Previous | Tutorial Home | Next

2. Citing Resources: Why are citations even needed?

In the 21st century, a quick web search can turn up lots of information, including bibliographic information for sources, so you may think: why do I have to provide all of the publication information for the sources I use in my research if it can easily be found online?

There are several significant reasons to use citations:


1. To acknowledge the work of others
One major purpose of citations is simply providing credit where it is due. When you provide accurate citations, you are acknowledging both the hard work that has gone into producing a source and the person(s) who created the source.

Think about the effort you put into your work (whether essays, reports, or even non-academic jobs): if someone else took credit for your ideas or words, would that seem fair, or would you expect to have your efforts recognized?

2. To provide credibility to your work and to place your work in context and therefore demonstrate the diversity of views in a field or given topic
Providing accurate citations puts your work and ideas into context. They tell your reader that you've done your research and know what others have said about your topic. Not only do citations provide context for your work but they also lend credibility and authority to your claims.

For example, if you're researching and writing about sustainability and construction, you should cite experts in sustainability, construction, and sustainable construction in order to demonstrate that you are well-versed in the most common ideas in the fields. Although you can make a claim about sustainable construction after doing research only in that particular field, your claim will carry more weight if you can demonstrate that your claim can supported by the research of experts in closely related fields.

Citing sources about sustainability and construction as well as sustainable construction demonstrates the diversity of views and approaches to the topic. Further, proper citation also demonstrates the ways in which research is social: no one researches in a vacuum - we all rely on the work of others to help us during the research process.
3. To help your future researching self and other researchers easily locate the source
On a more individual level, having accurate citations will help you as a researcher and writer to keep track of the sources and information you find so that you can easily find the source again. In other words, accurate citations may take some effort to produce, but they will save you time in the long run. So think of proper citation like a gift to your future researching self!
4. To avoid plagiarism and maintain academic integrity
Plagiarism is when someone deliberately uses the language, ideas, or other original materials from someone else without acknowledging that source. Plagiarism can be intentional (knowingly using someone else's work and presenting it as your own) or unintentional (inaccurately or inadequately citing ideas and words from a source). The former is deliberate action and the latter is simply sloppy research.

plagirarism chart
Image courtesy of EasyBib

If you ever have a question about plagiarism, speak to your instructor.

Plagiarism (OSU's Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing)




Previous | Tutorial Home | Next