Formatting your paper and adding in-text and full citations are probably the most tedious part of writing. It is not only time-consuming and often confusing but it also seems pedantic trying to determine whether the page number or the date should be cited or what punctuation marks to use.
It is normal to think that adding citations and following the correct styles are futile. But adding citations, following citations styles, and following the punctuation guide is important for a variety of reasons, some of which will be discussed below:
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 needed styles, including ASA, AMA, and Blue Book. While the existence of so many styles may seem redundant, each of them has its purpose and the required format.
Probably the most important factor defining the format to be used is the field. For instance, APA formatting is often prescribed for Psychology, Business, Education, Social Sciences, and Physical and Life Sciences, and this style requires the year of publication to be cited because it is concerned with the recentness of the sources.
By contrast, MLA is often used in Arts and Humanities, such as Literature, Fine Arts and Performing Arts, History, Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and Languages. MLA requires the citation of page numbers because it seeks to direct the reader to the place where the information was taken from. For example, literary analysis papers often integrate quotes, and thus MLA is concerned about the location of the quotes more than the year when they were written. In a nutshell, citation styles are carefully deliberated by scholars, and their unique formats are in correspondence with the specific needs of different fields.
Citation styles set discipline standards for scholars
Along with having a unique format in order to address specific considerations of a field, each formatting style sets standards for scholars. by encouraging uniformity in the presentation of the literature. There is a practical reason for this - if details are presented in a uniform manner, a reader knows where to look for details and reach a source for further information. 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 essential in avoiding plagiarism. To write a good paper, a student has to consult and present information from diverse sources. If the student does not cite sources, the reader will have no way of knowing which parts of the paper are the writer’s own thoughts and which ones belong to others. Adding citations, therefore, informs the reader where the provided information comes from, which indicates the uniqueness of the paper.
Citations pay due credit and respect to the work of others
Another important reason why properly formatted citations matter is that they pay due credit to the authors of the used sources, showing that you have gathered information from credible works and were able to evaluate your sources properly. Generating information and knowledge is a challenging task, and scholars dedicate much effort 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, which equals to intellectual theft and is considered as an unfair use of information.
Correct citations and formatting show that you can follow instructions
The ability to implement citing and formatting rules according to the prescribed style also shows that you can follow instructions. Adding citations and formatting is tedious work, but successfully accomplishing it indicates that you pay attention to your research and intricate details as you progress on your paper. Moreover, following a style improves the organization and the aesthetic qualities of your paper.
With this in mind, taking the time to familiarize yourself with basic citation styles is beneficial in the long run. Citing and formatting papers correctly is a lifelong skill that you can use in different settings after college: acquiring this skill is especially important if you plan to take advanced degrees or work in a place where writing a research paper is crucial.
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