Essay Lab Glossary

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Citation/ Cite

Definition:

Any time you feel frustrated that you have to make a citation, just keep in mind that it’s better than getting a citation.

When you use external sources in your paper, it is very, very important that you cite them correctly to show your reader that these particular ideas are not your own. Besides, what if your teacher hates these ideas? Makes it easier to pass the buck.

Citing sources is obviously the decent thing to do. Just as you would like credit for a well-written essay, the other writer, too, would certainly appreciate being credited for his or her ideas and writing. So throw ‘em a bone. They don’t have a lot else going for them at the moment.

By not providing citations for your sources, you also run the risk of being accused of plagiarism. While some writers intentionally plagiarize, others are accused of plagiarism simply because they forget to cite or because they don’t know how to cite correctly. Inadvertent plagiarism is the worst. If you’re going to go down, at least go down in a ball of flames.

The most common citation formats are MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian style. Make sure to ask your teacher which style you’re supposed to use, and follow it diligently. Following correct citation formats might be time-consuming, but it isn’t difficult. (And that’s what TV is made for, right?) It’s all about discovering what the correct format is and plugging the relevant information into that format. If you have nothing to cite, then you can pull the plug. Just make sure you get permission from the next of kin first.

Check out Shmoop’s take on plagiarism.