The Importance of Citing Sources in Reports and Term Papers

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It is completely appropriate to use other works in a research project, but it is not appropriate to claim those ideas as your own. To avoid "stealing" others' ideas, cite the sources you use. Citing sources means listing the materials you used for your research.
(Karen R. Diaz and Nancy O'Hanlon, IssueWeb: A Guide and Sourcebook for Researching Controversial Issues on the Web. Libraries Unlimited, 2004)

The other day I ran across a student's online slideshow on the subject of parallelism. It didn't trouble me that most of her information had been lifted verbatim from this website. (Many teachers have done the same.) What did give me pause was her bibliography, which said simply (I kid you not), "websites and stuff."

Really, that's not good enough.

Whether we're writing online or on paper, identifying sources is more than good etiquette. Citations help readers determine the reliability of our data. In addition, they let interested readers know where to find more information about a topic.

Most importantly, perhaps, citing sources protects us from suspicions of plagiarism.

At About.com Homework and Study Tips, my colleague Grace Fleming has several pages on "how, where, and why to place citations," accompanied by full-page examples. If you're conducting research, you might want to start with the 12 articles under the heading Finding Sources, and then move on to the entries under APA Style, MLA Style, or Turabian Style.

As Ann Raimes says in Pocket Keys for Writers (Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2013), "Citing sources shows your readers that you have done your homework. You will earn respect for the depth and breadth of your research and for having worked hard to make your case" (p. 50).

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