Quality academic writing is built upon the work of others, to which we add our own unique analysis and contributions. Citations serve three major roles in scholarly work:
In each case, it's important that you acknowledge the ways in which others' ideas contributed to your own. To fail to distinguish our original ideas from those of our forebears is plagiarism, "the act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, or excerpts, ideas, or passages therefrom, and passing the material off as one's own creation." (West's Encyclopedia of American Law).
If you incorporate or refer to others' theories, words, ideas or concepts in a paper or project, you must document each one using a citation. The use of facts and statistics that another has compiled must also be likewise acknowledged.
You need to document:
You do not need to document:
Sometimes it can be difficult to be sure what counts as common knowledge. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if a knowledgeable reader would be familiar with the information in question. If he or she would have to look it up to confirm it, you should usually document it. If you're not sure, document it to play it safe.
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