Skip to main content

Doing Research

Conducting research ethically

Using information generates issues related to ethics and law. You will need several types of resources to use in order to incorporate information in your paper. This is acceptable but you cannot just copy and paste text in your paper. You will need to describe the sources from which you will borrow ideas. If you incorporate text in your paper without crediting your sources, then you commit plagiarism. This is the theft of intellectual property. To avoid plagiarism you need to create citations for all the information sources that you will use.

Citations & Plagiarism


A citation is a path you create when you are using an information source. This path makes the source you have used visible to your audience. If your readers follow this path will be able to find the original sources from which inspired you and from which you retrieved information. Each citation has two forms. The first form of the citation is usually shorter and appears in the body of your paper. It is called in-text citation. It may also appear as a footnote. The second form of the citation appears at the end of the paper. This form provides usually a detailed description of an information source.

Elements of citations

Each citation may consist of several elements. The elements are little pieces differ based on the citation style you are using.

  • The authors: The person(s) or corporate entity responsible for producing a work. The term is used in its broader sense to include editor, compiler, composer, creator, etc. In citations, the author is included to give credit to those to whom the work belongs and to help the audience check the author's credentials.
  • The title: A word, phrase, sentence, single character, or sequence of characters appearing on an item, naming the work(s) contained in it. In citations, titles are included for purposes of identification and reference. Titles often indicate how relevant the information is.
  • The date: The date on which copies of a creative work like a book, an article, a report, a web source, etc. are officially made available to the public. In citations, publications dates are included to indicate how recent the information is.
  • Publication information: Publisher information, DOIs, and URLs are elements that provide locational information for sources. In citations, these elements are included to lead the audience to the actual source and check the publisher's credibility.

Which elements you need for your citations relates to the citation style that you will use. We support three citation styles the MLA, the APA, and Chicago style. Choosing a citation style depends on your scientific field, your instructor or your own preferences.

Reasons to cite

Usually beginning researchers don’t understand why citing is important. These are some reasons why to cite the sources you are using.

  • to give credit to the authors or the creators of the work
  • to guide your audience to the actual source you have used
  • to establish the reliability of the source
  • to establish the accuracy of the source
  • to avoid plagiarism

The improper use of another’s ideas or work is plagiarism. It can appear in three forms but in any case is a serious offense.

  • Intentional plagiarism: representing others ideas as your own.
  • Unintentional plagiarism: It usually results from the lack of knowledge about proper use of sources and citation.
  • Self-plagiarism: Reusing your own words from previous submitted papers.
Reasons for avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic consequences: Follow the guidelines of your institution otherwise you may result to be found guilty of plagiarism.  You may be suspended from class, fail the paper and dismissed from the college.
  • Cheating yourself: You will not develop the ability to critically respond to information sources and may prevent you from admitting Graduate school.
  • Cheating detectors: There are several tools that can detect plagiarism. Our college uses Turnitin.
  • Reduces your credibility: Once you committee plagiarism, nobody will ever believe in your work.
  • Impacts your grading curve: It will not be easy to improve your grades if you commit plagiarism.
  • Diminishes the value of your degree: You will never find out what you would be able to do.

Incorporating text

There are three techniques for incorporating information in your papers.

  • Summarizing: Rewriting and condensing original source material to present main ideas in a narrower, more focused way. Try to eliminate extra information and simplify a source.
  • Paraphrasing: Using roughly the same amount of words as the original to restate information without quoting it. Try to arrange, simplify, or clarify the material and normalize your writing so that all looks the same.
  • Quoting: Using the exact wording of the original. Include a quote when another’s words are stronger or better than yours. You can also use it to comment on the quoted material or present material for analysis.
Paraphrasing versus summarizing

Here are some similarities and differences between summarizing and paraphrasing

Summaries Paraphrases
Report your understanding to reader Report your understanding to reader
Can be any length Tends to be short
Select and condense main ideas and concepts Record each point
May arrange points in any order Present points in original order
Explain, sometimes interpret Include no interpretation
Should be accurate and complete Should be complete and make sense on their own without misleading or misrepresenting