Why Cite

In your research papers or projects, you usually consult the works of others for several reasons:
  • to learn from them
  • to help formulate your own opinions
  • to support your own ideas
  • to show what has been done previously on your topic

Sometimes you will include direct quotes or paraphrase information from these sources.

Whether you quote from the sources or consult them for ideas, you need to cite them for several reasons:

  • to give credit to the authors or creators of those sources or ideas
  • to allow your readers to find and benefit from the exact sources you used
  • (in a college paper or project) to let your professor know how you arrived at your conclusions

Most published information, whether on the Web or in print, is copyrighted automatically and subject to copyright laws.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 1 on "Copyright Basics" (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf):

"Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works."

More on copyright in Module 7: Ethics of Information

Using someone else's work without citation is plagiarism, which usually results in serious consequences, especially for college students.

2010-2013 Copyright Old Dominion University -- ODU Libraries, updated September 2013