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Research Help Guide: What to Cite

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Quick Summary: What to Cite


1.The Golden Rule:

"Always cite other people's work, ideas and intellectual property" 

2. This means anything that you read (in any format) and anything you see or hear (lectures, films etc). 

3. When in doubt if its common knowledge or someone's idea - always cite it to be safe. 

The Golden Rules on What to Cite

Golden Rules

The golden rule is to always cite other people’s words, ideas and other intellectual property that you use in your papers or that influence your ideas.
This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Anything that you read in any format like books, journal articles, web pages, etc.
  • Anything that is presented or spoken like speeches, lectures, personal interviews, performances, etc.
  • Other works like films, songs, dramatic performances, etc. that are the intellectual property of someone else


Common Knowledge

You don’t need to cite what would be considered common knowledge, such as facts, events, concepts, etc. that are widely known and accepted as true. In other words, you don’t cite information you can reasonably expect other people to know.

For example it is widely know that there are bilingual (French and English) speakers in Montreal. So if you wrote, “there is a bilingual population in Montreal”, you don’t need to cite this because it’s an accepted fact, or common knowledge.

BUT, the specific number of bilingual speakers or percentages of where they live is not common knowledge. So you if you wrote, “70% of bilingual speakers live in the downtown core of Montreal,” you would cite your source.


Your Own Ideas

So how can you tell what’s your own idea and what came from one of your sources? The best way to avoid this dilemma is to use good note taking techniques. Make sure when you are going through your notes, you have indicators of which ideas are your own and which ideas or quotes are from a source. Remember to always keep track of a source’s Author, Title and Publication information (as well as the page number).

If you are in doubt whether something is common knowledge or not- cite! 
Better to be safe than sorry.