When in Doubt, Cite

Here we are one month through the semester—and I know the feeling. Football is done, hockey is (finally) back, and soon it will be springtime and beach weather. To me, baseball means we’re that much closer to finishing the semester and completing our degrees. To cut through the winter until baseball season and the beach weather arrives, try this little tip—because doing so will not only impress your professors, but also provide an opportunity to practice a simple, but challenging, critical task.

During my Navy career I was exposed to many rules and regulations. We had a procedure, guide, or manual for everything. For example, there were written and unwritten rules on how to fold a blanket, lace your shoes, and (stay with me on this one) how to refuel your ship while attached to two other ships by 200 feet of fuel hoses as airplanes are taking off and landing at night in bad weather. Got it?

There were plenty of other rules, too. But, The #1 Golden Rule, practiced by all of the Armed Forces is this: When in doubt, salute. In other words, if you approach an individual, and you’re unsure if he or she is a military officer, it would be in your best interest to salute.

A salute is nothing more than a sign of recognition. So, when you are writing your next assignment or research paper, and you’re unsure (in doubt) of whether your words are truly your own words, or whether you should recognize the originator of the material, consider this—When in doubt, cite.

I see two issues regarding citing. The first is determining how to cite. The second is understanding the importance of citing. Citing takes practice whether it’s APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, Legal, or whichever style you use (once you’re in a specific program or field, the citing style becomes more consistent). For me, as a student in the LSER department, I normally cite in APA format. According to the Purdue OWL (2013), “APA (American Psychological Association) is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences.”

The next, and perhaps most important issue regarding citing, is plagiarism. As World Campus students, we rely on the internet for research, so we must be cognizant of plagiarism.

Professor Paul F. Clark, MPS Director and Department Head Labor Studies and Employment Relations, recently sent an email to MPS HRER students on the topic of plagiarism. Dr. Clark recommended, “If you have any concerns about possible plagiarism or other issues related to plagiarism, please ask your instructor and/or check the Online Programs webpage.”

Overall, citing avoids any doubts of plagiarism. Practicing citing mechanics early in the semester benefits the later stages and also demonstrates to the professors:

  • honesty
  • a commitment to introducing material outside of the required assigned readings
  • value placed on their colleagues published works

A final thought. Check out The Graduate Writing Center. The Graduate Writing Center provides trained, friendly, and free peer consulting and workshops for Penn State graduate students of all disciplines and of all levels of writing ability.

Good luck!