This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a writing coach. Figuring out what information needs to be cited and what doesn’t can be really difficult, especially if you are just getting used to the idea of research and citations. But don’t despair! I will outline a few rules that can help guide you as you begin the writing process.
As a general rule, you must cite everything that isn’t an original idea or considered common knowledge. If the thought comes from somebody else’s head and not your own…CITE IT! If, however, it is information that you learned from personal experience, or perhaps it is information that you learned while growing up, and it does not have a particular source, you don’t have to worry about citing it.
If you are looking for more specific guidelines, here are some rules. You must always provide a citation when:
Make sure to copy the information word for word and put quotation marks around it.
Paraphrasing means you are restating the author’s ideas in your own words. The sentence structure which you use should also be your own and not imitative of the author’s.
Summarizing a source is similar to paraphrasing except that it is normally much shorter than the author’s original work, whereas a paraphrase is around the same length.
Anytime you are referencing numbers or information, especially from a study, you must cite it.
Remember that depending on the style of your paper (APA, MLA, Turabian), you must include either in-text citations (APA and MLA) or footnotes (Turabian) as well as a works cited or bibliography page.
If you follow these guidelines, you should be good to go. Remember, if you are ever in doubt as to whether you should cite something or not, go ahead and cite it. It’s much better to be safe than sorry!