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Citing Your Sources

Avoid plagiarism by citing your sources properly.

Avoid plagiarism when taking notes

Some cases of unintentional plagiarism are due to poor note-taking from sources. For example, students sometimes copy down an author's exact words and forget to put quotation marks around them. Or they accidently mingle their own words with a source's words. Or they've forgotten to note the article title or author and can't find the source again when it's time to document the source in their research paper.

Here are some suggestions for avoiding these problems:  

  • Read without taking notes.
    • When you find something useful, write down in your own words what you think the author is saying -- without looking at the source.
    • Then compare your notes to the material. If you have used some of the exact words from the text, put quotes around them.
    • This approach also helps you rely more on paraphrasing or summarizing and keeps you from using too many direct quotations.
  • Separate your ideas/words from your sources' ideas/words.
  • Make sure to get all the information needed for a citation (i.e., the author's name, article or chapter title, book or journal title, page numbers, database name, url, etc.). This information also allows you to find the source material again. Or better yet, use Zotero to collect the information. That way you have what you need.
  • How do you know what bibliographic information you need to collect? That depends on two things:  
    • what type of source material it is (book, book chapter, article, electronic journal article, web site, etc.) and
    • what citation style you are using (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)