by The Writing Center Staff
Q: Why do [citations] have to be so meticulous and exact?
Citations have to be exact so that your reader can easily look up the sources used throughout the paper. The precise formatting is to ensure that all citations in the same discipline use a shared system of information management. For this reason, when formatting is executed correctly, it also communicates that the researcher is behaving like a credible expert in the field.
Q: Does information that is common knowledge require citations to avoid plagiarism? How do you know what is common knowledge?
Facts that are common knowledge do not require a citation. However, if the information is not common knowledge and you did not think of it, a citation is needed.
If you are unsure whether something is common knowledge, ask your professor about it. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, cite it. (It’s better to have a citation and not need it than the opposite).
Q: Why is it important to cite your work at the end?
It is important to have a reference or works cited page so the reader knows which sources the cited material came from. Not only is it important to cite to prevent plagiarism, but you will also be giving credit to the authors and their original works.
Also, the information you include in your in-text citation (usually the author’s last name) is always the first word of the corresponding entry on your Works Cited or References page. This allows the reader to easily toggle back and forth between the idea you’re citing and the whole citation (in case they want to learn more).