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Why do we cite sources in academic writing?

Before deciding on MLA or APA, watch this Prezi to learn why citation matters.
by

PSU Writing Center

on 13 October 2011

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Transcript of Why do we cite sources in academic writing?

Citing sources correctly can take a lot of time and effort. You may end up asking yourself, "why should I bother?" or "what's the point anyway?" But understanding why we cite can help you understand why citation is an essential part of academic writing. Attribution:
When we are new to a subject, most of our ideas about it will come from other people, usually people who have studied and thought a lot about that topic. Citation gives us a way to attribute ideas to the people who thought of them first. There are three main reasons why we cite: The Greek philosopher Plato (427- 347 B.C.E.) believed that the world or forms, or abstract ideas,
was more real and important than the physical world. He taught that the ideas you think are more
important than the physical things you create in life, including children. While this may sound a little
strange, this basic premise underlies much of Western thinking. When you think about it this way, it makes sense that
it would be important to cite sources. When you read someone
else's ideas, you are reading the product of their minds. If you decide to mention another's ideas in your own writing, you need to acknowledge the author because those ideas belong to him or her. If you don't acknowledge the author, your writing becomes a form of theft, what we call, plagiarism. Precision:

Another main reason we cite is to make writing clear and precise. Imagine you just watched a hilarious film, and tried to explain it to a friend. On one hand, you could say, "It was that one, you know, about the beach bum who gets wrapped up in a high profile crime situation?" If you were to go about it that way, your friend might not have any idea what you were talking about. But say you were to summarize it this way: "So, yesterday I watched The Big Lebowski, you know that film by the Cohen brothers? Right, it's their film from 1998, and it takes place in Los Angeles." If using Platonic philosophy seems too abstract, try thinking of the reasons to cite in another way: academic writing is often described as a form of discourse, or conversation. Conversations, and writing for that matter, never exist in a vacuum. So now that you've got the general idea of why citations matter, you may want to see some examples of how to do them. There are two ways to include citations in your writing, in-text and bibliographic. For further information about in-text and bibliographic citations, please see the prezis "In-text citations," (http://prezi.com/xc4lk_7sqvb3/in-text-citations) "How to make a bibliography/works cited page" and "How to cite a website"
(http://prezi.com/q1ziw1ie6adt/how-to-cite-a-website) Why We Cite Precision Attribution In some ways, citing sources is a cultural phenomenon. Not all cultural traditions practice citing sources in writing, but in the western tradition, we do. A citation, like that second description, allows you to refer to something using information like its title, the date it was created and the name of the author. Using this information is a clear, brief way to reference the entire work (film, book, article, webpage etc.) and make sure you and your reader are referring to the same subject. Reproducibility Reproducibility:
Citation is a way for other scholars to check the conclusions we reach in our papers. When scientists discover something radically new, other scientists will repeat the same work to see if they can reproduce the result. Your friend would know exactly what you meant "In-text" (also called "parenthetical") simply means including information about your sources in your actual paper, while "bibligraphic" means documenting your sources more completely at the end of your paper. These two forms work together and any college paper will require both of them. Even better, since you are a beginning scholar in most subjects, citing experts in your paper will make you sound more knowledgeable, creditable and authoritative. Interestingly, the Greek roots of the word plagiarism are related to the word "kidnapping." Like scientists, we use citaiton as a way to document our process so that future scholars can find the same information in the same places. To do this, those scientists need precise descriptions of the steps taken to reach that result. Now let's back up and take a look at where the IDEA of citation comes from. The reasons date all the way back to the foundations of western philosophy. It's not imperative to know the origins of citations, but seeing it from the big picture can explain why it matters in your college experience. How come? Therefore, ideas are a person's most important posessions and if you think of an idea first, it belongs to you. They are part of a continuing dialogue and exchange of ideas. Your writing should tell your audience what ideas you are responding to, who said them, and what you make of them. Formal citations are the basic method that the academic community uses to share information and you'll need to master their conventions to join in the conversation.
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