What is citation? Why does it matter?

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Time needed to complete this module: 10 minutes

Learning Objectives: 

  • Students will value the intellectual property of information creators and use sources ethically.
  • Students will apply the citation style appropriate to their discipline.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines citation as “an act of quoting.” While that’s part of what citation means in an academic context, there’s more to it than quoting other people. When we say citation in college, we mean giving credit to others for the work they have done.

We cite our sources for 3 main reasons:

  1. To credit to the ideas of others
    It's important to give credit when you're using other people's ideas. Pretending other people's ideas are your own original thoughts is called plagiarism, and it can have severe academic consequences.
  2. To help readers find our sources
    Readers might want to find more information about the topic you're writing about. By citing your sources, you can lead them to credible relevant sources of further information.
  3. To support our conclusions
    You're probably not an expert on your topic yet, but by citing the ideas and thoughts of people who are, you give more credibility to your own conclusions.

Citation is also important because it is the policy of the University that all students must follow the Academic Integrity Policy, which requires the use of citations to avoid plagiarism.

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