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Documenting Sources of Information: Documenting Sources

How to give credit to the authors/creators of work you use in research papers or other assignments

Documenting Sources

To document sources means to include within your work the information necessary:

  • to give credit to the originator/creator of each information source you used in producing your work, and
  • to make it possible for someone to locate that same source of information.

The compact unit of information included to credit each source used in your work is called a citation. When you include a citation for a source of information you used in your work, it can be said that you cited that source. 

Specific Information Needing Citations

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center suggests that you should document:

  • Direct quotations
  • Paraphrases and summaries
  • Information and ideas that are not common knowledge or are not available in a standard reference work
  • Any borrowed material that might appear to be your own if there were no citation

(Source: "The Writer's Handbook: About Documentation Styles." The Writing Center. Univ. Wisconsin-Madison, 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.)

Documentation Styles

A documentation style is a standard method for creating citations used by a particular academic discipline. A documentation style not only provides formats for citing information sources on the final References or Works cited page and within the body of the paper; it also dictates specifics for formatting the body of the paper itself.

A few of the most widely used documentation styles today include those created for:

  • the American Psychological Association (APA)
  • the Modern Language Association (MLA) and
  • the Chicago, or Turabian style.

When you are given a research assignment, the instructor will provide information on which documentation style to use and specific information on how to format citations and other aspects of documentation. See Help for Constructing Citations for more information.

However, keep in mind that as a college student, you are expected to credit any ideas that are not your own in all your work. To fail to cite sources at any time is unethical, and comes with consequences. See Avoiding Plagiarism.

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