Why It Matters: Using and Incorporating Sources

Using and incorporating sources involves determining what material to borrow from other researchers and how to adequately and accurately include that material in your own research. That inclusion involves citing the sources based on the formatting conventions of your field, discipline, or other university requirements.

Citation: a reference to any material borrowed from a source that is not the author’s own original composition. Citations serve a few important purposes: to preserve academic integrity and to attribute unoriginal work and/or ideas to the proper sources, both of which contribute to avoiding plagiarism; to allow the audience to determine whether the referenced material supports the author’s argument; and to help the audience discern the strength and validity of the material the author has used.

Academic environments depend on shared values of honesty when it comes to conducting research, including borrowing from, coordinating, and citing sources. Often, this value system is based on academic integrity.

Academic integrity is an ethical code of academia that includes issues of academic honesty, such as proper handling of material borrowed from sources; maintenance of academic standards; and honesty and rigor in research and academic publishing.

Practicing academic integrity and honesty through properly citing sources is necessary to establish your own ethos as a researcher. Ethos is an appeal to the ethics of your audience and, in the context of writing, involves how an author establishes character and/or credibility through persuasion and evidence.

When you ethically, honestly, and properly manage evidence, you strengthen your ethos as a writer and a researcher. There are two main ways to ensure that you handle evidence well. One is through the kinds of evidence you choose to include. The other is how you incorporate that evidence into your own work—particularly through citation of the sources containing that evidence.