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Citing with Integrity


How to Organize Sources

This guide reinforces concepts presented in BC's Academic Integrity Tutorial, with an emphasis on research for written reports.

Avoid the Common Problems

Most problems with citation begin at the note-taking stage. There are three common problems to avoid:

  1. Notes lacking enough publication information to find the original article and/or passage in the article (or NO notes!).
  2. Notes that jumble summary, paraphrase, direct quotation, and/or your own commentary.
  3. So many windows open, so little time! It's 3 am, and you're copying and pasting quotes from 17 open windows.

The key is to have a system. Here is a system. It's old-fashioned (notebook, notecards), but it works. It can be adapted to a word processor and Citation Management Tools. The key to this system is: before you do anything else, note down publication information.

Keep Notes Organized

The method can be adapted to three tools:

  1. Paper - Keep notes on notecards or paper. Notecards are easy to re-organize by spreading them out on a table. Write the full citation in a notebook (or in a computer file), and a quotation or summary on the card. Be sure to note whether the words are yours or the author's; you can use big, clear quotations marks for a quotation, and perhaps a big "S" or "P" for summary or paraphrase. If you add your own ideas, put them on the reverse side, so you don't get confused, and write "ME" next to them. More detailed instructions are to the right.
  2. Word Processor - Open a file called "Source Notes - Paper Name." Type in or copy and paste a full citation (don't worry too much about format yet - just include all necessary info.) Underneath it, start typing notes. As in the paper method, be sure to differentiate quotations (in quotes) from summary or paraphrase. Include page numbers for each note. In a word processor, you can use bolding, italics, or color to help mark differences. Idea: make quotes red, and summaries and paraphrases blue.
  3. Online Citation ToolZotero and EndNote are online "cloud" applications built to help you collect, organize, and format citations. They can download full citation information from databases (Zotero can do this from websites!), store and organize citations in folders, and format citations according to citation styles (MLA, APA, etc.) in your paper.

How to Insert Quotations, Paraphrase, and Summary

One of the keys to ethical source use is to make it clear to readers where your own words and ideas end, and a source's words and ideas begin.

1. Quotation - Two options:

  • Quotation marks for shorter passages (three lines or less), and citation immediately after the quoted material
  • Block quote: Set off with a colon (:) and  indent the quoted material 1/2" from left margin, and citation at the end of the block text.

Use either quotation marks OR colon and indent, not both at once.

2. Summary and paraphrase:

  • A citation at the end of a full sentence implies that the contents of that entire sentence are a paraphrase or summary.
  • A citation at the end of a full paragraph implies, sloppily, that the contents of that entire paragraph are a paraphrase or summary; a better practice would be to forewarn the reader at the beginning of the paragraph that material derives from another source, e.g., "As Smith (49) states, the reasons for this rationale were tangled... ." Even better, you could alert the reader throughout the paragraph that you are continuing to paraphrase:  "Smith goes on to state that... ."
  • If one part of the sentence is your own idea, and the other part is from a source, you can use punctuation and introductory phrases to set off the source material, e.g.: "Though these treaties may be non-negotiable in specific circumstances (Smith, 52), one can imagine many scenarios in which negotiation makes sense." (The text in green is paraphrase; the text in black are the writer's own idea.)

APA, MLA, Chicago... Why so Many Styles?

Different citation systems reflect different values in the act of citation. What is most highly valued by each system?

MLA - Authority of source (author) and location in the text (page number, line number).

APA - Authority of source (author) and recency (date).

Chicago (Author/Date) - Authority of source (author) and recency (date). Some science and technology publications use Chicago style.

Chicago (Number/notes) - Unintrusive citations. (Also, this system uses numbered notes for clarifying or expanding on points, not just for citations.)

Scientific Styles (Numbered) - Unintrusive citations. (Also, many scientific texts have many authors, and authority often inheres more in journal titles or affilations with universities, not author names.)

Notes System - Paper or Electronic

diagram of bibliographic info

1. When you find a promising article, before you do anything else, note down all the publication information in a notebook (or in a file on your laptop):

Salwant, Shawn. Mark Twain and the Nature of Twins. Nineteenth-Century Literature. Vol. 67, No. 3 (December 2012), pp. 366-396. Accessed: 16/04/2013 18:43 JSTOR (BC Libraries) .pdf file

If you use a word-processor, copy and paste this information from the database. If you use a Citation Management Tool like Zotero you can export this information directly from a database into your citation manager.

2. At the top of the first notecard, before you do anything else, write down an abbreviated form of the work, such as the author's last name and a word from the title. (e.g. Salwant, Twins) If you are using APA style, add the year: Salwant, Twins, 2012. (Word-processor alternative: Type "Salwant, Twins:" and then type in the quotation or summary. Be sure to separate entries clearly, and be sure to type the author and title word before each entry.)

3. When you encounter a useful passage, before you do anything else, write down the page number(s) where you found the quotation. If the article has no page numbers, write down the section number or heading.

4. Then, either:

a. Write down the author's words verbatim, with quotations marks ("") around them, to make it clear to you that these are all the author's words, verbatim  (If you leave out a chunk of text, note missing text with ellipses (...)),

Image of sample note card

b. or summarize or paraphrase the passage. Write a big S or P to indicate summary or paraphrase. If you use a phrase verbatim, put quotation marks around it.

5. If you want to write a note about the passage, do it on the reverse side of the card. Write ME next to it, to indicate that these are your own words or ideas.

6. Repeat, as often as necessary. Some articles may produce a dozen notecards; others only one.

7. When it's time to write the paper, lay the notecards out on a large flat surface, shuffle them around until they are in a logical order, then stack them in that order. (Word-processor version: copy and paste notes until they are in a sensible order; make sure you copy page numbers and sources with each set of notes!)

8. Write the paper, using notecards as you need them. Notecards make it easy to insert author, year, and page # citations as you write, and make it easy to differentiate between the author's words and your own words and ideas.


Summary, Paraphrase, and Quotation

Summary: distills a larger text (usually ranging from a paragraph to a book) into a smaller one (usually ranging from a sentence to a page).

Paraphrase: adapts a text to a new context by altering wording ("in your own words"); paraphrased text is usually roughly the same length as the original text.

Quotation: reproduces text exactly as phrased in the original; marks (") indicate where the exact reproduction begins and ends.

All three uses of other texts should include citations that accurately attribute the source.

Original Text

(From Ellis, Joseph J. “Jefferson's Cop-out.” Civilization 3: (December/January, 1996-97): p. 46):

Thomas Jefferson was many things, but mostly he was a creature of paradox: the wealthy Virginia aristocrat who wrote the most famous statement of equality in American history; the sincere advocate of agrarian simplicity who worshipped the art and architecture of Paris; above all, the fervent believer in human freedom who lived his entire life as a slave owner. The last paradox has always seemed the most poignant, in part because Jefferson himself acknowledged the massive gap between his principled ideals and his personal reality, and in part because the paradox Jefferson lived was emblematic of the larger disjunction in American society–now generally regarded as the central dilemma of American history–between the promise of liberty and the fact of racial discrimination.

Paper excerpt including summary:

Joseph J. Ellis argues that Jefferson inhabited throughout his life a series of contradictions between his beliefs, which were liberal and far ahead of their time, and his own behavior and position in society, which forced him into a much more conservative position (46). But Jefferson was not the only one who had to face the disjunction between a belief in freedom and the reality of being an owner of slaves. George Washington, for example, never expressed abolitionist sentiments, but he freed his slaves in his will.

Paper excerpt including paraphrase:

Now that DNA tests have established that Thomas Jefferson almost certainly was the father of at least one child by his slave Sally Hemmings, we can add yet another layer to the paradox Jefferson lived. He was an aristocrat who believed in equality, a slaveowner who advocated abolition, a man who loved the simple rural life but was also a sophisticated connoisseur of European architecture (46). Now we find out that he was also a man who denounced black women as inherently unattractive in his Notes on the State of Virginia, yet he was sleeping with one himself.

Paper excerpt including quotation and paraphrase:

Joseph J. Ellis portrays Thomas Jefferson as a man who embodied, in his life and in his beliefs, “the central dilemma of American history” (46). For Ellis, the “most poignant” aspect of Jefferson as a “creature of paradox” was that he believed deeply in freedom, yet he couldn’t quite bring himself to free his slaves (46).

Paper excerpt including unattributed verbatim quotation (plagiarism):

Now, under the so-called “Patriot Act,” it is Muslim-Americans who must live under the shadow of suspicion and fear. It is another chapter in the central dilemma of American history–between the promise of liberty and the fact of racial discrimination.

Text and excerpts adapted from "Exercise on Use of Sources" [handout] by Jon Hall, WAC Program, Rutgers University, N.D. [Color added]

Basis of Google Searches

Answer: How many pages link to the site

This is the original foundation (called PageRank), upon which Google was built.

There are two answers that are not part of the algorithm:

  • Truth Value
  • Authority

The rest of the answers are part of the mix.

A recent addition (an algorithm called Panda) attempts to redress the lack of authority by improving the ranking of sites with "research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on." How Panda achieves this filtering is unknown outside of Google.