4.2 Why We Cite

Although in some cultures it is a sign of respect to use the words or ideas of others without giving credit to them, this is not permitted in Canadian higher education, where a core principle of academic life is to fully acknowledge the work of others when it has guided and informed your own.

Academics engage in conversations to advance their knowledge and understanding of a subject. This happens mostly in written form through the publication of scholarly materials. In these academic conversations, it is necessary and expected that all prior thought is acknowledged and that all contributors to the conversation are credited. As a student, you too are a contributor to these conversations, and you therefore must credit all the sources from which you drew information.

Why Do We Cite?

The main reasons we cite are:

  • to uphold academic integrity standards by giving credit to those whose work we’ve used
  • to situate our work in the current literature and distinguish prior contributions from new original thought
  • to enable a reader to locate and read the source(s) we’ve used
  • to show that we have investigated our topics well
  • to add credibility and support to our arguments


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Academic Integrity Handbook Copyright © 2020 by Donnie Calabrese; Emma Russell; Jasmine Hoover; and Tammy Byrne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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