Papers and articles are often a mix of ideas from different sources. By thinking through where ideas originate, we can understand what needs a citation. This video guides viewers through three types of ideas found in papers and explains how to use citations responsibly. It teaches:
- Why common knowledge and the writer’s ideas don’t often require citations
- Why other people’s ideas deserve special treatment and often require citations
- Why citations matter and what role they play in writing and research
- How in-text and full citations often work together to make reading easier
- Why citations are a service to readers who may want to learn more
If you think about it, much of the information that goes into a paper or article can be organized into three groups: “common knowledge” “my ideas”, and “other people’s ideas”. By understanding these groups, we can see why citations matter in our work.
Let’s start with common knowledge, which consists of well established and reliable facts. For example, George Washington being the first US president is an established fact found in a variety of reliable sources. A year having 365 days is also considered common knowledge.
Next, let’s consider “my ideas”. This group consists of your personal thoughts, opinions, conclusions, and analysis of your topic. If you are conducting your own original research, it would also fall into this category.
And finally, there are other people’s ideas - and these deserve special care. When we research a topic, we’re likely to find and borrow helpful information and discoveries that came from the work of specific individuals or organizations whose work was published in reputable books, journals, articles and websites. “Other people’s ideas” also include quotes from other writing that support or debate points that you’re making. A paper or project may include all three types of information.
While common knowledge and your ideas don’t usually need special treatment, when other people’s ideas are included in your paper, readers do need to know. This can be done with citations. Using citations shows you’re responsible. You’ve done the research, given credit to the right people, provided the reader with resources for more learning and avoided plagiarism.
A citation consists of two parts that work together. These are the in-text citation and full citations. Here’s how they work…
When you use someone else’s ideas, the reader needs to know, but adding the required information into the middle of your paper would be annoying and hard to read.
So, we need a quick way to indicate when a section is based on someone else's ideas. This is done with an in-text citation. It’s a brief notification within the body of the text that specific words, ideas, figures, or images were taken from other sources. These point the reader to the second part of a citation--the full citation--which can be found either at end of the paper or at the bottom of the page. This way, the text remains readable and it’s clear when you use other people's’ ideas.
Often, full citations have all the information needed to find the original publication. These include author names, titles of books or journals, publishers, publication dates, page numbers and more.
Let’s look at two common ways to cite your sources in a paper: Imagine that you use an idea from a book in your paper and need to cite it.
An in-text citation could might include the author’s last name and year published, author’s last name and page number, or simply a number. These connect the reader to the full citation, which may be in a bibliography at the end of the paper, or in a footnote at the bottom of the page.
Using citations is part of being a responsible student and researcher, but it’s also a service to others. They acknowledge the people whose work helped establish what is known about the world and provides a way for your readers to dive even deeper into your subject.
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