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Ethical Use of Information: A Short Introduction: Being Ethical Means Citing Your Sources!

Here are a few notes and links on the proper use of information--especially in an academic setting.

Two Examples of General Citation Guides

Information about he MLA, APA, ASA and Blue Book Guides that Sawyer Library owns are in the corresponding guides, listed to the right.  Another guide lists a great many other specific style manuals (like the CSE, ACS and AMA).  Here are a couple of general-purpose (multi-style) citation/writing guides, that you can also consult.

A Few General Tips on When to Cite (or Not)

The way any writer plays fair and avoids plagiarism is to correctly cite all of the sources they use.  You should provide a cite whether you are quoting a paragraph or merely borrowing an idea.  It's important to keep track of the sources you are using as you collect them or take notes.  That avoids extra work and confusion later on, when you need to reconstruct your references.

A few general tips on when to cite, or not:

Cite it....

• If you get a quote or idea from a book, eBook, internet site, TV show, newspaper, RSS feed, journal, ad, song, computer app, journal, letter, video, email--anything that did not originate from YOU.

• If you copy and paste something from somewhere--that's a quotation--cite it!

• If someone tells you something you want to use.  If you interview or do an oral history, in person (or by phone or email or text) with someone.

• If you reuse a table, chart, diagram, photograph, illustration, map or other material in a paper or PowerPoint.

• Any time you quote someone else's exact words or copy a "unique phrase" from somewhere.

There is no need to cite a source if....


• If you did an experiment or conducted an original survey and are presenting your own results.

• When you gather and state "generally accepted facts."

• If you are incorporating "common knowledge" into your paper -- make a common-sense observation, restate an adage or folklore (that is not a direct quotation), use a bit of regional language or slang or other general vernacular saying or phrase.

• If you are simply stating your own thoughts or opinion or insights, or if you are recounting a personal experience, or if you make an original observation or are stating your own conclusion on the topic.

Citation Guides by Sawyer Library Staff

There are several Sawyer Library LibGuides that address particular citation styles, and others which link to additional books and web materials related to citation and grammar, or which offer tips on citation tools right in our research databases.  Below are links to them.