Documentation Rules

Why Must You Document Sources?

Unless you document your sources correctly, you run the risk of plagiarism. There are two types of plagiarism:

  1. Using another's ideas, information, or language without crediting them.
  2. Documenting the source, but paraphrasing the language or the sentence structure too closely without using quotation marks to indicate what words or phrases have been borrowed.

Plagiarism is illegal and certainly qualifies as a violation of the Honor Code. The following guidelines are intended to help you document properly and avoid plagiarism.

What Must You Document?

Document all contributions made by other writers whose work you are drawing from. These contributions include the following:

  • A direct quotation from a source, whether primary or secondary
  • A summary or paraphrase of a source 
  • Facts or ideas that you borrow from a source, such as statistics, little-known facts, tables, graphs, diagrams

A good rule to follow if you are not sure whether or not to document a source is: "When in doubt, cite it!"

What Not to Document:
  • Your own ideas
  • Common knowledge (what the average college student who has not done your research would know) 
  • Information that is common to several sources
Things to Keep in Mind while Doing Research:

When taking notes during your research, write down all pertinent bibliographical information:

  • Books - full name of author(s), editor, translator, full title, subtitle, edition number, city of publication, publisher, date of publication, page numbers 
  • Articles - full name of author(s), title/subtitle of article, title of publication, date of publication, page numbers, volume and issue number 
  • Web Sources-full name of author (if known), title of the document, title of the complete work (if applicable), date of publication or last revision, the URL, and the date of access

One way to collect and safeguard this important data is to make a photocopy of the book's title page, library information page, and sometimes even the table of contents. For an article, copy the title page of the article and the table of contents for that edition of the journal, which should contain the above information. Print out each Web page. Keep these copies with your notes so you will always have the necessary facts at hand. If the book is from a library, it's also a good idea to jot down the call number so you can find it again if necessary.

These other handouts on documentation are available from the History Writing Resources Center or as html files: