubtless be surprised by Buonaparte's moderation." (Cronin, 126)
For a LONG QUOTATION OF EXACT WORDS…Boundaries are marked by a lead-in, a block
indentation, and a citation.
More than four lines
EX. Napoleon discovered, upon his ascension to First Consul of France,
in the exchequer exactly 167,000 francs in cash, and debts
amounting to 474 million. The country was flooded with
almost worthless paper money. Civil sercants had been
unpaid for ten months. (Cronin, 195)
When USING A SOURCE BUT NOT QUOTING…Boundaries are marked by a lead-in and a close.
Using an idea from the source
EX. Vincent Cronin claims that Napoleon was ignornant to the influence Metternich had over
the Russian and Prussian delegations. (Cronin, 342)
What is an improper use of a source?
Neglecting to quote "just a couple of words."
SOURCE: As with a typical superhero, Judge Robertson thought it his duty not only to
establish justice but to wreak equity.
PARAPHRASE: Judge Robertson felt duty-bound not only to labor for justice but to wreak
equity. (Doe, 644)
The paraphrase immediately above commits plagarism because even though it cites the
source, it copies the apt or unusual phrase "wreak equity" without quoting it. The simple
remedy is to put the phrase in quotation marks.
SOURCE: In a typical strategy, Boolean operators can be used to control both the scope of
the search and the required proximity of search terms. The operator OR expands the search
by allowing the return of documents containing either search term, while the operator AND
restricts the search by requiring both terms to be present in the document.
PARAPHRASE: When searching, you can use Boolean operators to control the scope of the
search and how near each other the search terms are. For example, the operator OR
expands the search by returning all documents containing either search term, while
AND restricts the search by requiring both terms to be present. (Doe, 453)
The paraphrase immediately above omits several words and changes others, but it still
contains many phrases (placed in bold-face type) which are copied word for word from the
What are the benefits of citing sources?
Citing sources strengthens the paper.
Citing sources shows respect for intellectual property.
Citing is a servicec to the reader.
Take the following quiz to see how well you grasp the material covered. Identify if you have to cite (A) or
do not have to cite (B) the information on the citation quiz. On the source quiz, identify whether the
statement is (T)rue or (F)alse.
Citation Quiz Using Sources Quiz
1. In an article you find the "cultural tapeworm". You 1. As long as you put another person's words
decide to use the phrase in your paper into your own words, you don't need to cite
2. You read in several places about how popular fax the other person.
machines are in both offices and homes. You 2. As long as you put the author's name at the
mention in you paper that fax machines seem to end of the paragraph, it is permissible to
be everywhere today. quote the author, even if you do not use
3. In your paper, you write, "Abraham Lincoln grew quotation marks or a block indented
up in a log cabin without electricity." This is a fact quotation.
you have read many times in the past and you now 3. Even if you do not quote, you must cite the
do not remember where. use of an idea you found during your
4. You locate a brillant argument in favor of an idea research.
you are advancing in a paper. You decide to use 4. Anything used on the Web is common
this argument but turn it completely into your own knowledge and can be used without citation.
words. 5. Even if what you are quoting is common
knowledge, you must cite the quotation
becase you used someone's exact words