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The Importance of Citing Sources



In academic writing, the ability to cite sources is an important skill. Doing so would enable you to elaborate on complex and controversial ideas. In cases where you did not rely on your original ideas or stock knowledge, citation is called for. Citing your source would allow your readers to differentiate which parts are your original ideas and which ones were appropriated. Everyone borrows ideas from one another and nobody can claim sole ownership of an idea. By referencing, you are making it possible for your readers to countercheck your ideas and to “track” them. In addition, referencing is a proof of having done extensive research on relevant resource materials. Referencing is not only the ethical thing to do; it is also a necessary feature of academic writing.

What happens when you reference incorrectly or fail to reference completely? You will be considered guilty of academic misconduct or plagiarism, which is a serious offense both in academic and professional contexts. English Oxford Living Dictionaries has defined plagiarism as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” Synonyms for plagiarism include: copying, infringement of copyright, piracy, stealing; informal cribbing, library theft, academic misconduct—unfavorable words that anyone would surely like to avoid.

Viewed unfavorably by educators and scholars, plagiarism is not always blatantly committed. You may unknowingly commit plagiarism due to carelessness, as when you fail to cite all your sources and instead come up with incomplete bibliographic entries in the reference list. Cases of students using only the URL address without including the other important details are common. More blatant, though easily preventable, cases of plagiarism include outright copying and pasting, as well as paraphrasing or quoting ideas without acknowledging the source. In cases like these, you can avoid plagiarism by referencing your sources when you quote facts and ideas verbatim or when you paraphrase them and when you use statistical figures, graphs, or pictures from sources.

Although plagiarism can easily be avoided, it remains a secret crime that is often unpunished. This is because the violation goes unnoticed, until someone points it out. Today, however, with the advent of technology, more advanced means of detecting—and proving—incidents of plagiarism are available on the Internet. More and more schools are investing in apps to authenticate someone’s work. To discourage plagiarism, teachers are emphasizing its implications and devising ways to help students avoid it.

Perhaps because of the ease of merely copying and pasting, plagiarism has always been in practice. However, because of the stiff penalties that it entails, more and more people are realizing its ill effects. Well-known cases of sanctions against those found guilty of plagiarism include expulsion from school, withdrawal of academic degree, even termination of employment contract!

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