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What to Cite and What not to Cite?

Published by at August 14th, 2021 , Revised On August 24, 2023


It is essential to credit the source to avoid plagiarism, whether using another person’s work or your own previous work. If you incorporate any information, ideas, proofs, and solutions from other sources, it needs to be referenced using an appropriate referencing style.

You can’t skip this step; otherwise, your work will be considered plagiarised even though you paraphrased it entirely.

What Requires References?

Information obtained from published books, journals, articles, blogs, newspapers, images, manuscripts, or sources requires referencing because you are not the original author.

Direct Quotes

If you are using a direct quote, you need to cite the source according to the in-text citation style you are following. You should introduce the quote and enclose it in quotation marks and indent paragraphs for longer quotes. It is necessary to explain and support the quote in your discussion.


According to William Zinsser, “Bloggers are saturating the globe” (Zinsser,2012,p.7)

Paraphrased Content from Other Sources

Paraphrasing is rephrasing and rewriting any content in your own words. Whether you master the skill of paraphrasing any content, you can’t use it without referencing the source. Many students feel that they can use the content by making a few changes to the content without a citation, but it’s still considered plagiarism.

Paraphrasing includes other’s words, quotes, ideas, solutions, styles of reasoning. If you want to use your previous work, you need to credit your previous work; otherwise, it will still be considered self-plagiarism.


When you summarise and paraphrase any content and convey the same meaning of the original text, you need to credit the source.

Any Data and Images

All kind of diagrams, charts, graphs, pictures, figures, tables, or any data created by others requires a reference. You need to credit the source while using them.


“Our expert dissertation writers can help you with all stages of the dissertation writing process including topic research and selection“

Your friend has created graphs, tables, or images. Then you need to get their approval before using their work. It may lead to copyright infringement if you use available material on the internet without researching its copyright owner and obtaining their formal permission.

Latest Discoveries and Studies

All the latest discoveries, including literature, scientific paper, historical and medical studies, require in-text citation and bibliography. The information you obtain from scholarly articles, thesis, scientific journals, and educational websites also needs citation.


New researches are being conducted to treat a single tumour with radiation, radiation plus and many other treatments, and immune response against the tumour. This response is known as the abscopal effect.

(Off Target: Investigating the Abscopal Effect as a Treatment for Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/cancer-abscopal-effect-radiation-immunotherapy)

You should always rephrase such information and cite it using an appropriate style of referencing.

Information Collected from Communication or Lectures

If you use notes from any lecture, you need to credit the lecturer. If you have any discussion with a friend on a specific topic and gained some insightful information from that discussion, you need to credit your friend while using it.

You cannot use the information received from any audio, videos, or communication without citation because they are not published in the printed form. You must mention “retrieved with the URL of the source” if you don’t find the author’s name, date of publishing, and other details which are usually available.


6 Natural Hair Conditioners For Every Hair Type You Can Make At Home. Retrieved from https://food.ndtv.com/beauty/6-natural-hair-conditioners-for-every-hair-type-you-can-make-at-home-1810325

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What Does Not Require Referencing?

Your original work and ideas, including texts, images, graphs, tables, figures, and poetry created by yourself do not require reference unless you used them in your previous work. You can use any content created by yourself without citing any source, but make sure you are not recycling your previous work to avoid self-plagiarism.

Common Knowledge Vs Scientific Knowledge

Common knowledge is known and shared worldwide. It doesn’t require an in-depth investigation. It includes all the knowledge and ideas shared by the people of any specific field. All cultural and religious beliefs are included in common knowledge. It is based on general opinions and information.

All kinds of copyright-free information, including texts, images, or any data available in the public domain, is ‘common knowledge.’ You can use common knowledge without any reference and citation as it is available for everyone.

However, if you are using the same words without paraphrasing, you can enclose them within quotation marks with an in-text citation. It includes all the general information and facts which everyone already knows.


Laura Marona is a famous actress and singer.

Your own opinions and arguments are not included in common knowledge and require citation.

Laura Marona is the greatest actress and singer in the world.

Many people will not agree with such opinions, and if you are using such argumentative points, you need to cite the source and support the point and explain through your argument or discussion.

 Examples of common knowledge

  •  The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean in the world.
  •  Earth revolves around the sun.
  •  The formula of Sulfuric acid is H2SO4.

Historical Information

If you find similar details on the historical events from multiple sources, you can use it without citations.


World War I began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and lasted until 1918.

In case you are using any one source and are not sure about it, you need to cite the source. If you are using any recent discovery about the history, then you should cite the source.

All the historical information repeatedly available from textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, Wikipedia does not require a reference as it is available for everyone.

How to Identify Common Knowledge?

Any copyright owner holds the copyrights of the content for 150 years, and after the expiry date of copyright, the material is included in the public domain.


All the works of famous people like William Shakespeare are added to the public domain, and everyone can access them for free and use it without reference.

  •  If you are using direct quotes, you need to cite them even if you found them in the public domain.
  •  If you get confused about the common knowledge and referencing content, you can ask your professors.
  •  Try to find out the primary source of information before using it.
  •  Always try to prefer scholarly articles, and if you find the same information everywhere, it can be common knowledge.
  •  You can refer to the source from where you obtain the info if you fail to access the primary source and be confused about it.

Make sure you avoid all types of plagiarism by always using your own words and citing whenever you use someone else’s research, ideas or arguments. ResearchProspect’s plagiarism checker can help ensure your work is original.

Importance of Citing

  •  Referencing is a procedure indicating the reader towards the author’s original work by incorporating accurate information about the source.
  •  It is an essential aspect of academic writing which can’t be skipped because it adds value to your work.
  •  Failure to reference academic sources can lead to failing the academic assignment.
  •  Appropriate citation acts as evidence of your argument or discussion as well as the specific research you have conducted.
  •  Acknowledging the primary source protects you from committing plagiarism even if you are not aware of it. You should be aware of the consequences of plagiarism can be severe.
  •  It allows the readers to access the source you have mentioned in your work.
  •  It builds your confidence to write in your own style without copying others, and you learn the art of expressing your thoughts independently.
  •  Referencing enables you to maintain academic values and honesty, and you exchange knowledge by recognising the primary source. In other words, referencing is respecting other’s work by highlighting the work of the original author.
  •  It builds trust, and your work is considered authentic and accepted without any doubt.
  •  Referencing more than one resource makes your work and argument more powerful and evidence-based. You need to have accurate knowledge and understanding of the referencing style you are following.

Frequently Asked Questions

Citation refers to the practice of acknowledging and referencing sources used in academic work. It gives credit to original authors, validates your research, and allows readers to locate and verify the information you’ve used. Citations uphold integrity and prevent plagiarism.

About Jamie Walker

Avatar for Jamie WalkerJamie is a content specialist holding a master's degree from Stanford University. His research focuses on the Internet of Things, as well as areas such as politics, medicine, sociology, and other academic writing. Jamie is a member of the content management team at ResearchProspect.