11. Documentation of Sources

Documentation of Sources

Accurately documenting sources is a vital aspect of any process of inquiry. If you fail to properly document your sources, your readers will be unable to follow your research, validate your claims, or judge the quality of your argument. Furthermore, failing to properly cite a source (whether summarized, paraphrased, or quoted) opens you to the charge of plagiarism, a serious academic offense.

Scholars avoid plagiarism and give credit to the thinking and writing of others using a variety of citation formats, or “styles.” As you work to complete your degree in college you will encounter a number of these citation formats. In fact, each discipline has a preferred style. The humanities use MLA, psychology uses APA, history and other social sciences use Chicago. There are many others. As you begin to specialize in a particular field of study, you will be required to master the citation style used by your discipline. This brief handbook, however, will only introduce you to two of the most common styles: MLA and Chicago.

Although citation formats differ significantly, they all have two primary components: in-text citations and a bibliography. As the name suggests, in-text citations are used to reference the work of others within the text itself; the bibliography contains an ordered list of all the in-text citations contained within a piece of writing.