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Why do we cite?

I’m sure you know what APA format is — at this point, you might have had to use it for a class already! But why do we have all these rules about citing?

To not get in trouble?

Yes, by not properly citing your resources, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism is an ethical issue that Gonzaga takes seriously — you will be reprimanded if caught, and penalties can be severe, including expulsion. But that isn't the only reason to cite your sources correctly.

To give attribution to authors

When authors and researchers create new evidence, they deserve credit for their work. Attribution holds them accountable, but we are also giving credit where it is due. No one wants to put in a ton of work just to have it repackaged by someone else without acknowledgment.

It allows others to follow up on your work

When you are creating content, citing allows people who are interested in what you have to say to follow up on your research. They can go back to your original source and read it themselves. Maybe they agree with you, or maybe they think your interpretation is bogus. Either way, it provides accountability.

You can follow a research conversation through time

Fully understanding a topic means being able to follow the conversation through time. You can see how language might have morphed, how public opinion or how we treat a disorder might have changed, how the amount of research in a given period might be indicative of the importance we are assigning to the topic. Are people interested in the topic? Is funding being given to explore it in more detail?

Citations allow us to mark this article within the research conversation in time, to see what research was used to influence this particular piece of evidence. And then moving forward in time, to see how this study has influenced future works.

Here is a chart showing the number of articles in Pubmed on the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans.

You can see numbers were very slowly building over many decades, but then you see a sharp rise starting in the late 2000s — this is because the Department of Defense started funding research around the treatment of PTSD in combat veterans; because there was dedicated interest and funding, you see a huge increase in the amount of research being published.

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