In order to inform your audience and avoid plagiarism, you must know how and when to cite a source.




A source must be cited if you:

1) quote it verbatim,

2) summarize a passage in your own words without quoting it,

3) borrow wording as well as ideas from a passage (paraphrasing),

4) cite somebody's opinion,

5) paraphrase an argument or opinion that is not generally known,

6) cite information or statistics that are not generally known,

7) allude to statements not generally known (usually, very familiar quotations -- Milton, Shakespeare, or Lincoln, for example -- need not be documented. But recent quotations from press conferences must be documented, at least until they become familiar as well).


In circumstances 5, 6 and 7, it is necessary to determine what is generally known and what is not.


            For the most part, "general knowledge" comprises:

            a) Information that is available to anyone with common sense. It is not necessary, for

            example, to document the statement that a nail can be

            driven into a piece of wood with a hammer.

            b) Knowledge that most people gather from public education, conversation, and the

            media. Do not document such statements as: "Columbus sailed for the New World the

            same year that the Jews were expelled from Spain."

            "Shakespeare was a contemporary of Elizabeth I."

            c) General statements of fact. The following statements, for example, do not need


            "India has a large population."

            "Inflation is hard on families with fixed incomes."


            Compare these statements with the more specific ones below, which do require


            "The population of India in 1991 was 866,000,000."

            "In 1980-1985, 6.5 million elderly people had to start work to supplement their social

            security incomes."


                        Statements of fact or opinion known to everyone in a given field do not need

            documentation. When you start research on a speech, you frequently find you do not

            know what is general knowledge in that field. Gradually, however, you will see that

            certain facts and opinions appear frequently in your sources (without documentation);

            you may assume that these are generally known in the field, and you may cite them

            without documentation. For safety's sake, cite everything else.