Learning Objective: Understand why researchers cite other sources.
Watch one of these videos on why we cite from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University.
Why We Cite
Citation: A (very) Brief Introduction
To attribute words and ideas to their original source – simply giving credit where credit is due
To provide your readers with a kind of “map” of what you have been reading that will help your readers understand what has influenced your thinking
To add weight and credibility to your paper and demonstrate that you are engaged in the relevant research material
To provide an easy way for your readers to get access to the source material
To situate yourself in an academic community with shared conventions
To avoid plagiarism
You always cite your sources because you understand that information has value.
The golden rule is to always cite other people’s words, ideas and other intellectual property that you use in your papers or that influence your ideas.
This includes but isn’t limited to:
You don’t need to cite what would be considered common knowledge, such as facts, events, concepts, etc. that are widely known and accepted as true. In other words, you don’t cite information you can reasonably expect other people to know.
For example it is widely know that there are bilingual (French and English) speakers in Montreal. So if you wrote, “there is a bilingual population in Montreal”, you don’t need to cite this because it’s an accepted fact, or common knowledge.
BUT, the specific number of bilingual speakers or percentages of where they live is not common knowledge. So you if you wrote, “70% of bilingual speakers live in the downtown core of Montreal,” you would cite your source.
So how can you tell what’s your own idea and what came from one of your sources? The best way to avoid this dilemma is to use good note taking techniques. Make sure when you are going through your notes, you have indicators of which ideas are your own and which ideas or quotes are from a source. Remember to always keep track of a source’s Author, Title and Publication information (as well as the page number).
If you are in doubt whether something is common knowledge or not- cite!
Better to be safe than sorry.