People, proper citation is not rocket science! And it is not an instrument of torture that instructors force students to use. We cite to give our readers a chance to follow our reasoning, to check up on us, and to demonstrate the research that was done.
Kate Williams and Jude Carroll have a nice guide to referencing [1, p. 26–7]:
You need to reference when you:That rather puts in a nutshell when to reference. But I find that my students don't even know how to reference. I had one paper with 14 URLs listed under the heading "Sources", but none referenced from the text. Do you expect me to look through all of your URLs to find where you got the notion that Alan Turing used a Turing Machine to break the Enigma code?
You don’t need to reference if you:
- use facts, figures or specific details you pick from somewhere to support a point you’re making – you report
- use a framework or model another author has devised. Let’s say you ‘acknowledge’
- use the exact words of your source – you quote
- restate in your own words a specific point, finding or argument an author has made – you paraphrase
- sum up in a phrase or a few sentences a whole article or chapter, a key finding/conclusion, or a section – you summarize.
- believe that what you are writing is widely known and accepted by all as ‘fact’. This is usually called ‘common knowledge’
- can honestly say, ‘I didn’t have to research anything to know that!’.
If finding it out did take effort, show the reader the research you did by referencing it!
Many papers had one reference (usually given as a footnote number!) for each paragraph, so I am probably to assume that they took the entire paragraph from this source. One paper used "vgl." (German for "cf.") in a footnote for every single reference given. No, that means that there is more information about this topic to be found there, not that you took this snippet from that source.
As a computer scientist, the structure of referencing something appears so simple to me. I use this in the talks that I give, and a recent attendee asked me if I had published it anywhere. I actually haven't, because it seemed so obvious. But here it is, in case anyone wants to use it!
The secret of good referencing is to clearly mark where something from someone else begins and where it ends, and to tell your readers where you got it from. That's all! As a computer scientist I use parentheses to mark the beginning and end, and an arrow as the notation for the exact reference:
|Where does it start, where does it end, where did it come from?|
Was that really so hard to understand?
It goes without saying that the reference given MUST be the source for the statement and not some random reference because you forgot to note down where you found it. The punishment for not taking proper notes is having to look it up again to verify that you have it right. It is sometimes very sobering to see that you have it exactly backwards....
One last word of advice: Don't quote the Wikipedia! It's a great place to start your research, and then you look up all those cool references at the bottom of the page and use them as your references. If the Wikipedia is wrong, please fix the article for the next people wanting to know about the topic. Only if you are doing research about the Wikipedia should you be quoting it. And if you must, please use the "Cite this page" link! It's on every page but the front page of every single Wikipedia. And it will give you a proper reference to copy in many popular styles.
|It's almost always been there, but so few people have ever seen it|
Now, what to do about my students who will be writing their theses next semester? I think we need Writing Boot Camp at German universities sooner than later. They are not learning this in school, and we are not teaching it at university yet. Since they don't read academic literature, they don't know what an academic paper is to look like. And online they easily find blogs and Wikipedia, so they copy that style. We've got work to do...
 Williams, K. & Carroll, J. (2009). Referencing & Understanding Plagiarism . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian