19 Why we cite
Although in some cultures it is a sign of respect to use the words or ideas of others without giving credit to that person, this is not acceptable in American higher education.
Academics engage in conversations to advance their knowledge and understanding of a subject. This happens mostly in written form through the publication of scholarly materials. In these academic conversations, it is necessary and expected that all prior thought is acknowledged and that all contributors to the conversation are credited. As a student, you too are a contributor to these conversations, and you therefore must credit all the sources from which you drew information.
Crediting your sources is done through a process called citation. A citation is a reference to a source of information. It gives specific key information about the source, so the reader can find it.
Why do we cite?
The main reasons why we cite are:
- to situate your work in the current literature
- to distinguish prior contributions from new original thought
- to be able to check that thoughts and ideas are passed on accurately
- to enable a reader to locate and read the source(s) you used
- to give credit to the person whose ideas you used
- to respect the intellectual output of others
- to show that you have investigated your topic well
- to add credibility and support to your argument
- to uphold academic integrity standards