Students are consistently reminded throughout their academic career to cite their sources when writing term papers and essays. By failing to provide a citation indicating that certain information or ideas in their essay came from another source, students can get into serious trouble for plagiarism, with consequences ranging from failing the paper to being expelled from school.
Using a citation is the way to indicate that a specific piece of material used in your essay came from another source. As a result, students often think that citations generally make their term paper look worse, because they signal that the ideas in their paper are not original. Although they recognize that citing sources is the way to avoid plagiarism, students may be tempted to minimize the number of citations in their essay or avoid citing whenever possible.
However, there is no reason to be so concerned about citing sources in your essay. In fact, citations can often be beneficial for a term paper and increase the likelihood that you will receive a good grade, in spite of the negative connotations that citations have regarding originality.
For one, citing sources shows that you conducted extensive research when writing your term paper. Your teacher or professor will know that you put a lot of effort into the process, and that you took the time to truly understand the essay topic before beginning to write.
In addition, citing a legitimate source lends credibility to your research paper. If you reference trustworthy or prominent authors, researchers, and academics while developing your argument, it will make your own ideas more convincing. It will be harder for a reader to question an essay that uses credible sources of information, compared to an essay that blindly states unsubstantiated “facts.”
Finally, citing a source makes it clear that an idea or thought in your paper belongs to someone else, not you. This can work to your advantage if the idea is controversial, or if the information is unknowingly inaccurate. By referencing the place you obtained a certain piece of information, you absolve yourself from the risks associated with that material.
The next time you’re writing an essay or term paper, remember that citing sources can actually be to your advantage. Not only will it ensure that you don’t get caught for plagiarism, but it will demonstrate the amount of research you’ve performed, lend credibility to your supporting arguments, and highlight the originality of your own ideas.