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    Entries in Citing Sources (2)


    A Source, a Source, My Kingdom for a Source

    One of the biggest issues I run into when editing is when authors use questionable sources to back themselves up. The most common example of this is when Wikipedia is cited as a source.

    You might say, "Wait a second! Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It says so right there in its description!" Indeed, the websitedescribes itself as, "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." It's in the second part of the description that you find the biggest problem. Anyone with any bias, expertise (or lack thereof in many cases), or malicious intent can edit an article on Wikipedia. Even Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, has acknowledged that the site is not a good source for academic research.

    Now don't get me wrong, I use Wikipedia at times when I'm trying to look up the premise of a movie or general trivia. It is useful for that or for getting a general idea of how something happened. However, the site has several limitations that make it very unsuitable for a reputable source in a book or article, especially an academic one (e.g., a thesis). For example:

    • As I mentioned before, anyone can edit Wikipedia's entries, which means they can be tampered with, and the information can be quite inaccurate. There have been several cases where people, whether to be funny or malicious , inserted false information into Wikipedia entries, such as back in 2009 when someone reported that Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died.
    • The site lacks a peer-review process, which is very important for to ensure accuracy and adherence to scholarly standards.
    • The site is frequently updated and changed, which means the article you cite in your book is likely to be radically different once the book has been published.

    You might be wondering, "What is a good source?" Well, they are plentiful, but you might have to put a little more effort into your research. Some examples of good sources are:

    • Good, old-fashioned books written by reputable authors. Yes, I know books are not as popular and easy to access as the Internet, but they are by far the best place to look for reliable information. Schelpping down to your local library might seem like a chore, but the dividends will be worth it.
    • Scholarly articles from well-known journals. The best place to go for these are libraries. The articles in these journals undergo a strict peer-review process that ensures they are accurate, reliable, and in the same vein as other research in the field.
    • Reputable websites. These are okay to use, as long as they are from well-known sources such as CNN, the Washington Post, etc. Keep in mind, however, that the Internet changes rapidly, so a source that is in print and won't change is still best.

    These are just a few examples of ways to keep your research reputable. A skilled editor can help flag research that may be questionable so your book or paper is the best it can possibly be.



    With so much good information available at the touch of a button, plagiarism is a rampant problem in today's world. It comes in all forms, as this article from discusses. So what is plagiarism?

    Well, some forms should be pretty obvious, like printing an article from someone else without his or her permission. A shocking example of this recently came to light when Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs printed an article by writer Monica Gaudio without permission. When Gaudio discovered what had been done, she requested an apology and a donation to be made to the Colombia School of Journalism in the amount of $130 (which was about $.10 per word for the article). Griggs' reply, which you can read about more on Gaudio's livejournal, was truly shocking:

    Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
    But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!

    The Internet is public domain? And Gaudio should be thankful (and pay Cooks Source, no less!) for having her work plagiarized? I don't think so. There are so many problems with this response (not the least of which is its condescending and rude tone) that I don't know where to begin. Although I can't help but point out the irony of Griggs' claims that the article was poorly edited when her response is peppered with spelling and punctuation mistakes. All that's missing is a "your stupid." Truly, an editor who has been in the business for three decades (or any time at all) should know better.

    This is a pretty outrageous example, but the problem of plagiarism is more widespread than most people realize. Here are a few examples of plagiarism that you should watch out for:


    • Quoting another's work, even if it's one sentence, without citing the original source. The full source should be cited. In the case of books, this is what needs to be included: Author name, Title of Book  (City, State: Publishing Company Name, Year) Page number(s).
    • Using the ideas of another author without giving proper credit.
    • Quoting another's work without using quotation marks and without citing the original source. This is a more egregious case, because, whether intentional or not, you are passing another's work off as your own.

    There are other ways work can be plagiarized, but a safe rule of thumb is to always cite the source of another's ideas, thoughts, or direct quotes. There are laws governing fair use that allow you to quote the work of others, to a certain extent, and it does strengthen your writing to cite reputable sources to back up your own thoughts. What constitutes a reputable source? Well, that's a whole other post. Stay tuned!