Your research paper writing draws on ideas and research published by others. It's important to research thoroughly to learn about your topic, and crediting your sources is an essential step in the research process.
How citing sources benefits you:
Citing sources that support your own ideas gives your paper authority and credibility.
Citations act as proof that you have researched your topic thoroughly.
Giving credit to the sources you have used protects you from suspicion of plagiarism.
A strong Works Cited or Reference List can impress your professor.
When to Cite:
To avoid the potential for plagiarism, a good rule of thumb is to provide a citation for any idea that is not your own. This includes:
Paraphrasing of a quotation, passage, or idea.
Summary of another's idea or research.
Specific reference to an obscure fact, figure, or phrase.
You do not need to cite widely-accepted "common knowledge:
George Washington was the first President of the United States.
Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.
The capital of France is Paris.
Common phrases, unless you are using a direct quotation.
When in doubt, avoid the possibility of plagiarism and cite your source.