Other Challenges in Citing Sources

Besides the clarifications and difficulties around citing that we have already considered, there are additional challenges that might make knowing when and how to cite difficult for you.

Not Really Understanding the Material You’re Using

If you are working in a new field or subject area, you might have difficulty understanding the information from other scholars, thus making it difficult to know how to paraphrase or summarize that work properly.

Running Out of Time

When you are a student taking many classes simultaneously and facing many deadlines, it may be hard to devote the time needed to doing good scholarship and accurately representing the sources you have used. Research takes time. The sooner you can start and the more time you can devote to it, the better your work will be.

Shifting Cultural Expectations of Citation

Because of new technologies that make finding, using and sharing information easier, many of our cultural expectations around how to do that are changing as well. For example, blog posts often “reference” other articles or works by simply linking to them. It makes it easy for the reader to see where the author’s ideas have come from and to view the source very quickly. In these more informal spaces, blog authors generally do not have a list of citations (bibliographic entries). The links do the work for them. This is a great strategy for online digital mediums, but this method fails over time when links break and there are no hints (like an author, title, and date) to know how else to find the reference, which might have moved.

This example of a cultural change of expectations in the non-academic world might make it seem that there has been a change in academic scholarship as well or might make people new to academic scholarship even less familiar with citation. But, in fact, the expectations around citing sources in academic research remain formal.

Key Takeaways

Remember these helpful tips when navigating how to incorporate source material into your own research.

Use quotes sparingly: the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words

Summarize and synthesize: rephrasing a study’s significance & relating it to the research problem/question or to other sources

Keep your own voice: don’t get lost in the scholarship; make your own direction and organization of the prior literature clear

Be careful paraphrasing: When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author’s information or opinions accurately and in your own words.