Why Citations and Citation Styles are Important

Formatting your paper and adding in-text and full citations are probably the most tedious part of writing. Not only is it time-consuming and often confusing, but it seems pedantic trying to determine whether the page number or the date should be cited or whether you should use a comma or a period. You will be forgiven for thinking that adding citations and following the correct styles are futile. But you also must think again. Adding citations and following citations styles are important for a variety of reasons, some of which will be discussed below:

citation citation styles format apa mla chicago harvard
Various citation styles exist for a reason

Being confused by the many citation styles out there is quite common. Apart from more commonly used styles such as APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard, there are many other less frequently prescribed styles such as ASA, AMA, and Blue Book. But while the existence of so many styles may seem redundant, they have different formats for a good reason. Various fields place emphasis on different elements of a source. For instance, APA is often prescribed for psychology, business, education, social sciences, and physical and life sciences. Note that these fields constantly update their body of knowledge. As such, APA requires the year to be cited because it is concerned with the recentness of the sources. On the other hand, MLA is often used in the arts and the humanities such as literature, fine arts and performing arts, history, philosophy, religion, politics, and languages. When writing on such fields, a student often looks for important quotes expressing ideas. As such, MLA requires the citation of page numbers because it seeks to direct the reader to the place where the information is provided. For example, literary analysis papers often integrate quotes, and thus MLA is concerned more about the location of the quotes than the year they were written. In a nutshell, citation styles are carefully deliberated by scholars, and their unique formats are in response to specific needs of different fields.

Citation styles set standards for scholars of the discipline

As stated, a citation style has a unique format in order to address specific considerations of a field of study. But more than this, a style sets standards for scholars. In other words, it encourages uniformity in the presentation of the literature. There’s a practical reason for this. If details are presented in a uniform manner, a reader can conveniently check details. For example, the alphabetical arrangement of sources makes it easy for the reader to locate the full entry on the reference page.

Citations help you avoid plagiarism

Citations are also essential in avoiding plagiarism. In order to write a good paper, a student almost always has to consult and present information from sources. If the student does not cite sources, then the reader will have no way of knowing which parts of the paper are the writer’s own and which parts are borrowed from sources. Failing to cite sources also amounts to intellectual theft, since information comes across as the student’s own while the originator of the information is not given due credit. Adding citations, therefore, informs the reader where the borrowed information comes from. This also indicates that the paper is not plagiarized.

Citations pay due credit and respect to the work of others

Another important reason why citations matter is that they pay due credit to the authors of sources. Generating information and knowledge is a challenging task. Scholars spend resources in order to expand various fields’ body of knowledge. Citations, therefore, recognize the scholars’ work and contributions. Failing to cite sources is equivalent to failing to respect the scholars and their work.

Correct citations and formatting show that you can follow instructions

The ability to apply correct citations and formatting according to the prescribed style also shows that you can follow instructions. Adding citations and formatting is tedious work, but successfully accomplishing these indicates that you pay attention to more minute and intricate details. Moreover, following a style improves the organization and the aesthetic qualities of your paper.

In the end, taking the time to familiarize yourself with basic citation styles is beneficial in the long run. Correctly citing and formatting papers is a lifelong skill that you can use in different settings. Acquiring this skill is especially important if you plan to take advanced degrees or work in a place where writing and research are crucial.