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Choose, Use, and Cite Sources

Research, information seeking, and citing sources explained in plain English

Where did I get my information? [Citations]

image shows person with a path behind them and a star marking one place on the pathOften, our search for information leads us to new understanding through what we read and learn. Particularly in academic work, we must tell our readers who and what led us to our conclusions and understanding. This is helpful because it builds your trustworthiness and also gives credit to ideas that were not your own. It also makes it possible for your readers or listeners to find the source for themselves and continue their own learning. 

The documentation of sources is called citation. The specific organization and layout of citations will vary, but the important thing is to record and share information about your source such as who wrote it and where you found it. In academic work, appropriate citation of sources shows academic integrity and helps avoid plagiarism

What is academic integrity?

image shows a person with a shield with a checkmark, representing trustworthiness and integrityAcademic integrity is the commitment to being honest and truthful in all academic work. It involves completing your own work and taking responsibility for your own actions. Integrity requires being trustworthy and giving an accurate representation of your knowledge. This shows you and your instructors how much you know (rather than how much someone else knows). 

Most colleges, including Western, require that their students demonstrate academic integrity and academic integrity violations are taken very seriously.

What is plagiarism?

icon shows two copies of a documentPlagiarism is the act of pretending someone else's work is your own. It's a form of cheating. 

According to Western's policy for academic integrity, examples of plagiarism include:

  • Quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing another’s work or ideas without properly acknowledging or citing the source of the work
  • Submitting another person’s work as one’s own, including purchasing another’s work to submit as one’s own

Proper citation of sources can help you avoid plagiarism and any negative consequences associated with it. 

How do I share my sources? [Citation Styles]

icon shows document with quote marks, representing citationThere are many different ways to document and provide citations for your sources. Providing a direct to the original source is one common citation practice, particularly in electronic communication or on social media.

In academic work and writing, your citations will need to follow a specific style and set of guidelines. Your instructor will provide specific instructions about which style and guidelines they prefer. 

Some commonly used citation styles are:

  • MLA Style, which stands for the Modern Language Association Style and is used in many General Studies classes and Liberal Arts fields
  • APA Style, which stands for the American Psychological Association Style and is often used in Psychology, Business, and many Science disciplines
  • AMA Style, which stands for the American Medical Association and is used in some Health Science courses

There are Western Library guides to help you understand and use these commonly used styles, and the Writing Center is an excellent resource to help you put these guidelines into practice.

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