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ENGL 309: Proposals and Reports

Resources to accompany the English 309 course.

Citing Your Sources

As a writer, there are also reasons to cite your sources:

  • to meet the requirements for your assignment,
  • to give the original creators credit for their ideas,
  • to help your readers find and learn from the sources you used, and
  • to lend credibility to your argument.

You are likely familiar with the first three reasons already, so let’s examine the last one in more detail. How does citing sources lend credibility to your argument? Research is a process where scholars build on older work while sharing their new ideas. When you cite others’ research, you’re doing the same thing. By citing a scholar that has done research on your topic area, you are using their authority and experience to support your claims, and adding your own insights.


When to Cite

Whenever you use someone else’s ideas, you need to cite them. This is true for any source where there is interpretation involved (opinions, research findings, recent discoveries, statistics, etc). In the examples below, we’ve bolded words that indicate you probably need to cite a source:

  • Some biographers of Abraham Lincoln say he suffered from clinical depression. (Which biographers?)
  • The quart measurement might have originated in medieval England as a measurement for beer. (Says who?)
  • 60% of art majors believe that Pablo Picasso’s paintings are more interesting than his sculptures. (Where did this percentage come from?)
  • In recent studies of Y-chromosomes, geneticists have found that Genghis Khan has approximately 16 million descendants living today. (Where did they get that number?)

No matter where ideas come from you still need to cite them, whether they’re from images, tables, charts, statistics, websites, podcasts, interviews, emails, speeches, songs, movies, or any other source.

Finding Citations

Once you’ve found a good source for your research, you may be provided with a few options for getting access to it. From the item’s record, you can decide to skim the article’s abstract, read it right away, or save it to read later. For example, in the business database ABI/INFORM, buttons provided in the top right corner show your access options: download pdf, cite, email, print, and more.

Item record in ABI Inform database. It has a bit more detail than the list that comes up when you do a search. Particularly helpful is the article abstract on this page.
Figure 3.23 ABI/INFORM page with access option buttons in the top right corner