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Using and Citing the Literature



So far this tutorial has focused on discovering and accessing the chemical literature. But the third step in the process is using what you have found responsibly and correctly.

Citing your sources
Footnotes are not just busy work. It's very important that you give credit where credit is due by indicating where you found specific pieces of information. If you don't cite your sources, or if you copy or paraphrase text without attribution, you are implying that you are the creator of that information, and obviously that's not the case most of the time. Plagiarism is one of the most serious breaches of academic ethics, and it can ruin your career.

What you can (and should) cite
It's fine to cite these kinds of literature in your assignments, papers, and lab reports:

You should generally NOT cite things like this:

Why not? Because they are not "published" in the traditional sense, and may not be accurate, reproducible, or safe, and they may not persist over time. There is also a professional bias against such sources. If you are giving a talk, or presenting a paper or poster at a conference, and a person asks you where you got a certain piece of information, "I got it from Wikipedia" is definitely the wrong answer!

Citation Style

A C S style guideWhen it comes to formatting your references in your papers and reports, you should use the accepted "style" for that discipline. Your instructor will tell you which style to use. Styles vary quite a bit, but in chemistry you will typically use the ACS Style Guide as your rule book. (Biochemistry uses a different one.) The ACS Style Guide is available as an e-book, and print copies are available in the Library. Links to various examples based on it can be found under the "Style Guides" tab on our Chemistry Guide.

The good news is that there's a way to do this automatically and easily, and click to the next page for details.

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