Integrity Matters
Citing and Documenting
Surviving the Semester

What to Cite

Always cite other people's words, ideas and other intellectual property that you use in your papers or that influence your ideas. This includes but isn't limited to:
  • direct quotations
  • paraphrasing of passages
  • indebtedness to another person for an idea
  • use of another student's work
  • use of your own previous work
If you got an idea or information from another source, you need to cite it no matter its format--books, articles, web pages, e-mails, etc.-- or how it was presented -- in print, in person (interviews, lectures, etc.), or through media (television, radio, podcast, etc.).

You don't need to cite what would be considered common knowledge, such as facts, events, concepts, etc. that are widely known and can be confirmed in a general encyclopedia.

For example if you wrote, "President Zachary Taylor died in office," this wouldn't need to be cited because it's an accepted fact, or common knowledge.

BUT, you should cite something that is controversial or contradicts what most accept as common knowledge. For example, if you assert that President Zachary Taylor died in office from eating a bowl of contaminated cherries, or that he was poisoned, you should cite your source of information, such as (Leerhsen 64-67), because neither are generally accepted as fact.

Writer's Tip

When writing, think about your reader's perspective. Don't assume that if you know something, everyone else knows it too.

So, for example, let's say that you're really into tattoos and you decide to write a paper about tattoos and society for your class. If you use the term "inking," you should explain this term (or concept) and probably cite your source since your audience might not be as familiar with the lingo. Also, citing the source will demonstrate that you know what you're talking about and not just making up new words.

On the other hand, if you were writing an article for Tattoo magazine, a publication for tattoo enthusiasts, your audience would not need the explanation because they would be in the know.