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United States Military Academy Library


How Do I?: Citations

Citations

Why citing sources is important

  • Acknowledge ideas that are not your own
  • Helps those reading your work to locate your sources, in order to learn more about the ideas that you are presenting
  • Citing your sources consistently and accurately helps you avoid committing plagiarism <link to plagiarism section> in your writing

A good citation makes it easy for the reader to figure out who, what, when, and where of the source. In MLA style, a citation also often indicates how it was accessed.

Picture: MLA_journal_article_citation_anatomy_v2

The USMA Documentation of Academic Work is your source on what is required to be documented at USMA. In addition to the issued “Little Brown Handbook,” there are printed style guides available in the library, and online sources available to help you document your work.

How do I know what citation style to use?

  • Check your syllabus or assignment. Your instructor will tell you what style to use.

Online Citation Guides

Online citation managers: With these tools you can collect book and article citations from the library catalog and databases. Then using a plugin for MS Word, you can insert those citations into your paper in the appropriate format. These citation managers are not perfect, but will give you a good start on created your works cited for an assignment.

Many tools have built-in citation generators. In EBSCOHost databases, for example, click on the title of an article, and look on the far right for the citation tool. The “Cite” link provides formatted citations in APA, MLA, and other common citation styles.

What is plagiarism?

"Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else's words, ideas, or work - whether accidentally or deliberately - as your own work. Source material obtained from internet sources requires the same attentiveness to documentation as from all other sources. Every cadet scholar must properly document the sources of information and ideas received. When in doubt, a good rule is to document any assistance in question."

  • From the USMA Documentation of Academic Work:
    • Document in detail as you work; this will ensure complete citations and will preclude forgetting the specific passage, page, or URL of original idea.
    • Document all numbers, facts, direct quotes
    • follow specific guidelines as laid out by your instructor with regard to format
    • when in doubt: DOCUMENT

When can one use information without citations? 

If the information is Common Knowledge a citation is not required. Some examples are:

  • Well known quotes, axioms, proverbs and sayings
  • Widely known information (i.e. George Washington was the 1st president of the United States; water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit)

When writing academic works know your audience; what may be common knowledge for a group of scientists, may not be known by a group of poets.

  • Information appearing in a number of reputable sources, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • Statistics, numerical data, complete quotes or ideas are NOT common knowledge and must be cited.
  • When in doubt cite your sources.

Tips for preventing Plagiarism

  • Take careful note of your sources during your research process.  Include author(s), title, place of publication, publisher, internet source if applicable, page numbers. More is better, you can always discard unneeded information later.
  • Be sure to indicate which phrases and ideas are yours and which are the work of others.  
  • Decide on a strategy for documenting your resources and follow this procedure throughout your research.

Quoting

  • When you borrow a piece of writing verbatim that someone else wrote you are quoting.  If you choose this option, it’s very important to use the identical words of the original writer, without leaving out such essential words as ‘not,’ since that would confuse your reader.
  • Distinguish quoted material in your paper by using quotation marks (" ") or, for a lengthier passage, by indenting the quoted text. Additionally, you must cite quoted material with either footnotes, endnotes, or in-text citations.
  • Since quotes strongly highlight how something is stated by someone other than yourself, use them sparingly.  Limit their use to times when you are willing to let another voice speak for you due to the exceptional preciseness and clarity of their language. 
  • Paraphrasing and summarizing rather than quoting are often the norm today in the sciences and social sciences.

 

Sample Quote

“Like soldiers in a just war, soldiers in a holy war were guiltless of the sin of murder (provided their motives were proper), but more than that, holy warriors could earn salvation by their actions.” Alfred J Andrea, Encyclopedia of the Crusades (United States: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003), 161.

Summarizing

  • When you summarize a book or an article you share its essential points with your reader – the gist of what it’s all about – entirely in your own words.
  • Before writing a summary, read the original, making notes on the main ideas discussed.
  • Article abstracts are a common example of summarizing.
  • Keep your summary very short, aiming to capture the essential points of the original work. 
  • Always cite the work summarized.

 

Sample Summary

By combining the concepts of the secular just war developed by the Romans, and the Old Testament holy wars fought to further God’s Divine Plan, the Crusades were seen by the medieval Christian West as both just and holy.

Andrea, Encyclopedia of the Crusades, 160-161.

Paraphrasing

When you put someone else’s thoughts and views on a topic in your own words, you’re paraphrasing.

  • Paraphrasing another person’s ideas and opinions doesn’t make it your own work.
  • In addition to changing the wording and sentence structure of the original, provide a citation.
  • Whereas having a thesaurus on hand may be helpful, never simply replace words from the original with synonyms.
  • While striving to capture the essential points of the original, reconfigure both the wording and sentence structure.
  • Use simpler sentences and more common terms, and don’t feel compelled to follow the original’s organizational structure or restate all of it, only what’s needed.
  • Take care not to distort the meaning of the original by changing its emphasis or omitting qualifying words that could confuse your reader.

 

Why paraphrase rather than quote from the original?

  • Paraphrasing gives you the opportunity to use your own voice when you write, unlike a quote, when another voice takes over.
  • You demonstrate more understanding of the breadth and depth of the original work when you paraphrase rather than quote.

 

Tips for paraphrasing

  • Read the original in its entirety, highlighting or making notes in the margins as needed.
  • Once you have absorbed the information, write down the main ideas without looking at the text.
  • Write up the essential points coherently for a reader to understand, utilizing your notes.
  • Compare your paraphrase with the original to assure they are sufficiently different from each other.
  • Always cite your source.

 

Sample Paraphrase

Original: As helpful as the military orders were in shoring up the defenses of the crusader states, they were independent of any direct control by the lords and kings whom they assisted, and for that reason alone these same lords needed to create armies that they, and they alone, controlled.

Paraphrase: Lords and kings of the crusader states saw the need to call up armies reporting directly to them, given that military orders, while helpful, were totally independent.

Andrea, Encyclopedia of the Crusades, 212.

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