Why are citations important? Here are some reasons why you cannot ignore citations in your writing without putting your integrity as a researcher and writer at risk.
Citations are essential in your writing because citing sources is the only guaranteed way to avoid plagiarism. In addition, using citations when referencing quotes and paraphrased content gives proper credit to the original author, so you can use their idea or thoughts ethically in your academic writing.
- The Importance of Citations in Academic Research Papers
- 1. Allows Readers to Fact-Check
- 2. Improve Writer’s Research Ability
- 3. Improve Your Writing
- 4. Increase Your Overall Credibility
- 5. Verify Published Work More Easily
- Knowing When to Cite Sources
- Potential Problems with Plagiarism
- Different Citation Styles to Use in Writing
- 1. APA Style
- 2. Chicago Style
- 3. MLA Style
The Importance of Citations in Academic Research Papers
Writers must follow proper citation protocols in their writing for multiple reasons. The most obvious reason is to avoid the dangers of plagiarism, which can include losing your academic integrity or getting a failing grade on an assignment. Still, there are additional reasons why you should consider citing your work’s references carefully. Here are five of them.
1. Allows Readers to Fact-Check
One reason to cite your sources in your writing is to allow your readers to fact-check what you say. In academic papers, this ability helps keep you credible and assists your readers with their research.
If your reader is your professor, it provides that teacher with the tools to ensure your facts are accurate. Accuracy is a big part of your grade in these settings, and proper citation shows that your work is accurate.
2. Improve Writer’s Research Ability
Knowing that you will have to add a citation for every direct quote and paraphrase you include in your writing forces you to be a good researcher. You have to keep detailed notes to cite your sources correctly.
You will include the author’s names, page numbers, journal articles and book titles, date of publication, and other details to give proper credit to the original author. Keeping these details improves your overall research ability.
3. Improve Your Writing
Good research ability improves your skills as a writer. A well-researched paper with solid attribution throughout is often a well-written paper, as well. Citations also let you use the active voice in your writing more often, which is one sign of a skilled writer.
4. Increase Your Overall Credibility
Solid works cited page with excellent sources and a solid in-text citation that properly credits the work of others will develop your reputation as a serious researcher and writer. It also adds a layer of protection to your reputation. If the research you present is false, you can at least show that you had good resources backing your theory.
If you are writing for scientific areas, proper citation and credibility will solidify your reputation as a researcher. If you are writing for the humanities or social sciences, it will improve your reputation as a serious scholar.
5. Verify Published Work More Easily
A good citation routine that follows the citation style appropriate for the type of work you write makes it easier to verify the accuracy of the work.
Verification is an essential part of the process if the work will eventually hit publication, which is common with graduate thesis papers. In addition, you will receive better feedback and minimal corrections during the editing and proofreading process if you have solid citations.
Knowing When to Cite Sources
Skilled writers know when they need to cite sources and when they can ignore this task. As a general rule, you will cite all sources of information you use that are not your original idea. Even if you paraphrase or summarize from the source, you must credit the original author.
This rule becomes tricky when the idea s something that is considered “common knowledge.” Common knowledge is something people would automatically know based on their general knowledge. For example, if you say that February is the shortest month of the year, you do not need to cite this fact. Most people know and accept it.
Common knowledge also is audience-specific. For example, something might be common knowledge to your readers that is not commonly known by the general public. If you are writing to a team of scientists, for instance, they may know the atomic weight of silver automatically, so you would not need to cite this fact in your research.
Potential Problems with Plagiarism
The primary reason you need to learn how to cite sources is to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is illegal, and you will likely lose all of your academic credit if you are caught plagiarizing. While each school has its rules for handling plagiarism, this is considered a form of cheating, and you will lose points on your paper if you get caught.
Many professors and academic institutions have a zero-tolerance policy regarding plagiarism. If you get caught, you will fail your paper and, potentially, the entire class. Ensuring that you properly cite all sources of information will prevent this type of tragedy.
Different Citation Styles to Use in Writing
Writers must follow a specific set of rules when citing their sources. These rules are laid out in publications called style guides.
Specifically, writers need to understand that there are multiple citation style guides that they might be asked to use in their writing. Having publication guides available ensures writers can look up their assigned style to get the citations right. Always check the assignment instructions or publication platform you use to ensure you choose the correct publication style. Some of the more commonly used citation styles include these:
1. APA Style
The APA citation style comes from the American Psychological Association. It is commonly used for projects and papers in the behavioral and social sciences.
APA format cites sources with parenthetical notation within the piece itself. For example, it includes the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the paragraph or page number if citing a direct quote. At the end of the document, all works cited are listed on a Reference List page using the proper format for the type of work used.
2. Chicago Style
The Chicago style of citation uses footnotes within the piece to indicate where the information came from. This style commonly gets used in the humanities. In the footnote, the source details are listed the first time fully, then only the author’s last name, an abbreviated title, and the page number for subsequent notes.
This style uses a Bibliography page at the end of the work to indicate all of the sources used. These bibliography sources have a slightly different format than the footnotes but contain the same information. Chicago style is sometimes called Turabian style. These two terms are interchangeable.
3. MLA Style
The final common style is the MLA style. MLA stands for Modern Language Association, and this is the most popular style used for research papers. It is common in academic research and scientific publications.
MLA uses parenthetical citations within the piece to show where the ideas come from. These citations use the author’s last name and page number to help readers find the work.
At the end of the work, MLA style demands a Works Cited page. This page lists the details of the publications used in the research. For more help with your citations, check out our guide on the best citation software available!
In the below video, I also cover how you can generate citations quickly and easily for MLA, Chicago Manual of Style and APA using Grammarly.
Join over 15,000 writers today
Get a FREE book of writing prompts and learn how to make more money from your writing.