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Student FAQs

Citation

How do I cite a source?

You will first need to determine which citation style you are using. Sometimes your professor will explicitly state which citation style to use, while in other instances, it will be up to you to determine the most appropriate style. Once you have determined the best style guide for your purpose, you should locate a credible, reliable resource to use as you write. Citation styles have a tendency to change over time (to accommodate new mediums, such as YouTube and Twitter, and accommodate changes in how we access sources), and therefore it is important to use the most updated style guide when citing sources.

It is also important to note that citing a source is a two-step process: you must include both the in-text citation as well as the Works Cited/Reference entry for the source. One way to think of citations is as a map: your essay is the map, the in-text citations are the locations, and the Works Cited/Reference page is the legend. Your reader will not know what the in-text citation is referencing without the complete citation located in the Works Cited/Reference page.

Here are helpful resources to use while formatting your essay and citations:

Why is using a specific citation style important?

Specific disciplines have created uniform style guides to ensure consistency in publication and formatting to make identifying and obtaining information from a specific source easier. Specific style guides tend to reflect the values of the discipline for which they were created; for example, APA places an emphasis on published research, therefore in text citations include the year of publication, whereas MLA places the emphasis on authorship, therefore in text citations include the author’s name and page number. Interestingly, APA also strives to remove gender bias in research, and therefore does not require more than a first initial when including a researcher’s name in a citation or signal phrase.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab at Purdue.edu addresses some aspects of how the three major citations styles (MLA, APA, and CMS) are typically used.​

Do I still cite a source if I am summarizing or paraphrasing it?

Often times, writers will blend their sources’ claims and ideas into their own more fluidly by using summaries and paraphrases, rather than direct quotations. However, regardless of how you are presenting someone else’s claims and points, you still must always include a citation. Summaries typically focus on the main idea of a text, while a paraphrase is usually a more in-depth restatement in your own words of particular points or ideas from a text.

Often times, writers will blend summaries, paraphrasing, and direct quotes together in their writing. Citations should appear as close to the paraphrased idea as possible. If you are unsure about whether to use a citation after an idea that you think you might have paraphrased, remember it is always safer to over cite than under cite.​

How should I use Wikipedia?

Wikipedia offers great information about how Wikipedia should be used in terms of academic research on their Academic Use page.

As stated on the site, “any encyclopedia is a starting point for research, not an ending point.” Also, because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, all information gathered from Wikipedia should be cross-referenced to ensure its accuracy. If the information you are gathering from Wikipedia is accurate and credible, you should be able to cite the source it originally appeared in, rather than Wikipedia itself.​

Where can I get additional information and help about citations and writing?

DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) is a free resource for all members of the DePaul community to receive feedback on writing, ask questions, and collaborate on all stages of the writing process.

Writing Consultants at the Writing Center have extensive knowledge and training regarding issues of both citations and plagiarism and are available to work with you in a variety of forms: face-to-face and online & webcam consultations, through the Written Feedback By Email service, and using Quick Questions and Chat with a Tutor.

You can make arrangements for all UCWbL services through their website.​

      

Plagiarism

What's wrong with not citing a source?

Simply put, not citing a source is unethical because you are passing someone else’s ideas and research off as your own. A citation acts as an indication of where ideas and information is coming from, so that your reader can retrace the steps you took in gathering your research if they are interested in learning more about your topic.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a useful analogy for thinking about using sources:

[In] the vast majority of assignments you’ll get in college, your instructors will ask you to read something (think of this material as the building blocks) and then write a paper in which you analyze one or more aspects of what you have read (think of this as the new structure you build). Essentially, your instructors are asking you to do three things:

• Show that you have a clear understanding of the material you’ve read.
• Refer to your sources to support the ideas you have developed.
• Distinguish your analysis of what you’ve read from the authors’ analyses.

When you cite a source, you are using an expert’s ideas as proof or evidence of a new idea that you are trying to communicate to the reader.​

When do I need to quote definitions?

You should always quote definitions as the source of a definition can provide telling information about how you are using the term being defined. For instance, if you are using a dictionary definition, your reader might assume you are using the term more generally. If you are using a definition from a textbook or article, the definition might be more focused and have a specific contextual meaning, representing the bias of the author.

As a tip, the preferred dictionary of academic writing is the Oxford English Dictionary. Using this, as opposed to dictionary.com or other dictionaries, can boost your ethos as a scholar!​

How can I avoid plagiarism?

You can avoid plagiarism by citing your sources appropriately whenever you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas. Use a style guide (MLA, APA, etc.) to make sure you are citing correctly.

If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism, check the Student Handbook, ask your professor, or schedule an appointment at the Writing Center.​


Working With Classmates

My classmate is confused about an assignment. Is it okay to let them see my work?

If a classmate comes to you with questions about an assignment or paper, talking about ideas can be a very helpful practice for everyone involved (you might come to new conclusions as you share your thoughts with your classmate!) If your classmate is still confused about the assignment or essay, you can always suggest they visit their professor during office hours or to make an appointment at the Writing Center.

Many instructors will have clear expectations about what will and will not be group work in a course. If you or a classmate are caught working together on individual work, it can be considered a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy.​

When is it okay to work with another student? When is it considered cheating?

In most cases, your professor will make it clear what work is intended to be done individually. Discussing class material with a classmate can often be a helpful practice and can help clarify concepts and bring to light new ideas; however, assignments and essays should be done individually. Your professor may consider your work cheating if work is strikingly similar.

If you are in doubt about whether or not it is acceptable to collaborate with a classmate, ask your professor.​


Reusing Work From Another Class

When do I need to quote myself? What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is taken seriously throughout the academic community. If you would like to quote yourself, simply cite yourself as you would any other source. The University of Arizona created a tool to detect self-plagiarism, explaining:

It is our belief that self-plagiarism is detrimental to scientific progress and bad for our academic community. Flooding conferences and journals with near-identical papers makes searching for information relevant to a particular topic harder than it has to be. It also rewards those authors who are able to break down their results into overlapping least-publishable-units over those who publish each result only once. Finally, whenever a self-plagiarized paper is allowed to be published, another, more deserving paper, is not.

You might argue, as a student, that this does not apply to you because you are not seeking publication. However, at DePaul, we strive to uphold high academic standards worthy of entering the conversation at the professional level. You can also think of it in terms of earning two grades for one work – this is simply unethical.

So, while you can cite yourself, you should do so in the same way you would any other researcher. Using quotations of evidence for your argument, and make sure your overall argument is striving to contribute new information to the field.​

I wrote a similar paper for a previous course. Can I edit that paper and use it for my current course?

The purpose of academic writing is to come to new conclusions and create new knowledge through writing. When you recycle papers written for previous courses and re-submit them for a new grade, you are not creating new information or knowledge to contribute to the academic community. DePaul University’s Academic Integrity Policy specifically identifies as a form of plagiarism “Copying of any source in whole or part without proper acknowledgement… [including t]he reuse or repurposing of any previously submitted version of one’s own work product or data into a ‘new’ product without requesting permission from the current instructor (also known as ‘self-plagiarism’).” (DePaul University Academic Integrity Policy II.B.2.b)

If you are questioning whether or not there are serious ramifications for recycling your own work, consider the case of Jonah Lehrer, a prominent writer who was asked to resign from his job at the New Yorker because he recycled works from previously published books and blogs. Some speculate that had Lehrer been forthright about where his claims were coming from (citing his own works) he could have avoided tarnishing his reputation and dismantling his extremely successful writing career. Read more about the fall out and reactions to Lehrer’s practices here.

Finally, when in doubt, always discuss ideas with your professor. If you have a similar paper from a previous course, bring it to your professor during his/her office hours and discuss ways of using it as a jumping off point to come to new and unique conclusions.​


Still Have Questions?

Additional help for academic integrity

There are several DePaul resources for additional information. Student Consultants are available to answer questions you may have about violations, appeals, and hearings. You may contact any of the Student Consultants with your questions. You can also review the Academic Integrity Policy.

Additional help with the writing process

DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) is a free resource for all members of the DePaul community to receive feedback on writing, ask questions, and collaborate on all stages of the writing process. Writing Consultants at the Writing Center have extensive knowledge and training regarding issues of both citations and plagiarism and are available to work with you in a variety of forms: face-to-face and online & webcam consultations, through the Written Feedback By Email service, and using Quick Questions and Chat with a Tutor. You can make arrangements for all UCWbL services through their website.