Citation rules and protocols vary between different academic disciplines, which turns academic writing into a more difficult task than it already is. For instance, for some disciplines you will only need to create a ‘works cited’ list, while others will require a complete bibliography of the works you consulted; some disciplines require the use of parenthetical in-text citing, while others use footnotes. All these different rules can be distracting, but it is necessary to learn and implement the particular protocols required for the discipline you are working in.

There are five main principles that are applied to all disciplines, and keeping them in mind will make your citation practice easier. First of all, you should remember one fundamental rule: cite whenever you are in doubt! Even if citing is not absolutely necessary in the given example, you won’t get in trouble if you still acknowledge the source of the information you used. If you are not sure about the citing rules, ask for the guidance of your preceptor or professor. These are the five rules you should remember, no matter what type of citing is required for your work:

  1. Paraphrasing – when you use your own sentence structure to represent the ideas of another person in your own words, it’s called paraphrasing. You are not required to use quotation marks for paraphrasing, but you should absolutely acknowledge the source of information. If you can think of a way to restate the idea of the source you are using in a simpler and clearer way, then you should paraphrase. However, that will not make the responsibility of citing unnecessary.
  2. Quoting – whenever you want to use a source in its original wording, you have to put it between quotation marks, no matter how short the quotation is. If the quote is longer than three lines, you should clearly indent it beyond your regular margins. The rules are simple: you must accompany a quotation by a precise indication of the used source, which will identify the author and title of the used source, the place and date of publication, as well as the page number where the quote is located.
  3. Using facts, data, and information – these sources are often necessary for supporting your argument, and you should know how to use them properly. If the information you are using is exclusive for a particular source, then you have to acknowledge it clearly. For instance, you must cite the source when you elaborate data from a certain scientific experiment. However, if the information you are using is generally known, citing the source is not required. There is a simple way to decide whether to cite or not in such situation: ideas must be cited, while well-known facts don’t have to be cited.
  4. Summary – this is a short and clear statement of the ideas or thoughts of another person in your own wording. If you want to distillate the ideas of your source, then writing a summary is the proper way to do it. When providing a summary of someone else’s conclusions, arguments or ideas, you must cite the source.
  5. Supplementary Information – when you are writing a long research paper, including all ideas and information from your research may not be possible. In those cases, it is recommended to provide a note that offers supplementary information for the reader. This will represent the depth and breadth of your research, and you will be able to include all information you initially wanted to use, without disrupting the logical flow of your paper. The supplementary information is added via footnotes or endnotes. You may insert footnotes for your own additional analysis or claims that distract the reader from the central argument, but are still important to be included in the paper.


In all situations mentioned above, the academic standards require incorporating the source into the bibliography and citing it in the text of your paper. Listing a source in the bibliography is not enough in situations when it deserves to be explicitly cited in your paper’s body. If you fail to follow the standards of academic integrity, your work may be charged with plagiarism. Some sources deserve to be included in the bibliography even when they aren’t particularly important to be cited in the text. This is a rare situation, but occurs when a certain source was critical for your understanding of the specific topic, although you never used its ideas for your argument. The main thing to remember is that you should go for citing whenever you aren’t sure about a particular case.

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