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Gerstein Science Information Centre

PSL350 Mammalian Molecular Biology

This guide supports the students enrolled in PSL350 Mammalian Molecular Biology.

Why We Cite in Academic Writing

Although we may casually share clips of content with friends in our online world, this doesn't apply to serious academic inquiry. Cartoon of boy saying "Whaddya mean all my facts are wrong?!? I copied everything straight off the internet!!"

Giving credit at every opportunity to the work of others in academic writing is essential to show how we develop arguments and viewpoints.  Because we build on the work of others in order to form new knowledge,  we must cite the work that came before us to help readers understand how we reached our conclusions.

Cartoon via grammarly


What about "Common Knowledge"?

Not every statement in your writing needs to be cited.  Every discipline has a generally accepted definition of what is considered "common knowledge" in that discipline, and those statements need not be attached to a citation. 

This handy flowchart can help you decide.

A flow chart describing common knowledge and when to cite.

Consult with your instructor or TA if you're uncertain of what would be considered common knowledge and what would need to be accompanied by a citation to a supporting source.

Why Instructors Insist on Good Citations

Review the graphic below to see why University of Toronto instructors and administrators think it's important for students to understand how to cite sources.

Infographic of results from University of Toronto survey: Why cite?

Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction (from NCSU)

Watch the video below (1:54 min) for an introduction to citations.