Higher Education

6 Tips for Students on How to Cite Your Sources

By eLearning Inside
March 07, 2023

Most students face many challenges when it comes to correctly citing their sources. They have to find, synthesize, organize, evaluate, and document the sources. Unfortunately, they have no other option but to learn how to cite their sources correctly.

Even though they might be familiar with some common citing styles such as MLA, which is used in most junior courses, they might find different strategies and styles at higher levels of education. In addition, instructors might also have different requirements when citing sources.

However, as an instructor, teacher, or lecturer, you can teach your students to cite their sources correctly.

1. Help Them Understand How To Use Sources in Different Writing Styles

Students read different types of materials. They have come across many books, journals, and online resources for students before getting to where they are. All these materials cite sources in their content, and students can recognize them. However, they do not understand them.

You should, therefore, help them understand the styles of citations used in all these materials. In addition, ensure that they know why a citation style was used in a certain piece of writing and not in another.

This will be vital in ensuring that they know how and when citations are supposed to be used and how everything works. In addition, they will understand the type of sources to cite in their work. For instance, health science might require sources like population studies, systematic reviews, and case studies.

2. Try Out Citation Generators in Class

Citing sources correctly might not be easy for some students. While you can teach some of them within a few days or weeks, it might take longer for some students to understand everything correctly, even though they still have assignments to work on.

In such situations, you can try out citation generators in class. These generators are accurate and require users to enter a URL address, journal article, and book, among others, and then create the citation for free.

You can also ask your students to use the citation generators when comparing their manual citations with the ones generated by these tools. For instance, if you are teaching them about the APA citation format, you can ask them to use a free APA citation generator to compare notes and see how accurate their manual citations are. This will help them understand how to cite their sources correctly.

3. Ask For Sources in Early Drafts and Small Assignments

Your students work on different things while in school. For instance, you might ask them to write an essay at the end of every topic. Some might bring in their drafts for guidance on how to structure their essays.

In addition, you also assign them some work at the end of every day or week. Did you know that these are great resources for you to teach your students how to cite their sources correctly? You get to see how far each student is and what is needed to get them up to speed.

You can also ask them to summarize a source every day, depending on the citation style you are teaching them, to evaluate their progress. This will give you insights into their understanding and their capability to cite sources without copying text directly from the sources.

4. Discuss Where and When Citing Information is Used

Different types of reading use cite information differently. Take a few course readings and then tell your students to identify where and when a citation is used. This is one of the most essential tips in ensuring they understand how to cite their sources.

You can start by asking them how the writing content is provided by the source materials. In addition, ask them to differentiate how source material is used in the different course readings. They should also identify the features that persuade a writer to use a certain citation style.

This will help them see the different characteristic features that determine how writers cite their sources. In addition, it can help them identify the correct citation style to use in their writing work without any assistance.

5. Identify a Citation Style

Identifying a single citation style might be unnecessary if you want to teach your students different styles. However, if you are interested in one citation style, such as APA, then things get easier for you.

Choose the citation style you want and ensure that your students perfect it. This will simplify teaching and assessment.

6. Let Students Identify and Correct Errors

As much as you would like to ensure that your students are pros when it comes to citing their sources, they will make errors before getting to where you would like them to be. You should not correct them if you realize they are producing common errors.

For instance, when going through their early drafts and small assignments, you will most likely come across citation errors. Instead of correcting them, use annotated examples that show the common errors.

In addition, you can use a marking strategy that allows you to identify citation errors and their numbers. You can then tell students the number of errors that they have, and ask them to identify and correct them on their own. By doing so, your students will most likely never make the same mistake again.

Teaching students how to cite their sources correctly might be a difficult task for some instructors or teachers. However, if you follow the tips discussed in this article, you will find the process straightforward.

Featured image: fizkes, iStock.