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Why Do We Need to Cite Our Sources of Information?
- To give credit where credit is due: When you use the intellectual property of others (their ideas, theories, analyses, images, etc.), whether you quote them directly or use their intellectual property indirectly (for example, if you are paraphrasing or putting their thoughts into your own words), you must acknowledge their contribution and credit the original source(s). The way you do this is to cite their work. If you do not acknowledge the original ideas you build upon in your own work, you engage in plagiarism, which is a major violation of the honor code. You wouldn't want someone claiming credit for your ideas, would you? The same holds true when you use material that originated with others. See the "Avoiding Plagiarism" tab in this guide for tips on how to steer clear of this pitfall.
- To make it possible for your readers to locate/view the sources you used: Citations also make it possible for someone reading your work to find and read/view the actual sources that you used in your paper or research. Ideally, the citation is constructed in such a way as to make it easy for someone else to locate the exact same sources you used.
Why Are There Different Citation Styles (APA, MLA, etc.)?
- Different disciplines have developed different styles of citing sources over the years because it fit the needs of their discipline. APA style was originally developed by the American Psychological Association for manuscripts submitted for publication in its journals, but it has since been adopted by many disciplines in the social sciences, including Education and History, but also other disciplines including Business, Nursing, etc.
- Still other disciplines use styles other than APA; for example, many in the humanities, including English, modern languages, classics, etc., use MLA style, originally developed by the Modern Language Association for manuscript submission to its journals.
- Using a standard style keeps everything consistent, and your readers understand what kinds of documents you are citing when everyone in a discipline/audience uses the same style.