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Learn Why to Cite: sub-module 1 of 3 of cite sources

A citation or reference is a referral to an information source. Citing your sources is the best way to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism can be deliberate - knowingly using someone else's work as your own. It can also be inadvertent. Sometimes plagiarism accusations are simply the result of not following a specific style properly. The particular citation style you use will dictate the details of how you should cite your sources. In this module, you'll learn more about the importance of citation and how to avoid plagiarism.



  • Read the Policy. Become familiar with your college's Academic Integrity policy. Not knowing the policy will not prevent you from facing disciplinary action.
  • Know When to Work Alone. Make sure you know when it's okay to work in groups on an assignment and when you ought to work alone. Collaborating on a test, quiz, or assignment can get you into trouble if you are supposed to be working alone.
  • Start Fresh. Using work from an old class on a new assignment is almost always against the rules. Instead, start fresh on every project with new ideas and up-to-date research.
  • Cite Your Sources. When doing your research, keep a record of your information sources and learn to cite them accurately. Accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism.

Citing and Avoiding Plagiarism

About Citing and Academic Integrity

Citing your sources lets your reader know what information you came up with yourself and what comes from someone else's work. In addition, it gives credit to the creators of the original works. There are many citation styles that you can use, including APA, MLA, and Vancouver. The most commonly used citation style in Nursing and other Health Sciences programs is APA style, but check with your professor if you're unsure. To learn more about citing in APA style, see the Cite Using APA Style module.

Citing sources is a crucial element of academic integrity, specifically avoiding plagiarism. Explore the tabs to learn more about the following topics:

  • Why citing is important
  • Academic integrity
  • Plagiarism and how to avoid it by citing properly

Why is Citing Important?

Information has value, whether it is found in books or journals or freely available on the web. People work to create it, and that work should be acknowledged. When you cite your source, you acknowledge the original author/creator of the idea you are using in your research.
Citing your sources allows others to find them and benefit from what you've learned.
Citing other people's work gives authority to your argument/essay/creation.
Accurately citing other people's ideas wherever they occur in your research is the best way to avoid plagiarism.

Academic Integrity

Before we explain plagiarism and how to avoid it, it's important to understand that plagiarism is only one part of a bigger concept known as academic integrity.

Academic integrity means upholding your school's values concerning the production of your academic work and the completion of quizzes, tests, and exams. Every college in Ontario has an academic integrity policy. Read your college's academic integrity policy and be sure you understand your responsibilities as a student and scholar.

Here are some examples of academic integrity offences:

  • Plagiarizing
  • Looking at unauthorized notes during an exam
  • Having someone else write your exam for you

If you break the academic integrity rules (for example, if you are caught plagiarizing), there are a range of disciplinary actions that you could face, which should be outlined in your college's policy. Depending on the severity of the offence and whether it is your first offence, you may face consequences such as the following disciplinary actions:

  • Receiving a mark of zero on your assignment.
  • Receiving a failing mark in the course.
  • Being suspended from your program.

Plagiarism and Self-Plagiarism

Plagiarism involves integrating another person's ideas and intellectual material into your writing without giving them credit or citing them. In nursing, you will cite sources such as peer-reviewed journals, textbooks, and websites.

It might seem funny, but you can also plagiarize yourself: self-plagiarism is a type of plagiarism where you don't reference ideas that you previously wrote about in other assignments. Watch the video and read the information below to learn more about plagiarism and how you can avoid it.

Sometimes a writer plagiarizes work on purpose, for example, by copying and pasting or purchasing an essay from a website and submitting it as original work. For reasons such as those that follow, the writer can feel desperation, which leads them to take credit for someone else's ideas:

  • the writer has not managed their time and has left the paper to the last minute
  • the writer has struggled with the writing process or the topic

In other cases, a writer may commit accidental plagiarism due to carelessness, haste, or misunderstanding, such as in the following examples:

  • A writer may be unable to provide a complete, accurate citation because they neglected to record the bibliographical information, for example, by cutting and pasting from a website and then forgetting where the material came from.
  • A writer who procrastinates may rush through a draft, which easily leads to sloppy paraphrasing and inaccurate quotations. These careless actions can create the appearance of plagiarism and lead to negative consequences.

Both types of plagiarism have serious consequences that can affect your success in your program.

You can avoid plagiarism by following these simple rules:

  • Take notes carefully. If you add source material to your work, mark it or identify it so that you will know it's from a source.
  • Cite the work immediately. Cite information in the body of the text immediately and add it to your reference list. You can learn more about both types of citations in the module Cite using APA style.
  • Cite everything you use. If you use someone else's ideas, you must give them credit.
  • Paraphrase properly. Changing a few words from a source and presenting it as your own is still plagiarism. If you paraphrase a source, make sure the words and phrasing are your own.


Learn Why to Cite was created by College Libraries Ontario and is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA - open in a new tab. It was developed from the following sources: