- Describe the importance of, and techniques for, citing sources
Learning in a history course requires consulting a wide variety of sources to gather information about a given event or time period. You may be asked to evaluate, interpret, synthesize, analyze, or respond to a variety of these sources. When doing so, it is essential that you avoid plagiarism, do your own work, and properly cite all of the sources that you reference. Citations are also important because they allow replication–meaning a subsequent researcher can check your facts, and evaluate the accuracy of the argument’s evidence.
We typically think of plagiarism as cheating. While that is true, plagiarism often occurs because the process of citation can be confusing; technology makes copy + paste so easy, and knowing exactly what to cite is not always simple. You can avoid plagiarism by learning how to cite material and keeping track of sources in your notes. Give yourself plenty of time to process sources so you don’t plagiarize by mistake. Here are some examples of plagiarism:
- Submitting work or a paper written by someone else as your own.
- Using words and phrases from the source text and patching them together in new sentences.
- Failing to acknowledge the sources of words or information.
- Not providing quotation marks around a direct quotation. This leads to the false assumption that the words are your own.
- Borrowing the idea or opinion of someone else without giving the person credit.
- Restating or paraphrasing a passage without citing the original author.
- Borrowing facts or statistics that are not common knowledge without proper acknowledgment.
Look at a few more examples of plagiarism in the following activity.
The most commonly used citation styles in the humanities and history courses are Chicago and MLA. These provide standardized formats for properly citing sources. You can consult online writing labs, websites, and citation tools to help you manage your citations and to ensure you do them correctly. Many students choose to use a citation tracker app or website, such as Zotero, Mendeley, or Easybib.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (along with its student-focused counterpart, Turabian Style), is the favored citation style by most historians. There are two main citation methods: notes-bibliography and author-date. The most common method uses a raised numeral in the text after the item cited that goes to a corresponding footnote/endnote. Additionally, a complete bibliography is typically included at the end of the paper. This is considered the notes-bibliography method because of the inclusion of the citation as a footnote.
Another option within the Chicago style is the author-date method, which looks similar to MLA and APA styles, in which the work is cited in the text using the author’s name and date without footnotes, and then a full citation is included at the end on a References page.