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What is plagiarism?

Created by North Carolina State University

Why do I need to cite my sources?

Evaluating information is only the first step -- once you find credible information, you need to incorporate the information into your work in a way that acknowledges the original author. Imagine research as a conversation -- scholars are trading ideas back and forth and building on the findings of earlier work. Citing your sources is an important part of contributing to this conversation. It allows readers to understand how your work fits into the overall conversation.

Citing your sources is:

  •     the smart thing to do -- readers will consider your work more credible if they know where your information comes from.
  •     the honest thing to do -- it prevents plagiarism by giving credit to the original author of an idea.

When do I need to cite sources?

To avoid plagiarism, NAU's e-Learning Center advises you to cite sources when:

  • You directly quote a source
  • You paraphrase a source
  • You summarize someone else's ideas in your own words
  • You draw on facts, information, data or media from someone else
  • You want to add supplemental information not included in your paper, such as footnotes or endnotes

Note: You do not need to cite generally accepted knowledge. For more information, see Not-So-Common Knowledge.

(the text above is a direct quote from the e-Learning Center's Academic Integrity @ NAU tutorial. The e-Learning Center was paraphrasing Princeton University's guidelines. In this case, we credit both sources to show the progression of the ideas.

Finding information about and examples of citation styles

Information about a few commonly used style guides:

Find more citation guides and examples of properly formatted citations at these websites: