On the Subject of Attribution and Citing Sources

I wrote a post about plagiarism last year that didn’t do very well since the editorial was prompted by politics which, in retrospect, wasn’t the greatest idea in such a turbulent election year; I still want to expand upon the idea and make an argument regarding why citing sources is a necessary part of creating or sharing content on the internet, so here we are.

If you were to put a significant amount of time into something, wouldn’t you be upset if someone took your work and shared it without your consent or went a step further and paraded it as their own? It is easy to share a meme or image online without checking the source and unintentionally spread ignorance by not doing our due diligence as responsible adults; maybe a quote from a celebrity will make this point hit home:

Abraham Lincoln.jpg
This is my favorite line from the Gettysburg Address.

Get it? If not, you might want to stop reading here. The idea of “citing your sources” is most often associated with research papers assigned in school; typically high school or post-secondary education are the most common associations. Both the hard and soft sciences in academia require citation and this is done not only to correctly attribute the hours of work done by the author but to allow those who read it to refer to the work and go over the specific findings or phrases present. This is essential in science given the scientific process and its advocacy of, nay requirement for, peer review.

It was while I was in college that correct citation became a real priority. My film theory professor, to whom I credit making me into a better writer and analytical thinker, required citations to be specific and accurate to the template otherwise it would be considered plagiarism and unacceptable. This meant that even a misplaced space or a dropped period in the citation would cost points in the essay and she would expect it to be corrected in the rewrite and expansion (required in each of her classes, this wasn’t going back over the paper and correcting a few typos; we’re talking a completely new paper implementing her comments and usually an additional 500 words added in. Ah, the good ol’ days). While some might see this as nitpicking, the idea behind it was to emphasize the need for accuracy not only in attributing the source and giving due credit, but within the citation itself.

University.jpg
This isn’t where I studied in college…I just wanted a stock photo so I didn’t have to cite the source. Irony!

Proper attribution goes far beyond the classroom. There is no shame in admitting the transmission of an idea or piece of work that you discovered just because it was made by someone else; that’s how ideas are spread. Proper attribution leads those exposed to the ideas or art toward other concepts and artists that will further us in conversation and encourages the evolution of how we think and create.

A lot of people are getting better about citation without knowing it because of the help many social media sites give inherently; Twitter and Facebook both link to the original source of most posts which helps this along. I began adding image sources to those posts that need attribution shortly after starting this blog even though that meant going back over much of what I had already written and combing for image sources that I had not cited. There are websites that provide free stock photos (as mentioned above), but sometimes you need an image that is very specific, and when taken from another site it should be cited (or “sited”…get it?..moving along…).

Multi-media.jpg
I’m not sure about the significance of the sunglasses. Let’s pretend the table is outside; must have a pretty good Wi-Fi router.

The proper attribution of authorship and citation of sources is our best weapon against fake news and parasitic ignorance. Rather than taking a headline at its word read the article, check the sources, and make your own opinion rather than simply following your own bias (I am guilty holding my own biases, but I find actively challenging myself to do this has yielded positive results). People who disagree can have conversations and remain civil as long as we allow our rational minds to prevail and are discerning of the content we encounter.

The image featured in this post can be found through the hyperlink below.

Fake Abraham Lincoln quote

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