Matthew W Ford
Northern Kentucky University College of Business



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Citing Your Sources (Updated 02/24/2007 06:42 PM )

When you developing written documents (such as memos) or presentations, you need to cite thoughts that you've borrowed from others.  Not only is it the right thing to do in terms of giving credit where credit is due, but failure to adequately cite your sources can get you into hot water with respect to plagiarism.

Citing your source is not just about avoiding punitive action, however.  When doing analysis, citing your work and providing clear and full references lends credibility to your work.  This is especially true for newly minted graduates who need to establish a sense of legitimacy among veteran co-workers--many of them skeptical of young talent.  Citing your sources demonstrates that you know where to go for credible info, and that your views have been carefully built on the work of others.

Stated another way, including well-cited info in your reports, analyses, and presentations earns you respect.

Two Ways to Cite

Suppose you are doing some research on the Internet-based social networking phenomenon because your company might want to add social networking functionality to its website.  You've found interesting info in a recent Fortune article about (currently the largest social networking website out there).  In particular, you're looking for info concerning the financial potential of web-based social networking platforms.  Here's a passage with some potential info of interest highlighted in yellow:

Under pressure to deliver profits--the business brought in just under $200 million in revenues this year and lost money after acquisition-related costs--the entrepreneurs are building MySpace's ad sales force.  They're already collaborating with FIM executives to raise ad rates (an ad on MySpace's home page goes for less that Yahoo's rate of around $600,000 a day) and attract more national advertisers.  MySpace already has a lot of them.  Coke, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, plus the major automakers, mobile phone carriers, and film distributors, who can't open a youth targeted move these days without a MySpace page.  

There are two ways to cite info.  One way is via direct citation.  This is quoting a passage from a source word for word.  For example, you might write the following in your report:

MySpace "brought in just under $200 million in revenues this year and lost money after acquisition-related costs."1

You can also do an indirect citation.  In this case, you don't directly quote your source.  Instead, you pull bits and pieces from the original passage into your work.  For example:

In 2005, MySpace lost money after expenses on revenues of nearly $200 million.1

Either approach can be effective.  Personally, I tend to do indirect citations because I'm usually more interested in sprinkling outside info into my writing where appropriate, and indirect citations allow me to do that.


Subsequent to your citation, you need to somewhere provide the details of your source.  There are a number of ways to do this, but for most purposes, using footnotes is easy and effective.  In the above citations, note that I've included a superscript 1 after the passage.  This will allow me to link my passage to a footnote at the bottom of the page where the work is cited.  This is a piece of cake to do in Microsoft Word.  Go to Insert>Footnotes.  You then have the choice of either notes at the bottom of the page or end of document.  I usually select bottom of page because the reader merely has to look down to check out the reference rather than page to the back of the document.  But either way works.

For the direct citation, the footnote might look like this and includes noting the specific page from which your direct quote was obtained:

1Sellers, P. 2006. MySpace cowboys. Fortune, September 4: 72.

For the indirect citation, the footnote looks a little different since you cite the entire page range of the article:

1Sellers, P. 2006. MySpace cowboys. Fortune, September 4: 66-74.

Different Info Sources

The above examples were based on citing from a magazine article.  Here's a list of common info sources and formatting conventions for your footnote citations:

a) Magazines and Newpapers (a.k.a. periodicals).

Dunhan, R.S. & Javers, E. 2006. Shakedown on K Street. Business Week, February 20: 34-36. 

b) Books.  For books, don't indicate page info unless you've done a direct quote.

Porter, M.E. 1980. Competitive strategy. New York: The Free Press.

c) Academic Journals.  The big difference compared to 'regular' magazines is that you cite volume and issue number instead of date.

Ford, M.W., Evans, J.R. & Matthews, C.H. 2004. Linking self-assessment to the external environment: An exploratory study. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 24(11): 1175-1187.

d) Web Pages. The format is author's name if known; full title of the document; full title of the work it is part of; full web address; date document was posted or accessed.  For example:

Succo, J. Money and the Fed. Minyanville News & Views., September 13, 2006.

Final Comment: Go For Credible Sources

When looking for info, it's tempting to Google it all.  Resist this temptation.  Most web-based info sources are not as credible as traditional off-line sources.  Does this mean that you need the paper-based version?  Nope.  Many full text versions of magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and other widely accepted resources can be accessed from electronic databases.  Did you know that as an NKU student you have these sources at your fingertips?  Yep, Steely Library has a ton of them.  For more, click here and scroll towards the bottom.







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