You’ve probably been told countless times how important it is to have proper citations in order to avoid plagiarism. While this is good advice, it is not the only reason you should cite all the sources you directly or indirectly reference in your essays!
Beyond avoiding plagiarism, citations serve a vital role in academic research and can add extra value to your paper. Citing—whether it be in MLA, Chicago, APA, or another style—helps your readers find the sources that you reference. If you have a clear list of citations, people who read your paper can easily find where you found important quotes, background information, or the entire framework your arguments. This important fact has several implications.
Here are the 3 reasons why citing sources adds value to your work (aside from avoiding plagiarism):
1. Citing benefits your readers and other researchers
As a student, it’s easy to see your academic writing as an isolated and independent document. You pick an interesting topic, read other sources about it, and write your own paper about it. So where do other people fit into this?
To answer that question, it is important to remember that in a grand sense, the point of academic writing is to put forth your ideas and arguments for others to read—with the goal of shaping their ideas or introducing them to new knowledge and concepts.
Properly citing your sources helps readers of your paper—who are researching topics similar to yours or are interested in further reading—know where they can find the information and voices that shaped your research. Even if these researchers ultimately write papers on topics that are different from yours, reading your sources might guide them in their own research.
Let’s look at it from the reader’s point of view. Say you are doing research on solar power and you find a journal article that you love. In particular, you like the section about solar power technologies, but the article only gives general information. In this case, you could use the passage’s in text citation to track down the original sources on solar power technologies and find more detailed information on the topic. This is an example of why bibliographies are so valuable!
2. Citing builds authority around your argument
It’s important to put forth your own original ideas and arguments about a topic, but it’s just as important to show what your ideas were based upon. Are your ideas based on credible information? Did you read books and articles by well-known authors? Ideally, your thoughts are built upon solid research and the opinions of those who are considered experts on your chosen topic. They lend credibility and clout to your own argument.
As an example, say you are writing an essay arguing that hovercrafts will become more popular over the next 10 years. Would your argument be stronger if you cited your mother’s opinion or an expert’s? Would you rather cite statistics from a random website online no one has ever heard of, or from a scientific study or government survey? Credibility counts.
In short: it is important to list your sources so that other readers—whether that be your teacher, a fellow student, or a researcher—know who else supports and can lend credibility to your argument.
3. Citing could save you time and effort in the future
This might seem odd now, but one reason to cite all of your sources correctly is because you might be a reader of your own paper someday.
I know that sounds weird, but hear us out.
This happens pretty frequently in academic writing. If your studies focus on a particular field or topic throughout your academic or professional career, chances are good that you’ll build upon research and writing you did previously.
For example, say your favorite class in high school is Biology and your final paper for it is on the biological functions of plant roots. Years later, you decide to study biology in college and end up writing a paper on how the composition of plant roots can indicate air and groundwater pollution. For this study, you may go back to your old high school paper and read your citation list to find where you can once again find information on the function of plant roots.
In this example, having those citations could help you save time since you don’t have to spend additional time conducting background research you’ve done before!
No matter what the situation, it’s usually a good idea to cite your sources for both your readers’ and your own benefit. If you are looking for an easy way to cite, try Cite This For Me’s online services! We can help you create citations in several styles including MLA format, Chicago manual of style, APA format, Harvard referencing and many others!