Source citation and documentation

AcWriChatDuring the May 1st #AcWriChat TweetChat event, we discussed source citation and documentation in academic works. Specifically, we were interested in why and how we cite sources and document our research.

Several reasons were offered for why we cite sources:

  1. “Having accurate citations will help you as a researcher and writer keep track of the sources and information you find so that you can easily find the source again.” –Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries
  2. “To grasp the reader’s attention.” – @HopkinsonJen
  3. “To give credit where credit is due [and] to demonstrate how your work connects with (and possibly addresses a gap within) previous work.” – @DSApfelbaum
  4. “It shows readers where they might look to test, explore, and extend your conclusions.” –Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

We’re reminded in a Swarthmore College resource that “Paraphrasing ALWAYS requires a citation. Even if you are using your own words, the idea still belongs to someone else.” The Stephen F. Austin State University library also noted that when summarizing, “you must still name the source of your information – either in the summary itself or as an in-text citation in the correct style guide for your assignment.”

So, we asked, “How do you provide proper bibliographic information for a citation?” Danielle Apfelbaum suggested during the chat, “Check your style’s official manual. Typically, all styles have a manual. This is the best place not only for understanding how to format individual citations but how to organize the whole reference list.” Jen Hopkinson added, “The first time you cite a source, provide all information about it in the note: author’s full name, title of the source, and publication information”.

Citation Machine provides comprehensive guides for each of the major writing styles, including:

Citations can be found in multiple locations within a paper. According to the University of Virginia, bibliographic citations “appear in footnotes/endnotes which specify the source of a quotation or data given in the essay and they appear in a bibliography at the end of the article pointing to sources relevant to the essay’s subject matter.”

The University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business also notes that “A bibliography is not just ‘works cited.’ It is all the relevant material you drew upon to write the paper the reader holds.”

Daytona State College notes that “there is considerable overlap in how people use terms like document, cite, reference, quote, and the like.” Further, NC State University says, “There are many different forms of documentation (systems of citation and reference), varying across academic fields…. But even within academic fields there are different forms because different scholarly journals specify a system to be used in those journals.”

How you choose to manage your citations and documentation may vary as well. Some common tools for doing so include:

Whatever your discipline, style, or tool of choice, be sure to keep track of where you get your ideas and give credit where due by citing and documenting your sources.

Our next TweetChat event is at 11am ET this Friday, May 15th. Join us on Twitter at the hashtag #AcWriChat to discuss effective reading habits in academic writing.


Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.