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Citations: Common Citation Errors

Citing Sources Properly

Citing sources is about appropriate use of evidence in your writing. Please consult our pages in the scholarly writing section of this website for more information and examples:

Citing an I Statement

I used purposeful sampling to ensure my participants were instructors most familiar with ELL strategies (Smith, 2010).

Citing an I statement implies that you have read about yourself in the research. Because this is most likely untrue, you will need to revise. If you want to show a cause and effect, for example, try separating your actions from what the research has suggested. Here are possible revisions for the above sentence:

According to Smith (2010), purposeful sampling helps researchers gain qualified participants who meet a set of criteria; therefore, I used this sampling technique to select the instructors most familiar with ELL strategies.

OR

Because purposeful sampling helps researchers gain qualified participants who meet a set of criteria (Smith, 2010), I used this sampling technique to select the instructors most familiar with ELL strategies.

Also see our webpage about first-person point of view in academic writing for more information.

Citing a Paraphrase From a Previous Paper

Pretend student Renee Thompson has written this:

Jones stated that the nursing shortage has led some government officials to propose recruiting nurses from other countries, including Mexico and Canada (Thompson, 2012).

OR

Jones (as cited in Thompson, 2012) stated that the nursing shortage has led some government officials to propose recruiting nurses from other countries, including Mexico and Canada.

Sometimes students are tempted to cite their own past academic work. The only time you should do this, though, is to cite your own original ideas, not source’s ideas that you have paraphrased. In this case, then, Renee should reparaphrase the material from Jones for this new paper. That way, she will not be recycling the same phrasing from assignment to assignment. Each paper is a unique document, showing a student’s progress as a thinker and scholar. Additionally, because this is a new paper with a new purpose, the evidence should work toward that new purpose.

Here is a revision:

Due to the U.S. nursing shortage, government officials have recommended bringing in trained nurses from Mexico and Canada (Jones, 2011). Such an action would likely improve nurse-to-patient ratios and patient outcomes (Jones, 2011). However, healthcare premiums would increase substantially in order to accommodate the recruiting and relocating costs.

As you can see, the student has explained Jones’s idea in a new way and used it as a jumpstart for the paper’s argument against recruiting international nurses. You can also review Walden’s policy and the Writing Center’s recommendation regarding citing yourself (using past papers).

Citing the Speaker on a Video

In many Walden courses, videos are part of the content; in these videos, guest speakers discuss topics related to the course. Because of this, many students cite just the speakers in their papers:

In the video, West (2011) said that to appeal to visual learners, educators should use pictures, video, and bright colors in their mathematics lessons.

For DVDs, videos, and movies, however, the citation should be (Producer, Year) rather than the typical (Author, Year). The producer of all Walden videos is Laureate Education.

Revision:

In a taped interview, West stated that educators should use pictures, video, and bright colors in their mathematics lessons (Laureate Education, 2011).

OR

According to West, educators should use pictures, video, and bright colors in their mathematics lessons (Laureate Education, 2011).

In these revisions, the student has identified the speaker (West) within the body of the sentence and properly cited the producer and year in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. We include an example of how to format a reference entry for a DVD or a reference entry for an online video on our webpage of common reference examples.

Including an Honorific or Initials of the Authors' First and Middle Name

Sometimes students include honorifics or initials of authors:

Honorific (Dr., PhD, MA): In the video “Nurse Leaders,” Dr. Smart (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010) identified the characteristics of leadership as competence, openness, confidence, and strength.

Initials: Despite low cigarette smoking rates across the country, lung cancer incidence has increased by 50% in the past decade (Bartlett, T., Mahoney, C., Krishnan, A., & O’Connell, M., 2010).

APA asks that writers only include author surnames, both within the sentence and in parenthetical citations. First initials are only part of the reference list entries at the end of the paper. Additionally, you will not include designations like “Dr.,” “PhD,” and “MA.”.

Therefore, the above examples should be revised like this:

In the video “Nurse Leaders,” Smart (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010) identified the characteristics of leadership as competence, openness, confidence, and strength.
Despite low cigarette smoking rates across the country, lung cancer incidence has increased by 50% in the past decade (Bartlett, Mahoney, Krishnan, & O’Connell, 2010).

Knowledge Check: Common Citation Errors