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Giving credit where credit is due: Why you need to cite your sources

An important part of being a responsible, trustworthy and exceptional student is citing your sources. Not only does crediting the resources you use provide proof of the research you conducted and enhance your credibility, it also helps you avoid any form of plagiarism.

“Acknowledging the research they have done by citing their sources appropriately and then communicating their own understanding is something that distinguishes good students,” says Jo Innes, IB Coordinator at EF Academy Torbay.

The IB defines plagiarism as “the representation, intentionally or unwittingly, of the ideas, words or work of another person without proper, clear and explicit acknowledgement.”

Plagiarism comes in many forms. According to a helpful webpage from the International School of London – Qatar, these forms of plagiarism include:

– Copying chunks of text without using quotation marks and without appropriate acknowledgement

– Copying text and making very minor changes, and without appropriate acknowledgement

– Copying a picture or photo from the internet without appropriate acknowledgement

– Duplicating your own work (self-plagiarism), for example submitting almost exactly the same work for two different assignments

Being found guilty of malpractice (plagiarism, collusion, misconduct during an examination, falsifying CAS records or log books, etc.) can lead to a result not being awarded for that subject, the IB Diploma (or IGCSE or A-Level certificate) not being awarded, or the exam board excluding the student from all examinations in that session or even all future examinations with that board. Certificates can also be withdrawn at any time if malpractice is established after results have been published.

It’s very important to know that it does not matter whether you intended to plagiarize or whether the plagiarism occurred unintentionally, it will constitute academic dishonesty either way.

“Citing properly is a fundamental academic skill which demonstrates an understanding of the key aspects of academic literature in the particular field you are researching,” Ms. Innes says. “Primarily though, it demonstrates that you understand what is meant by intellectual property and copyright and that you have your own ideas too – ones that you would not want someone else to ‘steal’.”

Simply put, copying or plagiarizing someone else’s work is stealing. Pretending that someone else’s words are your own, taking credit for not only their ideas, but also the effort and time that went into formulating those ideas, is deceitful.

Ms. Innes has a few tips that will help you avoid this form of theft:

– When copying text directly, you have to place these words in quotation marks and cite where you found this information.

– Long quotations (40 words or more) can be “blocked” to make them stand out clearly by indenting, for example. However, it is advisable to avoid long quotations, or at least use them sparingly.

– If you paraphrase (reword) the ideas or words of someone else, you have to use your own words. You must cite the source, but you do not have to use quotation marks. It is not enough to simply change the word order or to substitute one or two words.

– You may also summarize lengthy material in your own words. You must still cite the source, but you do not have to use quotation marks. However, should you repeat some of the author’s own words, place them in quotation marks.

There are a variety of ways for students to keep track of their sources as they research, and it is up to each individual to find the way that works best for him or her. Mind-mapping with different colors, using hyperlinks to online references in research notes, utilizing the “comment” function to add references in a Word document as you work – these are all methods that will help you keep track of your sources and will make it easier to construct a comprehensive bibliography when your research is complete.

“Your teachers and librarians are the best source for help with this as academic trends do differ around he world and across academic disciplines – what remains the same is the zero tolerance of plagiarism,” Ms. Innes says.

Looking beyond your time at EF Academy, citing your sources properly is a skill that will prove advantageous at university as well.

Ms. Innes says: “The message about plagiarism and correctly citing others’ research and thoughts is clear at universities and colleges across the globe: under no circumstances is it acceptable to present the work of others as your own. Neither ignorance nor carelessness will be accepted as an excuse.”

So go ahead, use as many resources as you see fit to support your argument and demonstrate your expansive knowledge – but do not take any short cuts when it comes to citing your sources.

“You’d want credit for your ideas – give others the credit where it is due,” says Ms. Innes.

Talk to your teachers or course coordinators if are ever unsure about how to cite your sources or if you have any questions about plagiarism.


Jo Innes, IB Coordinator at EF Academy Torbay

International School of London – Qatar

Garza, Celina. “Academic Honesty – Principles to Practice.” IB Africa, Europe & Middle East Regional Conference 2014. Rome. 16 Oct. 2014. Presentation.


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