The whole point of doing research is to explore the topic you are researching and present the conclusions you draw from the information you find. When you cite your sources, you are showing readers how you came to those conclusions and how they fit in the greater academic conversation.
Failing to cite a source is, basically, taking credit for that author's work. It's a form of academic theft.
Citing sources is an important part of academic culture -- you're building on the contributions of others while seeking new discoveries, knowledge, and understanding.
Always cite sources when you use someone else's ideas or work. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism, which violates UHCL's Academic Honesty Policy, even if done unintentionally.
Different disciplines or fields of study put emphasis on different things. For example:
In most humanities fields, there is not as much emphasis placed on the currency of the sources being used. This is because less recent views on particular works or events are often still relevant to new research. In MLA, the citation style used in these disciplines, the essay is formatted so that the focus is solely on analysis and citations.
In social science and education fields, it is important to focus on the currency of the information being used. As you will see in APA citations, the year is noted early in the entry, second only to the author's name. The format of an APA paper also lends itself to the presentation of methodology and results of experiments and empirical studies.
The following also may be of help, but always verify with the latest edition of the official style manual.
Adapted in part from The Chicago Manual of Style, Turabian's manual helps students "understand how to write, cite, and formally submit research writing."
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