The Importance of Citing Sources in Academic Papers
Citing sources can be one of the most tedious parts of writing a paper, but advanced students have learned the true value of a good resource. Citations serve many purposes, some of which are obvious. Everyone wants credit for their ideas, after all. Going beyond credit, there are a lot of reasons that citations are crucial to the academic world:
- They help to build credibility for your paper
- They allow the reader to locate your resources
- They can help you avoid copying the work of other scholars
- Using proper citation methods will help you write a better paper
- It will be helpful come exam time
Citations Make It Possible for Research to Build on Research
Not only is it important to give credit where it is due, it’s necessary to let readers know where your information came from. This further validates your claims while also providing the reader with enough details to locate the source. You can also use this to your advantage academically by noting citations from papers you may want to follow up on. Citations help to continue the tradition of good research being built upon good research by making it easy to follow the information.
Building on the work of others can stray into the realms of copying if you’re not careful. Expressing another’s idea without providing the proper citation is plagiarism. Citations keep you from claiming the work of others while also making you aware of how much you are using a resource. If you notice you’re overusing something, make sure you’re still expressing your ideas and not simply regurgitating another’s work in new words. If you find that you’re over-relying on a resource or author, check their citations and see if you can’t widen the scope.
Proper Citations Will Result in a Better Paper
If you keep track of your resources as you go, building a working bibliography, citations can help you to write a better paper. This is because you’ll end up doing better research. You’ll be able to quickly see if your resources are outdated, or if there’s a gap in the research you’ve compiled. Think of it as type of mental mapping. Building the list as you go gives you a quick visual that shows if your resources are too similar, outdated, or one-sided.
How Citations Help at Exam Time
Written tests are stressful, especially if it’s a midterm or final. Before you spend hours compiling all your classroom notes, rifle through the papers you wrote earlier in the semester. Pay attention to what your professor wrote in the margins. Do there seem to be any resources they prefer? Is there anything from the course they seem to feel carries extra weight? Think of these as little cheat sheets that will help direct your studies. Chances are, if your professor favors a resource assigned in class, it will appear on the exam.
In addition, your citations will make it much easier for you to find relevant information while you’re studying. You may not remember exactly where you can find specific information from your textbook, but you will likely remember where you wrote about it in your paper.
No matter what style of citation you have to use, it seems like too much work until you realize how truly valuable references can be. They are a foundational aspect of education. Without them, research would not be nearly as reliable. Not only because it lends credence to claims made in an academic work, but also because it makes it so easy to follow the thread of an idea as it weaves throughout academic disciplines.