While citing sources can initially seem like a matter of just following the proper rules, these rules can seem arbitrary or confusing if not seen in the context of the subject the student is studying. As always, consult the assignment, your professor, and the citation manual to make sure you use the best practices.
Common Misperceptions and a New View
|Misperceptions||A New View|
|Citing sources means simply memorizing MLA, APA, etc. rules.||
The rules reflect things the disciplines value. When put in context, seemingly arbitrary rules (like why the period has to come after the parentheses) begin to make sense. Besides, the rules change over the years.
|Proper citation (of MLA, APA, etc.) means that a student hasn’t plagiarized.||
Someone may not have technically plagiarized, but he may easily use excessive or irrelevant quotes throughout his paper, which indicates he has not adequately processed the material and hasn’t gained a greater understanding of the context. That is, he may have looked stuff up, but he hasn’t done research.
|Improper citation means a student has plagiarized.||
Since proper citation requires a lot practice, someone can easily make unintentional mistakes. It’s best to use resources available, such as the Writing Center or Purdue OWL to check your work. (See resources on our Faculty page for additional information on plagiarism.)
|Correct citation can be taught (or told) to students once, after which they will be able to do it perfectly.||
To be good at anything, including citing our sources, we need to practice it continuously.
|A student who doesn’t cite properly doesn’t care about her work.||
Incorporating sources into a paper requires a deep understanding about how particular disciplines make and represent knowledge. The more she knows about how and why knowledge is created in a subject, the “cleaner” her citation will be.