Giving Credit

To begin, watch the following FedEx commercial:

Chances are, you felt frustrated for the guy who suggested the idea to his boss. It would have been easy for the boss to “give credit where credit is due” by acknowledging his employee, but instead he passed the idea off as though he came up with it himself. In this scenario, the employee, the creator of the idea, felt he deserved recognition. Giving credit is about this code of courtesy, and beyond that, the obligation to acknowledge an idea that came from someone else.

Acknowledgement can come in various forms:

  • Mentioning your friend’s name when retelling a story he told you
  • Retweeting a Twitter post, sending the tweet with the original handle of the author
  • Sharing a Facebook post by clicking ‘share’, so that the post copies the original source
  • Providing the address of the page where an image was found when you repost an image (making sure that your image can be shared and copied in the first place)
  • Citing the author of a resource by using quotes and references in a paper

In an online environment, where information is readily available at the click of a mouse, and users tend to feel “anonymous,” it is easy to become complacent about using another person’s work without giving proper credit. In this blog post Lauren Faits, aka Geek Girl Chicago, discusses the less obvious , but equally unethical examples of plagiarism. Read through the post and consider the impact of these acts on the creator of the information.

Culture of Acknowledging the Work of Others in Academia

One of the fundamental concepts of research is acknowledging the ideas of others. In a scholarly environment, part of the research process is finding and reading information by other authors. This is known as a literature review and this process helps you to better understand your topic.

As you compose your paper, you acknowledge the work of other contributors to the field through citation, which means that you give credit to the author of an idea by telling your audience where you found your information.

Why is citation necessary?

Proper citation is necessary for a number of reasons. When you cite resources, you demonstrate that you understand and adhere to the practices of scholarly culture. Because of this, your work is more likely to be taken seriously by members within the field. Citation allows you to demonstrate that you are building upon information and contributing to the larger conversation of scholarship. Without crediting the author, it is as though you are saying that your voice is the only voice on the subject. Experts within the field are typically knowledgeable about current research. It is likely that if you choose not to cite an idea, someone will notice.

Citation also provides background information for your audience by offering them a path to follow should they choose to research your topic further or examine your sources in order to determine their point of view. Bibliographies or references found at the end of a document help to point the reader in the direction of further resources.

The process of sharing information through research is the conversation of scholarship. As you form new ideas based on the information you learn from experts, you contribute to the ongoing conversation on a particular topic.

What Using Citation Communicates

Reflect on how the following sentences should end while viewing the video Why We Cite from UNC Writing Center:

  1. When you speak, you know people will listen to you only if…
  2. If your claims are outdated, not based in fact, or wildly exaggerated …
  3. When you include good research, your writing is likely to provoke…
  4. Citations are a way to…

Just like well-composed sentences, intriguing images, and appropriate grammar, citation communicates that you know what you are talking about, whereas the lack of citation can indicate that you should research the topic further or that you are claiming the stated ideas as your own.

When Should I Cite?

A good rule of thumb is to cite any information that you found while researching or any idea that came from someone else’s work. This includes direct quotes, anything you summarize, anything you paraphrase (changing a few words or rewording substantially), and any references the author used that suggested his work came from another source. Key phrases that would help you recognize an author’s citation include ‘Researchers have said…’ or ‘Some people think that…’ followed by the citation.

Choosing Not to Acknowledge the Work of Others

When you use the work of others without giving credit to the author, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism may occur in a variety of ways, some of which are referenced on the Plagiarism Today website. Plagiarism often results in severe consequences that could have been easily avoided by giving credit.

The University at Albany has created a helpful resource called Citation Fox in order to assist students and others with understanding citation format. Additionally, this guide demonstrates how to cite direct quotes and provides further formatting resources.