Quick Tip #2: “When in Doubt, Cite It Out”

It’s time for midterms and midterm papers here at SJSU which means that students might be rapidly morphing through mood swings as they write, feeling sometimes like this:


Or this:


In the haze of a caffeine overload, too much stress, and too little sleep, it’s easy to forget some of those simple fundamentals of paper writing — things like adding page numbers, writing a creative title, or even stapling the pages together.

Today, we’re going to think about another fundamental: how do you know when you need to cite something?

So, here’s a simple rhyme to remember: “when it doubt, cite it out.

What does that rule apply to?

  • 1. If you directly quote a source in your paper. Every time you quote, say, Dumbledore’s wisdom as the opening line of your paper, you should automatically be noting the page number.


  • 2. If you paraphrase or summarize a source.  Don’t know how to paraphrase properly?  You’re in luck — SJSU offers a workshop on the topic, so signup here!


Date: Wednesday, November 9
Time: 3:00-4:00
Instructor: Ines Marjanovic
Location: Clark Hall 100H

  • 3. If you refer to the works or idea of another person.

Of course, you may be wondering: when do you not need to cite something?

  1. If you mention commonly known facts (July 4th is America’s Independence Day, George Washington is the first U.S. president…)
  2. If you are explaining your own unique ideas.

Simple enough, right? Right! So, stretch your fingers, make another pot of coffee, and good luck on your midterms!


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