Why cite sources?
When you present your research, whether in a paper, on a web page, or in some other format, the bibliography of sources you have consulted documents and gives credit for any quotations or ideas you have used from other people's work. When you document sources appropriately, others interested in your research are able to follow your research path and retrieve the information you used.
Use Information Ethically
In a research project, you will use information and ideas from your research sources to support the statements you make. Whether those sources are books, articles, government documents, web pages, email, images, or any other types of sources, you must use them fairly and credit them appropriately.
How should you use information from research sources?
When you find ideas or information from a source that you want to use in your paper or presentation, rephrase that material into your own words. Use exact quotations sparingly--only when a phrase is unique or when rephrasing will lose the essence of the idea. The Writing Resource Center at your college can provide additional information on ethical use of sources.
Why must you document information from research sources?
You document, or cite, the information and ideas you use from your sources to give credit to the author or creator and to allow your readers to follow your research path.
Keep a record of all the information you will need from each source for your bibliography--author, title, journal title, date of publication, publisher and place of publication of a book, volume and issue number of a journal, page numbers. If your source is from the internet, such as a web page or email, record the address and date you accessed the document. You may want to save the document or print it out so you will have it as it existed on the date you accessed it.
Sometimes it is difficult to know whether you need to cite an idea or not. If you are unsure, talk with your professor.
How does copyright law affect your research projects?
Unless they are "public domain" or are so old they have passed out of copyright, all the sources you use are copyrighted. Since copyright law allows "fair use" for educational purposes, you may use information from copyrighted sources in class papers and presentations without securing permission from the copyright holder. These uses do not constitute publication.
When you put information up on the web, you are publishing that information; therefore, you do have to consider copyright law. When you use information, ideas, or images borrowed from another source, you may need to secure permission from the copyright holder. For more information on copyright law, see Copyright in Fast Facts.
Need more help?
When you need help on your research project, talk to your professor, stop by the Services Desk at the Library, make an appointment to talk with a Reference Librarian, or talk with someone in the Writing Resource Center on your campus.