Cite Right: Why We Cite

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Think back on the last time you did research for a paper.  How did you give credit for the ideas of others?  How did you let your readers know how to find the information you used in your paper? How did you avoid plagiarism?

Welcome to Cite Right: A Library Tutorial. Here you will learn the skills and concepts needed to properly cite the information you use in your research.

In this citation tutorial, you will have the opportunity to reinforce your learning through an exercise related to the citation style you are using.

Good luck and happy researching!

Meet Quentin Austin,

  • UMUC student with a final version of a paper due next week
  • A recently promoted high level executive at Pictograph studios, a major motion picture company which recently acquired his former employer, Morris studios

Meet Danielle,

  • Colleague of Quentin at Pictograph Studios

Meet Mike,

  • Librarian at UMUC

Why We Cite

Place: Lunch room at Pictograph studios, formerly Morris studios.


Hi Quentin, why do you look so glum?


I just got back the first draft of my paper for my management class and I didn’t do so well, it’s covered in red ink!  I really thought I did a good job.

However, my instructor’s comments said that I didn’t properly cite my sources, and I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism.

I need to do it over before I turn in the final version. This will be a big job for me since I am not good with citation.


Why don’t you call Mike, the UMUC librarian to get some help? He was very helpful when you had to find sources for your paper.  I’m sure he can help you with your citation questions.


That’s a great idea. Thank you, Danielle.

Back in his office, Quentin calls Mike at the UMUC library.


Hi Mike, remember me? It’s Quentin. You helped me with my research on the effect of corporate takeovers on employees when I had to write a paper.


Hi Quentin, sure I remember you, I am happy to talk to you again. What’s the problem?


Well now I need help with this paper for my management class. I need some help with properly citing my sources as I didn’t do so well with either my in text citations or my reference list.

At least it isn’t the final version and I have the chance to turn it back in. Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal is. What’s the point of this citation stuff?


Citation is important for many reasons. First, it helps the reader distinguish your original work from work you took from others. You need to give people credit for their ideas and not to try to pass them off as your own, which is called plagiarism and is a serious academic offense.

Also, it is important because it helps the reader locate the information you used. If your citations are missing information, the reader may not be able to locate the original work.

It also gives your own work credibility and authority as it shows you thoroughly researched your topic.


OK, that makes sense, but the instructor told me I had to cite when I paraphrased in my paper. I thought if I used my own words, I don’t have to cite it, right?


No, Quentin, even if you use your own words, you are still using someone else’s ideas. You need to cite both when you paraphrase (which means rewriting someone else’s ideas in you own words) or using a direct quote.

To reinforce what you have learned, take this short quiz:

1. Citation is important because

  • A. it helps readers locate the material you found in your research so that they can read it too
  • B. if you don't include a citation when using a quotation in your paper, you're plagiarizing
  • C. Citations demonstrate that the writer has exhaustively covered the subject

2. Plagiarism means

  • A. intentionally trying to pass off the work of others as your own
  • B. unintentionally neglecting to credit others for their work by forgetting to cite
  • C. Both A and B

Please review the correct answers.

1. Citation is important because

  • A. Yes. Citation does help others with further research. But there is another reason to cite as well.
  • B. Yes. "Plagiarism" means using another person's words or ideas in your own work without giving them proper credit. But there is another reason to cite as well.
  • C. No. Citations show what research the writer has used, but do not demonstrate that everything possible about a particular topic has been researched.

2. Plagiarism means

  • A. No. Plagiarism can be either intentional or unintentional.
  • B. No. Plagiarism can be either intentional or unintentional.
  • C. Yes.