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GWS 236: Gender, Sexuality, and the Holocaust: Citing Sources


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Using Sources

The trick to effective writing using sources is remember that sources come from people, and the people you cite are helping you build a case, make an argument, or explain ideas. Use your sources strategically as allies and informants.

In most cases, your best bet is to know your material well enough that you can set a source aside and write about its ideas in your own words. When you can sum up the main point of a source instead of quoting from it excessively, that will save your reader time and will demonstrate that you really know the material. It will also leave more room for you to put your own stamp on the ideas you are writing about. Use of direct quotations when accuracy of a key phrase is important or when you want to call attention to the particular wording of an idea.

The Everyday Writer has good information about integrating sources effectively in academic writing. You will also find the tutors at the Writing Center are knowledgeable about the best way to incorporate source material into your writing.


Why Cite Sources?

There are at least three reasons why writers cite their sources:

  • To establish credibility with readers by calling on solid, reputable sources as "expert witnesses"
  • To provide readers with the information they need to delve further into the topic
  • To give credit where it is due and avoid plagiarism

The primary rule of thumb for when to include a citation is: Provide a ciation when the words OR ideasare not your own. The exceptoin to this rule is when the information is common knolwedge - fimple factual information found in multiple sources. However, you also should use this checklist to be sure your citaitons are complete.

  • Did I provide a reference for every idea that came from a source? Cite all of your sources, even if you put the information in your own words. You do not have to cite sources for "common knowledge" - factual information that can be found in multiple sources such as dates or widely-known information.
  • Do all of my in-text references have a complete citation in my list of sources and can the reader easily move from an in-text reference to the full citation in the list?
  • Does my reader have all the information needed to find each source? 

Because scholars in different disciplines emphasize different things when they read citations, there are many different styles. The MLA style, used for literary studies, makes sure page numbers are provided in an in-text citaiton because the exactness of a quotation matters; the APA style used in psychology and other social sciences include the year of publication, because when research was conducted is considered particularly significant. The Chicago Style is used by disciplines such as history and religion, which value sources so much it is common to put all the information about a source in a footnote as well as in a bibliography at the end of a paper.

Whatever style you use, citations typically include author, title of the work, and publication informaiton (for books, place, publisher, and year published; for articles, the journal, volume, date, and page numbers; for websites, a URL may be needed). Check out this link from the Pudue Online Writing Lab for additional practical advice: Avoiding Plagiarism

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