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Information Literacy: Module 5: Citations


Avoiding Plagiarism

In the last module, we looked at plagiarism and the serious consequences of committing plagiarism, especially at WCCC.  The way to avoid plagiarism and the trouble that comes with it is to cite where you get your information from.  

What is a citation?

A citation is an acknowledgement of where you have gotten your information from. It's used when you quote, paraphrase, or summarize someone else's work.


Why do we need to cite?

From Radford University's McConnell Library

When asked why you should cite your sources, many students reply, "So you don't get accused of plagiarizing." It is true that you must provide citations crediting others' work so as to avoid plagiarism, but scholars use citations for many reasons:

  • To make your arguments more credible. You want to use the very best evidence to support your claims. For example, if you are citing a statistic about a disease, you should use a reputable source like the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control (CDC). When you tell your reader the statistic comes from such a source, she will know to trust it- and thereby trust your argument more.

  • To show you've done your homework. You want to make it clear to your audience that you've researched your subject and know what you are talking about. As you dive deeper into your research, you will probably find certain authors are experts on the topic and are mentioned in most of the articles and books. You should read these experts' works and incorporate them into your paper.

  • To build a foundation for your paper. Great breakthroughs in scholarship are accomplished by building on the earlier, groundbreaking work of others. For example, Isaac Newton's law of universal gravitation would not have been possible without Johannes Kepler's law of planetary motion. What articles, books, texts, etc inspired you to create your argument? You want to provide references to the works which led to your thesis.

  • To allow your readers to find the sources for themselves. Someone interested in your topic may be inspired to read some of the articles and other sources you used to write your paper. The citation within the paper tells them what part of your argument is best addressed by a particular source, and the full citation in the bibliography provides them with the information needed to locate the original work.


Citation Styles

A citation style is not only referring to how you cite information, but it also has to do with how you format the document you're submitting for your assignment. Here are the two main citation styles used at WCCC:

APA (American Psychological Association) -- generally used for both human and social sciences classes (psychology, biology, sociology, etc.)

MLA (Modern Language Association) -- generally used for humanities classes (English, communications, history, etc.)


Click on the links for more information about each.  


What's Next


You made it! 


Next, take a brief Information Literacy Survey and you're done! 




Warren County Community College
Haytaian & Maier Library
475 Route 57 West
Washington, New Jersey 07882