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Understanding Citations

When Do You Cite?

You must always cite your sources when:

 

  1. you are paraphrasing someone else's work.
  2. you are directly quoting someone. This also includes visuals like statistics, diagrams, etc. You need to cite these too if they're not yours!

 

When to Use Direct Quotations:

Rarely used in STEM and Social Science writing;  evidence is most important, so explain in your own words, and cite.

Commonly used in the Literature, Philosophy, and other Humanities subjects; used when the exact text is the SUBJECT of the writing, so quote, add your own commentary, and cite.

 

There may be instances when you even need to cite yourself! (Yes, this is a thing. We're sorry.)

If you don't cite your sources properly, it will be construed as plagiarism. This is really bad.

Plagiarism is using the work of someone else as your own without providing credit. It's literary theft.

You can read more about NJIT's definition of plagiarism and academic integrity by consulting Article 11 of the University Policy on Academic Integrity.

 

This is why it's crucial to learn about citations and how to properly use them.

When in doubt, always cite. It is always better to over cite than not cite enough when faced with uncertainty.

 

 

When Do You NOT Cite?

However, there are times when citations are not needed. There are two instances when this is the case:

  1. It is your own opinion.
  2. It is common knowledge.

Common knowledge is information that the average person would know without needing to research it. Examples include:

  • A cat is a feline.
  • George Washington was the first American president. (This applies if your targeted audience is American. Common knowledge varies between nations and cultures too! This is something else to keep in mind.)
  • Our solar system's planet names

Common knowledge can also be shared by members of a specific field. If your audience is other members of your field, there may be information that you do not need to cite.

To determine what is common knowledge, remind yourself who your audience is. However, if you're ever uncertain if something is common knowledge or not, always err on the side of caution and cite. There is never a penalty for over-citing, but there are plenty of penalties for not citing enough.

 

Want to know more?

Plagiarism

Help with Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is a process – it is not just about replacing an author's words with other words. Learn some useful tips with these resources:

Real Life Examples of Plagiarism and Plagiarism Policies

Plagiarism isn’t just something we learn because an academic policy dictates that it must be so. Here are some real life examples of plagiarism and its consequences.

Study break

Want a comedic portrayal of plagiarism? Watch Saturday Night Live’s satire of students trying to get away with plagiarism

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