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JOUR200 - Journalism History, Roles and Structures

Guide to Library research and resources to support Journalism 200.

Attribution Defined

As Steve Buttry put it: "Attribution is the difference between research and plagiarism. Attribution gives stories credibility and perspective. It tells readers how we know what we know. It also slows stories down. Effective use of attribution is a matter both of journalism ethics and of strong writing." Buttry goes on to note: "Attribution is a key ingredient in any story’s credibility. Readers are entitled to know where we got our information....If we don’t attribute our information, readers rightly wonder how we know that."

The practice of citing your sources as a journalist is called attribution. Researchers, on the other hand, formally cite the resources they consult in their research by using one of several commonly-used citation styles - such as those developed by the American Psychological Association (APA Style), Modern Language Association (MLA Style) or University of Chicago Press (Chicago) - shown in the box on the right. The Associated Press Stylebook (also on the right) is what journalists use to answer style/formatting questions.

(For a more complete discussion of attribution, check out Buttry's blog post on the topic, or consult your professor.)

Why is citing important?

There are several reasons why it is important to cite your sources properly:

  • It is important to give credit to the person or group who spent the time researching and writing in order to provide that information.
  • It allows your reader to find the source later if she wants to read it herself.
  • Citing experts gives credibility to the argument of your paper.
  • Proper citing indicates that you did a thorough job researching your topic.

The following resources can help you properly cite your sources. If you need assistance, please contact a reference librarian.

Frequently Used Stylebooks