Using and Citing Sources

A significant portion work you do at university will involve understanding the ideas and discoveries of experts in the field. Works by other authors can be inspiring and provide you with information and evidence for your writing; however, information and ideas from others must be incorporated into your work carefully. The advice files below provide detailed guidelines for different aspects of using sources, starting with reading and notetaking, then how to summarize, paraphrase and quote, then moving on to citing sources using different citation styles. (Documents that are referenced can be found below.)

Read critically and take careful notes: As you take notes, make clear separations between others’ ideas and your comments, responses and analysis. Either take down exact quotations or put others’ ideas and information fully into your own words. Include citations with your notes, then incorporate these into your draft--that is create your citations while working on the assignment, not as a last step. Handouts on Reading Critically and the Note-Taking worksheet can help.

Summarize and Paraphrase: Most research assignments require you to read and extract essential information, and then present important points in your own words. The guide to summarizing and paraphrasing provides information on summarizing and paraphrasing, with details on when and how to use each technique appropriately.  Paraphrasing means to restate someone else’s ideas in your own words at roughly the same level of detail, whereas summarizing means to reduce someone else’s work into the main ideas.

Quote directly: There will be circumstances when it is best to incorporate an exact sentence directly from the work of another author, rather than paraphrasing or summarizing the idea being presented. Quoting may be necessary when you want to ensure precision of the idea or maintain a certain vivid impact, which may be lost in paraphrase. In this case, it is appropriate to consider quoting and inserting a citation to the original work. The following document discusses how to incorporate quotations into your written work.

Follow the rules of the correct citation style: Whenever is an external source is used for ideas or information, whether that be for summarizing, paraphrasing or direct quotations, you must cite the source. Citation styles vary across disciplines and determine the type of in-text citation and the format of the final citation summary. Generally, APA is used for Sciences and Psychology, MLA is used by the Humanities, and Chicago is used by Business and History. It’s best to discuss the expectations for each specific course with professors or teaching assistants. Refer to the following document for further tips on how to avoid plagiarizing when writing, while still using readings and ideas from other authors.

Writing Tip: Avoid putting others’ ideas at the beginning of your paragraph, particularly if ideas are specific.Different disciplines use different methods of citing sources. All methods can vary in details like punctuation, typeface, and indentation. It is important identify which method is appropriate for your discipline and to follow all the rules exactly. For details on each style, consult the handouts and guides listed below. 


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