- Give credit to the original ideas of others through paper attribution and citation.
- Explain the rationale for citing information sources.
- Identify instances of plagiarism and copyright infringement, including with the use of images.
- Identify interested parties, such as scholars, organizations, governments, and industries, who might produce information about a topic and then determine how to access that information.
- Match information needs and search strategies to appropriate search tools.
- Manage searching processes and results effectively.
- Correctly cite an information source.
- Characterize common citation styles.
is something that we do almost every day, whether or not we’re aware of it. We may think of citation as a requirement for papers and assignments, which is one function of citation, but it has several purposes. In the sciences, what does it really mean to your sources and why bother?
The rationale for citing carefully is to:
- Show you have read widely and creatively as per the expectations of the discipline
- Demonstrate you’ve learned from the work of people who studied the topic before you
- Give credit to your sources of information (definitions, other scholars’ concepts, statistics) and avoid plagiarism
- Provide the details of your research path for others to follow so that they can find the materials and read/learn/think for themselves
- Actively participate in the scholarly conversation. Go you!
Whenever we share a story or link on social media, we’re citing—including information about the source—such as where it can be found online. Very simply, this information allows others to find the original source and identify where it came from. If someone is curious about the story you shared, they can read the original post and possibly follow links in that story (citations) which will lead to other discoveries. Citation helps us to find information. If you’re reading a news article about a scientific study, check to see if the article provides a link to the scholarly journal article where the study was published. This link is a form of citation that will help lead you to the original information.
Citation also serves to show a record of how other sources impacted the current source. Scientific research articles published in always provide a list of citations, which show where the ideas, techniques, and studies were built upon by the current research came from. This reference creates a sort of paper trail that helps other scientists better evaluate the new study and see how it fits with previous research. By providing a list of references, an author invites other scientists to see for themselves if the ideas the author cites are supported by evidence, if the assumptions he or she makes are justified, and if the techniques described by others have been properly implemented. In this way, citation functions as a record of a conversation: how other scientists’ work speaks to and informs new work.
Copyright Infringement and Credit
Another important function of citation is to identify the original creators of information and to give them credit. In science, credit matters. A magazine or newspaper article only sometimes acknowledges the sources of its arguments—the books the author read or the interviews conducted. Science, on the other hand, is scrupulous about giving credit where credit is due. The bibliography or list of citations that you find in scientific research articles serves to credit other scientists for ideas, techniques, and studies that were built upon by the current research.
Legally and ethically, It’s important to not give the direct or indirect impression that someone else’s work or ideas were written or created by you. When you hear the term plagiarism, it refers to this phenomenon. For example, some of the content in this chapter was created by people other than the listed authors, and to avoid plagiarism, we’ve given credit to the original authors through citation at the end of the chapter in the “References” section. It’s crucial to use proper citation to indicate where that source material or idea originated. If you use copyrighted work in your own creations without citation, it’s a copyright infringement—a legal issue—in addition to the ethical issue of plagiarism.
Take this quiz from Turnitin to learn more about plagiarism and copyright infringement!
The Use of Images
Images are easily available for download, but when can you use images in your own works? For text, a brief quote can be used in your work, but images do not work this way. Using an image that is protected by copyright is similar to taking an entire article, adding a citation, and then putting your name on the work.
There are two main types of licenses that images (and text) can have:
Copyright is a legal term that refers to the person (or people) who own and distribute a piece of information. The copyright holder has rights to that material, and if others use the material without getting permission first, they may be in violation of copyright. This isn’t good (!) and can result in fines. What’s the most important thing you need to know about copyright? Simple: If something is copyrighted, you can’t use it without getting permission; this may involve paying for permission.
Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization that collects all sorts of materials and makes them available to the public for free use. When a user creates a piece of content (writing, art, photography, or just about anything), they may choose to put a Creative Commons license on the material. The license explains how people share, remix, repurpose, or in other ways use the material. As a student, the Creative Commons has made a world of materials available to you. If you use any of the materials in your work, you should include the Creative Commons in your source citation.
There are many ways to find both popular and scholarly sources, including Google and Google Scholar. You also have the option of beginning your search through your school’s Library website (e.g., MSU Libraries). There are two main advantages to using the Libraries’ search as your starting point, especially for scholarly or journal articles. The Libraries’ search can make it easier to narrow and sort your searches by type of article or subject. You will also have automatic access to articles for which the library subscribes. Often when you’re using Google or Google Scholar, you may be asked to pay or log in to view the whole article (full-text). If you start at the Libraries’ page, you typically just need to enter your school ID and password to get access.
For each source that you use, you will want to keep track of certain types of bibliographic information to include in your citations, including the authors, the year it was published, the title of the work, and the publisher (and/or the URL). The order of the bibliographic elements is prescribed by the citation style, which is a convention for the sequence of information and punctuation used. People write for different purposes and different audiences. Citation styles reflect these differences by specifying:
- How to structure the elements (such as date and title) within a citation and
- All of the details that should be included in the bibliography, which goes at the end of your essay with the header “References,” “Works Cited,” or “Bibliography,” depending on the citation style.
Citation styles force researchers to standardize the content and format of their citations and references. When the title and date are always found in the same place in every citation, research is a bit easier because the information is presented in a consistent way. Whether you are citing print books or YouTube videos, this protocol of scholarly conversation is an efficient way to discuss and share sources.
|Style||Organization||Fields where used||Features|
|AP||Associated Press||Print journalism, public relations||Quotations and paraphrases are integrated using signal words but without citations or reference list|
|APA||American Psychological Association||Academics, business, education research, social sciences, some engineering||In-text citations with publication date focus (Author, year); reference list alphabetical by authors’ surnames|
|Chicago (CMOS) or Turabian||University of Chicago Press||Humanities, sciences, social sciences||2 systems: (i) notes and bibliography (footnotes /endnotes with superscript numbers); and (ii) author-date (in-text citations similar to APA)|
|CSE||Council of Science Editors||natural science, mathematics, physical science||3 systems: name-year (like APA); citation-sequence (like IEEE with superscript numbers); and citation-name (citations and reference list alpha by authors’ surnames with superscript numbers)|
|IEEE||Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers||Technical fields such as computer science and some engineering,||In-text citations with bracketed numbers referencing bibliography entries; numeric reference list in order sources appear in text|
|MLA||Modern Language Association||Humanities, especially language and literature||Author-page in-text citations; works cited list alphabetical by authors’ surnames|
In science, the most common sources are scholarly journal articles written by scientists (see the “Information Communication” chapter for details on the types of media). The following is an example of a scholarly journal article with the pieces of information that you’ll need to create the citation listed and highlighted. The example comes from Marcyk and Moll’s Information Literacy Badges.
Scholarly Journal Article
To cite a scholarly journal article, you’ll need to collect the following pieces of information:
- Date when the article was published
- Title of the article
- Title of the journal
- Volume and issue number
- Page numbers where the article appears
- DOI (alphanumeric code) or URL (website address) of the article
These pieces of information are highlighted in the following image, and the completed APA-style citation is listed beneath the image.
Completed APA Style Citation:
Fritt-Rasmussen, J., Wegeberg, S., & Gustavson, K. (2015). Review on burn residues from in situ burning of oil spills in relation to arctic waters. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 226(329), n.p. https://doi-org.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/10.1007/s11270-015-2593-1
For more practice with citations, you can go through the Information Literacy Badges‘ self-guided lesson.
For the following citation, match the different parts to their descriptor.
Colla, S. R., & Packer, L. (2008). Evidence for decline in eastern North American bumblebees (hymenoptera: Apidae), with special focus on bombus affinis cresson. Biodiversity and Conservation, 17(6), 1379-1391. doi:10.1007/s10531-008-9340-5
Writing an essay begins with gathering evidence — reading, looking for themes and patterns, following leads to other texts, and taking notes. As you read the work of other scholars and think about your approach to the topic, make it a habit to keep track of where you found the ideas and themes that spark your interest. Always note the author, date, and title in your notes to ensure you can find that source again. Keeping careful track also reduces errors in your final bibliography, which is a key part of your essay. Details are important. Citations include names of people, titles, dates, and volume numbers. Formatting styles including punctuation.
These details are easy to keep track of when you use a citation manager. Citation managers (a.k.a. reference managers) are software programs that allow you to save and organize your citations, and quickly create bibliographies for your assignments. Using a digital tool will save you so much time when referring back to your sources and writing your paper and preparing your bibliography.
Marcyk, E. & Moll, E. Citation as conversation. Information Literacy Badges. https://informationliteracybadges.org/
This chapter is a modified derivative of the following articles:
The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
Understanding Science. 2020. University of California Museum of Paleontology. 11 June 2020 <http://www.understandingscience.org>.
Write Here, Right Now: An Interactive Introduction to Academic Writing and Research by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Table 1 is from (Mindful Technical Writing: An Introduction to the Fundamentals (Chapter: Selecting a Style Guide) by Atkinson & Corbitt 2021 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.
In science publishing, a reference to another published scientific work that provides the information necessary to locate that work. Through citations, the scientific community expects its members to give credit to the ideas, techniques, and studies of other scientists that influenced or informed a particular investigation.
In science publishing, to give credit to the previous work of other scientists — usually through a list of references, or citations, at the end of a scientific article. Through citations, the scientific community expects its members to give credit to the ideas, techniques, and studies of other scientists that influenced or informed a particular investigation.
A scholarly source that contains articles written by scientists publishing their work. It is a detailed record of specific research, and it's been authored by the scientists who did the work.