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Research Process: Sources, Notetaking and Citations  

Last Updated: Oct 30, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Research: Academic Integrity and the IB

Academic honesty must be seen as a set of values and skills that promote personal integrity and
good practice in research, learning and assessment. Attribution is a necessity.

Academic Honesty. IBO, 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <>


    Malpractice and the IB

    "Malpractice includes:
    • plagiarism: this is defined as the representation of the ideas or work of another person as the
    candidate’s own
    • collusion: this is defined as supporting malpractice by another candidate, as in allowing one’s
    work to be copied or submitted for assessment by another
    • duplication of work: this is defined as the presentation of the same work for different
    assessment components and/or diploma requirements
    • any other behaviour that gains an unfair advantage for a candidate or that affects the results
    of another candidate (for example, taking unauthorized material into an examination room,
    misconduct during an examination, falsifying a CAS record)."

    Academic Honesty. IBO, 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.


    Attribution Basics

    Guidelines for Proper Attribution

    Everyone needs to pay attention to the issue of proper attribution. All of us--faculty and students together--draw from a vast pool of texts, ideas, and findings that humans have accumulated over thousands of years; we could not think to any productive end without it. Even the sudden insights that appear at first glance to arrive out of nowhere come enmeshed in other people's thinking. What we call originality is actually the innovative combining, amending, or extending of material from that pool.

    Hence each of us must learn how to declare intellectual debts. Proper attribution acknowledges those debts responsibly, usefully, and respectfully. An attribution is responsible when it comes at a location and in a fashion that leaves readers in no doubt about whom you are thanking for what. It is useful when it enables readers to find your source readily for themselves. You help them along the way, just as that same source helped you along yours. To make sure that our attributions are useful, we double-check them whenever we can. Quite literally, it is a habit that pays. Colleagues in every field appreciate the extra care. Nothing stalls a career faster than sloppy, unreliable work.

    Finally, an attribution is respectful when it expresses our appreciation for something done well enough to warrant our borrowing it. We should take pride in the intellectual company we keep. It speaks well of us that we have chosen to use the work of intelligent, interesting people, and we can take genuine pleasure in joining our name with theirs.

    A Note about Attributions or Citations

    The two most commonly used attribution systems—Modern Language Assocation (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA)-- consist of two parts: (a) a reference or works cited list at the end of the document, giving precise information about how to find a source and (b) parenthetical citations immediately following the material you are citing. Disciplines may vary as to the preferred style for documenting ideas, opinions and facts, but all methods insist upon absolute clarity as to the source and require that all direct quotations be followed by a citation. 

    It is sometimes difficult to judge what needs to be documented. Generally, knowledge which is common to all of us or ideas which have been in the public domain and are found in a number of sources do not need to be cited. Likewise, facts that are accepted by most authorities also do not require a citation. Grey areas, however, exist and sometimes it is difficult to be sure how to proceed. Many people wrongly assume that if they find material on the web, that material is in the public domain and does not need to be cited. However, the same guidelines apply to all sources you use in your work: electronic or print, signed or unsigned. If you are in doubt, err on the side of over-documentation.

    "How To Avoid Plagarism." 2014. Northwestern University. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <>


    Key Concepts of Source Attribution

    Reasons for Attribution:

    1. To avoid PLAGIARISM: While a bibliography does not prevent plagiarism, it is an important tool in avoiding plagiarism.
    2. BUILDING on research:  Pertinent information is gleaned from the ideas of those who came before, and a researcher then produces new knowledge by integrating the ideas of others with her own conclusions. This is the scholarly research process.
    3. TRACING research: According to Joseph Gibaldi, the author of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, “in presenting their work, researchers generously acknowledge their debts to predecessors by carefully documenting each source so that earlier contributions receive appropriate credit” (104). This is the basis for all scholarship. It is important that researchers give credit so readers can trace the ideas presented back to the sources.
    4. CONTRIBUTING ideas: Your contribution, as a student, to disciplinary knowledge is the unique ways you interpret and synthesize the words, thoughts, and ideas of authorities. In fact, giving credit to experts and authoritative sources gives your conclusions validity that cannot be achieved by simply stating one's own opinions.
    5. LOCATING additional research: And that is another reason for citations: it allows readers to access the cited materials if they are performing research on that topic.

    Generalities Surrounding Citations:

    1. At the heart of research is the building of new knowledge on the basis of older knowledge. Citations to sources identify you as a scholar, highlight the elements that are your original work, and place your work into the context of a discipline.

    2. Cite others' work whether you quote, paraphrase, summarize or borrow ideas from the work, and regardless of the media or format of the work.

    3. A citation will usually include author, title, and publication information. The layout and format of the citation will vary by discipline and by the media or format of the cited work.

    Jim T. Nichols. "The 3 Directions: Situated Information Literacy." 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <>


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