In the last post, I shared my first tip on how to avoid plagiarism during the writing process. Students who clearly prepare and document sources during the research process are much less likely to plagiarize than disorganized writers. The second tip stems directly from the first: cite as you write.
When you include sources into your writing it is always a good idea to cite as you write. Although the main citation styles: MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian have slight variations in the way sources are supposed to be cited; it is always a good idea to include the author’s last name and page number in parenthesis after a paraphrased or quoted instance of text. One you’ve finished the paper, you can go back and make the adjustments to the citations instead of scouring through the textbooks, periodicals or Internet sources looking for where you found this text.
There are two main objections to this practice. First, which the vast majority of students have been guilty of at some point in their lives is procrastination or, to put it more bluntly, laziness. Many students view citing sources as the least enjoyable part of writing. Students delay and it can cost them.
The second objection we often hear is that it interrupts the flow of writing. Students often wait to the last minute to begin their work and then enter into a ‘zone’ where text pours onto the paper. Citing sources interrupts this process and delays completion of the assignment.
While both objections are legitimate, students need to weigh the cost of not citing their sources during the writing process. Simply put, the hard work of citation needs to be done before the assignment is complete. It is best to perform it during the process rather than later.