How and Why to Use Citations

This resource was prepared by the Business Communications Lab at the Sam M. Walton College of Business
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When you use the ideas, theories, or research of others, you must give those people whose work you use credit for using their work. You give credit through citation. In academic research, citing other’s works establishes ethos because it demonstrates knowledge in a given field. It allows the audience to follow the logic on which the argument is built and provides context for the hypothesis being established. You always cite another author’s work if you are:

  • Quoting directly
  • Paraphrasing
  • Summarizing
  • Using illustrations
  • Using jargon specific to the work

You do not have to cite the following materials:

  • Your own data
  • Common knowledge. Ex: Hydrogen and oxygen are town elements that comprise water. Or, Sam M. Walton founded Walmart.
  • Facts that are found in a wide variety of encyclopedias or reputable websites: President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX.
  • Proverbs and sayings: A person is known by the company he keeps


When in doubt, go ahead and cite!

Why quote?
Quoting directly establishes your credibility by demonstrating that you have done your research and found experts; it also demonstrates your ability to support your argument.

You should use direct quotes when the original phrasing is especially impactful, the source’s authority advances your argument, or you are analyzing a particular point expressed in the original. Be careful to not over-quote as doing so may obscure your own ideas and/or cause you to lose credibility.

How to quote?
Quotations from your sources should fit smoothly into your own sentences. This is called embedding [hyperlink to resource on embedding quotations] or integrating quotations.
Why paraphrase?
To paraphrase simply means to put into your own words; it allows you to simplify difficult ideas for the audience. It is important to maintain the integrity of the original piece. In most cases, it is best to paraphrase rather than quote directly because it allows you to maintain your own voice.
How to paraphrase?
First, re-read the original work and make sure you understand it. Remember that using words or phrases directly from the original source is called quoting. When paraphrasing, follow the rules of the parenthetical citation:

  • Introduce the author’s name and a signal word or phrase
  • Include all of the original’s main points and details and in the same order
  • Restate the meaning in your own words and sentence structure
  • Paraphrased material must have a corresponding entry in the bibliography section
Why summarize?
Summarizing gives the basics of the idea and expresses the meaning in a concise manner. This gives the reader some context for the hypothesis. It allows the writer to give the gist of an argument without spending a lot of time on the details.
How to summarize?
A summary is much shorter and economical than the original source. Use only enough information to cover the main points. A summary is similar to paraphrasing; use your own words and provide an introduction to the author’s ideas. Failure to credit the author is plagiarism. Use parenthetical citations after summarizing someone else’s work/ideas. All summarized materials should have a corresponding entry on the bibliography page.
What about visual aids/illustrations?
Visuals come in a variety of means such as pictures, tables, graphs, charts, maps, or others types of images. You must cite illustrations that someone else created, and you must cite illustrations that you create based upon other’s data. For information on copyrighted materials, see the resource on copyright or fair use.

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