WHY WE CITE SOURCES IN ACADEMIC PAPERS A WRITING CENTRE HANDOUT

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WHY WE CITE SOURCES IN ACADEMIC PAPERS A WRITING CENTRE HANDOUT
WHY WE CITE SOURCES IN ACADEMIC PAPERS
A WRITING CENTRE HANDOUT
Plagiarism is academic misconduct.
Plagiarism might involve:
using another person’s writing as your own
misrepresenting your research
(excluding used sources or including unused sources (“padding”) in your bibliography)
paraphrasing too closely
misrepresenting an author’s argument
In the worst case scenario, plagiarism can get you expelled from university. While some
students do plagiarize intentionally, the majority of students do it unintentionally.
You can’t assume that you know the rules.
Writing with integrity requires knowledge of the specific techniques of inquiry and
writing conventions in each academic field of research. It is your responsibility to learn
these ways of researching and writing so that you can ensure that you write with integrity.
Citation practices aren’t just for students; nor are they just about
stealing. They’re concerned with the responsible building of
knowledge within research communities.
Academic writing is conversation.
Academic papers engage with previously established ideas. They respond to these ideas
and anticipate further responses to sustain an ongoing dialogue, which is the basis for all
academic discourse: "Every time we consult a source, we join and by joining, sustain a
conversation that may be decades, even centuries old" (Booth, Colomb and Williams 12).
Strong academic arguments rely on citation in order to
demonstrate the gap in research that they’re filling,
clarify their context and relevance,
marshal support and gain authority,
& ensure their integrity (soundness, veracity).
© Emmy Misser & Stephanie Bell, Writing Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University
Website: http://www.wlu.ca/writing
Why We Cite: 3 Reasons
1. We cite in order to distinguish between citation and interpretation.
How can you demonstrate which ideas and insights are yours if the reader
can’t tell where your citations end and your interpretation of them begins?
In university papers, you have to demonstrate higher-order thinking skills by
“identifying, locating, assessing, and assimilating others’ research and then developing
and expressing your own ideas clearly and persuasively” (Gibaldi 2). Demonstrate your
ability to engage with others’ arguments by acknowledging ownership of ideas through
citation.
2. We cite in order to show how knowledge is formed.
Citation shows where you got your understanding of a given topic and
whose ideas you’re building upon – it demonstrates the extent to which
your argument is reliable.
Being able to trace the development of an author’s ideas from other credible sources
supports the foundation for the “organized accumulation of academic knowledge”
(Walker, Taylor 10). The development of knowledge depends on the honesty of all
writers, yours included. The big picture is about knowledge building: each piece of
reported research adds to the collective construction of knowledge. Research serves as
the foundation on which new contributions to knowledge are responsibly built.
3. We cite sources in order to demonstrate context and significance.
Citation helps you develop an argument that addresses the proverbial “so
what?” question.
When you explain what has already been thought and said on a topic and position your
research as a response to this prior conversation, you help your reader understand the
context in which you’re writing and the relevance as well as the significance of your
research.
Works Cited
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of
Research. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th ed. New
York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1999.
Walker, Janice R. and Todd Taylor. The Columbia Guide to Online Style. New
York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
© Emmy Misser & Stephanie Bell, Writing Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University
Website: http://www.wlu.ca/writing
Find out WHAT
you need to cite
and HOW in the
next handout

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