Adding Citations to Your Research Paper Help
Introduction to Citations
This lesson will explain why it is so important to cite your sources. It will also show you how to document your sources using footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical citations. In addition, samples will be given for you to use as models.
Citations—either in the form of footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations—provide your reader with key information about the material you used for your research. As mentioned earlier, any legitimate piece of analytical or research writing—whether it is a book or paper—must accurately list all sources that were consulted, and it must give credit for information used in the text or the writing. If you do not credit your sources, you are plagiarizing another's ideas or words. Citations are also important because they add credibility to your work. If, for example, you repeatedly refer to a set of speeches by John F. Kennedy and quote from these speeches word for word—without acknowledging your source—you would be plagiarizing, or in effect, "stealing" this information. In addition, if your paper provides controversial information or facts that are not well known to most people and you do not document the source of this material, readers might doubt the authenticity of your work and your credibility as a writer. Citations assure your reader that all of your information—controversial or not, well known or divulged for the first time—comes from a specific source that can be referenced easily. Without citations, an analytical and historical paper might as well be a well-written story or work of fiction.
Statements That Need Proper Citation
Usually, there are four basic categories of statements that need documentation in order for your work and analysis to be considered legitimate and professional. These types of statements are:
- Direct quotations—any parts of speeches, segments, or passages quoted or taken from other sources
- Any statistics—numerical data, tables, graphs, charts, illustrations, and photographs
- Little known or obscure facts that go against accepted belief
- Ideas or philosophical perspectives that are not your own or are taken from other sources
If you are writing your paper about President John F. Kennedy, it might be important for you to include his personal statements about his final days in the White House. Maybe, he mentioned privately to one of his aids just before his assassination that he was "worried" about security. Perhaps, he had been warned about his trip to Dallas beforehand, and in a speech to White House staff, he acknowledged security worries. With strong confidence though, he vowed to undertake a trip that could mean danger. Direct quotations and statements from experts—witnesses who were alive at the time, or even from the person about whom you are writing—are excellent firsthand sources of information. While your own analysis is always important, any information that comes directly from the source itself is always critical. Just be sure that any statements you quote—even if they are only segments or parts of a speech—are credited to the proper source, and attributed to the correct writer or speaker. As an example, read the following:
President Kennedy was well aware of the security risks that his trip to Dallas posed for both himself and his staff. However, in a briefing to his cabinet on the day before he left he said, "I thank you all for the detailed information you have provided for me, and I am grateful for the work that you have all undertaken in keeping me up to date about current security concerns. However, after evaluating all the facts at hand and openly acknowledging the risks involved in such a campaign trip at this moment, I have decided to go to Dallas. Ultimately, it is in the best interests of the American people if I go."1
As a writer, you can analyze why President Kennedy chose to follow through on his trip despite security concerns, but even though you can argue that he did it for the good of the American people, the direct quote from his speech proves this fact to the reader beyond a doubt. Just be sure to provide a footnote or parenthetical citation at the end of the speech that informs the reader of the book and the source of your information. Therefore, your reader, curious about this speech and its origins, will find:
1James Barber, White House Security: An Examination of the Dilemmas that Confronted Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. (New York: Little House Press, 1995) p. 213.
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