Along with accidentally plagiarizing, not citing prevents your reader or teacher from knowing how you derived your arguments and ideas in your paper. They will want to know what sources you used and how strong those sources are.
Let’s say you largely reference economic stats from a blog post, but on further glance, you find the person who runs the blog really has no expertise in the space. He doesn’t have an economics PHD or a job in finance, and he doesn’t even talk about where he gets his economic data. Would you want to write your paper based on that source?
This example underscores the importance of information literacy when you research and write. The internet is a vast world of information, but you have to be careful with the information you use. You need to think about the expertise of the author, the quality of the publication, how recent the information is, and if there might be a hidden agenda behind the writing.
For instance, what if you’re citing a research paper funded by a particular lobbyist group? The food industry may fund research on the impact of sugar, and there may be a bias to the data you’re looking at. If you’re looking for an objective viewpoint, academic research that is not corporate funded may be a better bet.
Conversely, using such sources can make sense in context. If you’re comparing the viewpoints on sugar from the food industry versus CDC health experts, you can use these sources as long as you’re able to frame and understand the nature of that information. You can make your paper stronger by objectively pointing this out.
Whenever you research and cite, you want to understand the integrity of the information you come across, and use it appropriately. If you’re unfamiliar with how to do this, our friends at Solitaired created an information literacy solitaire game to teach you these concepts, while also playing a fun game of solitaire. Play a few games and learn how to be a better researcher. Enjoy!
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