Quality sources of information are more important than ever before. The speed with which information travels from person to person means that ideas, good or bad, factual or misleading, can have a very wide reach if left unchecked. When someone shares another person’s idea without identifying a source, the veracity of the claim is not easy to evaluate and, worse still, they have plagiarized the original source. While the way the general public shares and publishes ideas is not tightly controlled, academic writing and publishing has been using conventions for citing and referencing information sources for a very long time.
What is APA Style?
The APA (American Psychological Association) Handbook provides us with one such convention. This manual describes in detail how to integrate other sources into your work. Different types of sources (like books, articles, films, etc.) will need to be cited differently so that the reader can easily identify the cited work. The handbook tries to standardize how writers cite and reference sources so that the sources are recognizable and clear to the reader. There are hundreds of different styles that may be used, each with nuanced differences that reflect the priorities of the different disciplines. The library links to free online guides for many of the most popular citation styles here.
Why is citing and referencing important?
Not only will citing and referencing sources help to fit a work with the style and conventions of academic writing, it also provides the reader with a way to verify the information the writer is using. As I mentioned already, false or misleading information can have a sizable reach and have significant real-world consequences, so thorough referencing ensures that writers are accountable to the ideas they use and share. But the benefits of referencing aren’t only reaped by the reader. Writers can draw on the expertise and authority of others to add weight to their own work. A student who is new to a particular topic can, by referencing the most knowledgeable scholars, write a highly academic research paper, “standing on the shoulders of giants” that came before them.
In my own experience, there is a great deal of confusion and anxiety around citing and referencing, but it’s important to remember that as much as people get bogged down in the complex details of different citation styles and formats, the ultimate goal of citing and referencing is always for a writer to identify whenever they have used an idea outside of their own experience or imagination and to point the reader to the source of that idea.
You can find more information about citing and referencing here: https://library.uwinnipeg.ca/help-with-research/citing-and-referencing-sources.html
A guest posting from Ian Fraser, the Head of Library Instruction and Reference at the UW Library. He has been working with students and instructors in PACE for many years to help promote the wide range of information resources and services available at the library.
Ian is doing an upcoming lunch and learn on January 27, 2021; PACE instructors received an email invite, if you didn’t get one reach out Ken / Instructor Support.