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Plagiarism Tutorial: 5. Citing Sources

This guide explains what plagiarism is, why it's important, and how to avoid it.

5.1 Why is Citing So Important?

Citing is a formal way of showing where you got information for your paper.

Citing is important for many reasons. Citing:

  • Shows your reader where you found your information and lets them go back to the original source to learn more 
  • Gives credit where credit is due! 
  • Provides your argument with credibility and shows that you've done your research

Your instructors don't expect you to be an expert. Instead, they want to see that you have read and understood credible sources written by people who are experts. Show them who you know, rather than what you know by citing all the sources you used to complete your assignment. 

5.2 When Should I Cite?

Always Cite:

  • Direct quotations taken from sources - place quotation marks around direct quotes as you write them down.

  • Paraphrased ideas and opinions taken from someone else's work.

  • Summaries of ideas taken from someone else's work.

  • Factual information, including statistics or other data unless it is considered common knowledge.

You must cite all sources used in all assignments that you create. It does not matter what format your assignment (for example, presenation or paper) is in or where in your assignment you use a quote, summary, paraphrase or statistics. 

The Exception: â€‹Common knowledge

When writing an essay, the only source material you do not have to cite is information that is considered common knowledge. Common knowledge generally refers to any well-established, uncontroversial fact about the world, or a fact that cannot be attributed to a single source. However, common knowledge does not necessarily mean that everyone knows it.

Common knowledge: 5 credible sources rule

A general rule is that you can consider information common knowledge if you can find that information uncredited in 5 credible sources.

If you're not sure if something is common knowledge, it's better to be safe and cite it!

5.3 Plagiarism Quiz #4