resources   How to Cite Sources in an Assignment

Last Fall, when Prof. Shore gave a class assignment on the marketing strategies of General Motors, Jeremy used Porter’s five forces model to analyze the company’s sales growth in the last three quarters. His analysis was perfect. His facts were indubitable. His argument was compelling. And yet he got an ‘A’ minus whereas his closest rival Olivia got an ‘A’ plus on the same. Both Jeremy and Olivia had used Michael Porter’s authoritative work as a guide, but Jeremy did not bother to cite him while making the point. It seemed as if it was his own idea. There is a simple way to avoid Jeremy’s predicament. Cite everything you write.


What is the need of citation?

Citation is basically an acknowledgement of a source used in an assignment which may be either at the bottom as a footnote or may come at the very end of a written article or book as end notes. It is essential no matter the student is a rank fresher or an expert in the field. Citation is the cornerstone of a good academic writing. It distinguishes an ethical writing from an unethical one and differentiates between original research and research based on secondary sources.

It is essential for both students and higher academicians. For students, the practice of citation is crucial because they must take responsibility for what is rightfully theirs and what is not. More importantly it can ruin their career and get them expelled. Remember Kavya Viswanathan’s plagiarism scandal in 2006? She was a Harvard fresher whose novel “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life” was “inspired” from portions of Salman Rushdie and Meg Cabot’s works. Kavya did acknowledge her sources of inspiration but only after the scandal broke out. Had she acknowledged her sources in her book, her fate would have been different. All shelf copies were pulped and her multi-million dollar second deal contract was cancelled.

3 things to remember for citations

If students remember these three steps, they will never falter with citations again.

1. Understand the purpose of citation:

There are certain formats of citation which are prepared by certain educational institutions of USA and UK and they are accepted all over the English speaking world. Following a citation format gives us a standard so that all academicians across the globe can easily follow the writing. A teacher will immediately know the sources of information

2. Know your format:

Usually, we follow any one of the four styles — Harvard Referencing Style, Chicago Manual Style, APA Style and MLA Style.

Harvard referencing style

Here we follow an ‘author/date’ system for ‘in-text’ citations followed by a reference list at the end of the paper. Suppose the reference is Michel Foucault, History of Madness, Vintage Publications, New York 1961 then it should be written in the following manner:

“Foucault, 1997” for in-text citation followed by the “Michel Foucault, History of Madness, Vintage Publications, New York 1961” in the list of references.

Chicago style referencing:

In this style the names of author along with the titles of the books and journal articles should come in the footnotes below each page. If you are citing a book then italicize its name. On the other hand, if you are citing the name of a journal article then put the name within either single quotation marks or double quotation marks.

APA style of referencing:

This style also follows in-text citations and reference list at the end of the essay. However, it is followed exclusively by science students, unlike MLA style which is followed only by students of liberal arts and humanities. In MLA style, we simply put the author’s name followed by the page number within parenthesis. So if you are citing Michel Foucault, History of Madness, Vintage Publications, New York 1961 then simply write (Smith & Bruce p. 118).

3. Do not mix up your styles:

It is a cardinal offence to mix up styles. It is a serious offence to mix up citation formats. Suppose if you are using Harvard citation format then include author’s name and date within the main body of the text and never as a footnote. On other hand, if you are going with the Chicago style then use footnotes and bibliography and never in-text citations.


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