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Research Process: Getting Started: A. Background on Citing Sources

A guide to assist students in conducting research using the wide variety of information sources available to them.

Why Cite?

When writing papers or creating original work in any form, you must give credit to those from whom you've borrowed ideas, words or materials, even if you are paraphrasing or summarizing. Citing your sources (e.g., articles, web sites, movies, etc.) allows you to:

  • Demonstrate that your thoughts and ideas have a factual basis.
  • Show your professor (and others) what research you have done.
  • Direct readers to the sources you used for their own research.

By properly citing your sources, you avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is considered a serious offense at Syracuse University. The Academic Integrity Office web site includes Syracuse University's current policies and procedures for handling cases of plagiarism and other violations of academic integrity. The site also includes helpful tips for avoiding plagiarism.


When to Cite

Any time you use someone else's words or ideas whether you quote, paraphrase, summarize, or otherwise refer to their work, you are required to cite the source.

Things to Cite:

  1. Direct Quotations: Be sure to include quotation marks in your paper.
  2. Paraphrases and summaries of another's words, arguments, or opinions.
  3. Statistics, charts, or graphs compiled by someone else.
  4. Information that is not considered common knowledge.


What Does Not Need to be Cited:


  1. Your own ideas and discoveries.
  2. Common knowledge: something that most readers would likely know.