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Deciding when a citation is needed
The rule for when to cite is simple: if it isn’t your own idea, conclusion, or words, the source must be cited, unless the information can be considered common knowledge. Common knowledge is generally defined as information that can be found in four or more sources.
Examples of information that does not require citation:
- George Washington was the first president of the United States.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
- George W. Bush became president after a controversial election in 2000.
Examples of information that should be cited:
- Any direct quote
- Any paraphrase of someone else’s words or ideas
- Any summary of somone else's findings, conclusions or ideas
- Statistical information
- Scientific research results
- Charts, graphs, cartoons, photographs, even if labeled "copyright-free" or "fair use"
A general guideline is “when in doubt, cite.” The flow chart below, developed by Dr. Hanson, will help you with the citation process.
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