All postgraduate work requires that you draw on the work of others. Citing the work of others is important because it helps support the argument you are trying to make and also demonstrates that you have read something of the field about which you are writing.
In any postgraduate writing there are essentially three ways to make an argument:
- rely on the work of others, that is cite their work, e.g. Bloggs et al. (2007) have shown that using green paint on the ceilings of classrooms is distracting to students who are over seven feet tall.
- use data from your own research, that is if you are doing a research qualification you need to make use of your own data to make an argument
- use logic, i.e. all birds have wings, this is a bird therefore it has wings.
In courses which don't have an explicit research component, you will use the work of other people to support your arguments. When you do a lot of reading and thinking about an issue it often becomes difficult to know what ideas are yours and what are those of other people. This is where your 1st Notebook will come in very handy. If you have kept track of your searching and reading in the manner suggested, you'll have a good record of where your ideas have come from and also good bibliographic data for each source.
Many years ago, the only things you had to pay attention to were books, journal articles and the occasional report. In this era of tweets, blogs, wikis, online video and instant messaging, the potential source of ideas and information is very much greater. This is all the more reason why it is so important to keep track of your thinking and the ideas you come across.
Quotes, particularly popular ones, can be tough to find an accurate source. A good illustration is the fun site The Quote Investigator.