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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 10
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mage of a pen and paper   Acknowledging Sources is an important step in researching ethically because it gives credit where credit is due and helps maintain academic integrity.

Documenting sources is the process used to acknowledge others' contributions, indicate resources for additional study, and provide a means by which information can be verified.

The following sections explain
•  Why documentation is required.
•  When documenting is mandatory, suggested, and optional.
•  How to choose a documentation style.
•  Where to get more information about specific documentation styles.
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When you quote or paraphrase someone else's work or ideas as part of something you produce, you must document the original sources by indicating what you've used and the origin of the material using an accepted documentation style such as APA or MLA.

Documentation (also called citing your sources) is an essential part of academic research, because it

•  Helps readers find the resources you used.
Citations give enough information for readers to locate the resources.
•  Helps readers evaluate the data or information you used.
Citations for different resource types contain specific information, so readers can tell what types were used and evaluate the information accordingly.
•  Helps you avoid plagiarism.
Citing sources lets readers know which parts originated with you and which ones originated elsewhere. As a result, your work maintains integrity.
•  Helps you comply with copyright guidelines.
Documenting sources acknowledges the owner of creators for their works and ideas (words and style, images and presentation, musical arrangement, etc.).

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When deciding what to document, follow these guidelines:

You must document
•  Direct quotations (word-for-word transcriptions of someone's words) even if using only a portion of the original material.
•  Paraphrases of someone's words, ideas, opinions, facts, and information.
•  Diagrams, statistics, charts, pictures, illustrations, images, and so on.
•  Ideas, opinions, facts, specific terms, and data that were acquired from sources and that would not be considered common knowledge.
•  All copyrighted material -- whether it is in print, visual, auditory, or online.

You should document
•  Any quotable phrases, even if they are famous quotes.
•  Ideas, opinions, facts, and data that readers might want to know more about or might question.
•  Any included material that makes you wonder if you are committing plagiarism. When in doubt, document.

You do not have to document
•  Sayings, proverbs, or biblical citations.
•  Common knowledge (facts, dates, events, concepts, information usually known by an educated public).

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Academic disciplines use specific documentation styles based on each discipline's philosophy. This philosophy is indicated by a documentation style's rules regarding the types of resources to include and exclude, whether emphasis is placed on date or authorship, punctuation guidelines, and so on.

The following list shows a few documentation styles and their corresponding disciplines:
•  American Psychological Association (APA) documentation is usually used in the social sciences.
•  American Sociological Association (ASA) documentation is used primarily in sociology and anthropology.
•  Chicago and Turabian documentation styles are often used in history, business, industry, and library sciences.
•  Modern Language Association (MLA) documentation is typically used in the humanities.

Sometimes instructors are not concerned about the documentation style you choose. However, most of the time, your instructor will tell you which style to follow when documenting your work. When in doubt, ask your instructor.

No web site or handout can supply all the information needed about a specific documentation style. Therefore, you should either purchase a copy or use a library copy of the documentation handbook/manual used in your major field of study.

Example handbooks include
•  American Sociological Association Style Guide
•  The Chicago Manual of Style
•  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
•  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

If Tarleton libraries do not own a documentation handbook or style manual you need, please let us know by suggesting a purchase.

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The following sources offer information about specific documentation styles:

•  APA Style Guide Summary from Dr. Robin C. Smith, Tarleton University System Center - Central Texas
•  Assembling a List of Works Cited in Your Paper by Kelley A. Lawton and Laura Cousineau, Duke University Libraries
•  Citing Electronic Resources: APA Style offered by the University of Maryland University College
•  Citing References in Your Paper from The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
•  Citing Your Sources: Print & Electronic Style Guides from A. Frank Smith Jr. Library Center, Southwestern University
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