Elena' s AI Blog

To cite or perish

04 May 2024 / 18 minutes to read

Elena Daehnhardt

Midjourney art, May 2024

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As you can see, I often include citations at the end of my posts. The citations strengthen my posts or research papers. In this post, we explore citation practice and what to do when we use AI tools such as chatGPT.


Proper citation is a must to maintain academic and ethical integrity. It is a valuable skill that promotes respect for other people, creates a chain of arguments paramount in research and science, and safeguards academic/industry success in the future.

What is a citation?

When we share someone’s ideas or previous knowledge, it’s good to acknowledge the person or group of people who allowed us to learn and, possibly, build on the prior knowledge.

Academic Integrity

Proper citation and academic integrity are paramount for delivering high-quality research while respecting the contributions and opinions of fellow researchers or anyone we cite.

What is academic integrity? In one sentence.

Academic integrity is acting with honesty and fairness in your academic work, respecting the work of others.

Give more details

Academic integrity is the foundation of trust and ethical behavior in learning environments. It involves a commitment to honesty, fairness, and responsibility in all aspects of your academic work, from completing assignments to conducting research. This means giving credit to others' ideas, avoiding plagiarism, and presenting your own work accurately. It also includes upholding ethical research practices and respecting the work of your peers and instructors. By demonstrating academic integrity, you contribute to a fair and enriching learning environment for everyone. 

Using citations and best practices

Strengthen your argument

Why is it important to cite? We are working on something, whether a school paper, research project, novel, or blog post, and we know something that can help us make our argument stronger, more engaging, more robust, or valuable for our readers or ourselves.

Manage your references

It is helpful to keep track of references, which we can revisit anytime when we have bright ideas for future research contributions or even further prior contributions.

What to cite?

Anything. If you watched that professor speak about quantum computing, cite him, even though he shared his thoughts or ideas with his Dog.

If it seems too much, ask your tutor for guidance. As a rule of thumb, cite it in case of doubt!

Give examples of using Harvard style to cite a private conversation, a blog post, or a TV or YouTube program.

Harvard referencing isn't ideal for some sources because it relies heavily on published information. Here's how to handle these in your writing with notes:

* **Private conversation:**

  In-text: You cannot directly cite a private conversation in Harvard style. However, you can paraphrase the information and mention it was from a conversation (Smith, pers. comm., May 2, 2024). 

  *Note:** "pers. comm." stands for "personal communication."

* **Blog post:**

  In-text: If the blog post is signed by a single author, cite their last name and year of publication in parentheses (Miller, 2023).  For posts with no author listed, use the blog title and year (e.g.,  *Social Media Trends*, 2024).

  **Reference list:**  
      * Include the author's name (if available), year, title of the blog post in quotation marks, blog name italicized, and website address in brackets. 

      Example: Miller, J. (2023, February 10).  *"The Future of Artificial Intelligence"*.  *Technology Review* [https://www.technologyreview.com/](https://www.technologyreview.com/). 

* **TV or Youtube program:**

  In-text:  These are not traditionally cited sources in academic writing. However, if essential, mention the program title, year, and network/platform (e.g., *Planet Earth*, 2006, BBC).

  **Note:** If the program is based on published research, it might be better to cite the original source. 

Remember, these are alternative approaches when using Harvard style for non-standard sources. It's always best to consult your instructor or university guidelines for specific citation requirements. 

Citing the conversation

Could Professor’s Dog also share its ideas? Cite her as well; it does not matter that she does not have a degree. It does not matter that she is a dog! For the sake of research and the ultimate truth-seeking, cite that Dog! That Dog might have general knowledge, but it adds its opinion complementary to the topic you are interested in.

In this case, when citing the Professor’s Dog, you can write something like this:

In conversation with Dog (pers. comm., May 3, 2024)

Did you know that the Dog is a very active contributor at wikipedia.org? Do you cite Wikipedia?

Wikipedia and Generative AI

Wikipedia is generally a good starting point for exploring new concepts and getting links. Now, you have a luxury of using AI assistants such as Google’s Gemini (previously Bard) or ChatGPT. It is a great idea to double-check the content or AI output.

Do you know generative AI is prone to hallucinations? (that’s another topic about AI apps providing often misleading information or even “inventing” things. I will clarify this in one of my next posts :)

Indeed, we must aim at high-quality citations, but we must be fair to ourselves and try not to alter our chain of thought in the search for perfection and wanting to seem bright.

General knowledge?

What if the Dog barks about the general knowledge that you know yourself? Sometimes, we easily mistake general knowledge for a new perspective that can spark a new idea of invention or something unique.

Your professor might cite his Dog since he knows too few, and his general knowledge is always questioned. The professor seems humble, but it does not reflect his knowledge. It’s quite the opposite :)

Do not mislead yourself into a vicious circle of trying to seem brighter. Be happy and thought-provoking, and you might join that professor and his Dog in a meaningful conversation 10 years from now :)

I’m sorry. How do you cite the Dog’s speech? In fact, you can cite and reference anything. Remember to ask the Dog’s name or refer to it as professor Hendrik’s Dog.

Citation examples

Yes, there are citation rules that can help. Read them carefully, and you will learn how to cite a paper, conversation, website, or a professor’s Dog.

Write a short tutorial how to cite properly. Use harvard citation style.

## Citing Sources with Harvard Referencing

Harvard referencing uses an in-text author-date system with a corresponding reference list at the end of your work. Here's a quick guide:

**In-text citations:**

* Include the author's last name and year of publication in parentheses (Smith, 2023).
* If there are two authors, use "&" (Jones & Brown, 2022).
* For three or more authors, use the first author's name followed by "et al." (Lee et al., 2021).
* Use quotation marks for titles of articles (Johnson, "The Impact of Climate Change").

**Reference list:**

* List all your sources alphabetically by the author's last name (or first author for multiple authors).
* Include publication year, title, publication details (publisher, city), and any relevant information like edition or website address (if applicable). 

Here are some examples for common source types:

* **Book (one author):**  
    Smith, A. (2023). *The Theory of Everything*. New York: Big Publishing House.  
* **Book (two or three authors):**  
    Jones, B. & Brown, C. (2022). *Artificial Intelligence in Action*. London: Modern Press.  
* **Book (four or more authors):**  
    Lee, D. et al. (2021). *Advanced Robotics*. Cambridge: University Press.  
* **Chapter in a book:**  
    Franklin, A.W. (2012) 'Management of the problem', in S.M. Smith (ed.) *The Maltreatment of Children*. Lancaster: MTP, pp. 83–95.  
* **Journal article:**  
    Johnson, M. (2024, "The Impact of Climate Change"). *Environmental Science Journal*, 12(3), pp. 101-115.  

**Tip:** Many universities offer online referencing guides or citation generators in Harvard style. These can be helpful for specific source types and detailed formatting.

How do you cite online resources? Give three most common examples.

Here's how to cite online resources in Harvard style, using three common examples:

**1. Website:**

* **In-text citation:** Mention the website name or the title of the specific webpage in your text (if relevant). 

  *Example:  A recent article on the  *Mayo Clinic* website discusses the benefits of exercise...(2023).

* **Reference list:**
  * Include author (if available), year (publication or last updated date), title of the webpage (in italics), website name italicized, and then "Available at:" followed by the URL in square brackets.  Finally, add "Accessed:" followed by the date you accessed the website.

      Mayo Clinic. (2023, April 10). *Exercise: A key to staying healthy*. Available at: [https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389](https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389) (Accessed: May 2, 2024).

**2. Blog post:**

* **In-text citation:** If the blog post is signed by a single author, cite their last name and year of publication in parentheses (Miller, 2023).  For posts with no author listed, use the blog title and year (e.g.,  *Social Media Trends*, 2024).

  *Example: Miller offers valuable tips for social media marketing in his recent blog post...(2023).

* **Reference list:**  
      * Include the author's name (if available), year, title of the blog post in quotation marks, blog name italicized, and website address in brackets. 

      *Example: Miller, J. (2023, February 10).  *"The Future of Artificial Intelligence"*.  *Technology Review* [https://www.technologyreview.com/](https://www.technologyreview.com/). 

**3. Youtube video:**

* **In-text citation:** While not ideal for academic writing, you can mention the title of the Youtube video and year in parentheses if necessary (TED Talks Daily, 2019).

  *Example: The TED Talk *"Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker* offers insights into the importance of sleep (TED Talks Daily, 2019).

* **Note:** If the video is based on published research, it's better to cite the original source. 

Remember, these are just examples.  Always check with your instructor or university guidelines for specific citation requirements, especially for non-standard online resources. 

Citation styles

What are other citation styles?

Besides Harvard, there are several other common citation styles used in academic writing. Here are a few:

* **APA (American Psychological Association):** Widely used in social sciences, education, and psychology. APA uses an in-text author-date system similar to Harvard, but with some variations in formatting and reference list structure. 
* **MLA (Modern Language Association):** Preferred style in humanities like literature and language studies. MLA uses a parenthetical system with in-text citations including author and page number. It also uses a Works Cited list at the end.
* **Chicago/Turabian:** This style comes in two variations: Chicago notes-bibliography and Chicago author-date. It's used in history, business, and fine arts. Chicago notes-bibliography utilizes footnotes/endnotes for citations and a separate bibliography list.

The best citation style to use depends on your field of study and specific requirements. 

* **Check with your instructor or professor:** They might have a preferred style for your class.
* **University guidelines:** Many universities have their own style guides that recommend a specific style or offer resources for different styles.

Here are some additional resources that can help you learn more about citation styles:

* **Online guides:** Many libraries offer citation guides on their websites that explain different styles and provide examples. 
* **Citation generators:** Several online tools can help you generate citations in various styles based on your source information.

Next, aim to build citations DB. You can use Zotero, Google Scholar, or a Latex file. It’s great to have a searchable tool supporting tagging and topic categories.

On plagiarism and AI tools

It is paramount to cite well and avoid possible plagiarism issues.

What is plagiarism? If you do not cite a scholar, you know about his work or opinion. Do you plagiarise?

Plagiarism is using someone else's ideas or work without properly attributing it to them. It's essentially an act of academic dishonesty, even if you're aware of the source. Here's why citing is important even if you know the source:

* **Establishes credibility:** Citations show readers you've done your research and are basing your work on established knowledge. 
* **Avoids confusion:**  Citing prevents your ideas from being mistaken for someone else's, and allows readers to trace the source of information.
* **Respect for intellectual property:**  Just like any other kind of property, ideas and creative works deserve recognition. Citations acknowledge the contribution of others to your work.  

So, even if you know about a scholar's work, not citing them when using their ideas is still considered plagiarism.  

In my post The Most Useful AI-Content and Plagiarism Detection Tools, I write more in detail about AI tools to detect plagiarism and AI content.

Indeed, AI and plagiarism detection tools such as Originality.AI make it possible to trace back to the original information source. That’s great because dog contributions are also valued!

Another question arising from using AI is how we honestly share the content delivered with AI assistance such as ChatGPT?

Do you commit plagiarism if you use chatGPT or Google Gemini without referring to the sources?

Using large language models (LLMs) like me (Bard) or ChatGPT without proper citation can be considered plagiarism, depending on the context. Here's why:

* **Reusing ideas and concepts:** While we don't directly copy text, we're trained on massive datasets that include existing ideas and concepts. When we generate text, we might be paraphrasing or restructuring information from those sources. 
* **Lack of source attribution:** LLMs can't cite sources themself. If you use the generated text without acknowledging the potential origin of the ideas, it can be plagiarism.

Here's how to avoid plagiarism when using LLMs:

* **Fact-check and verify:** Don't assume the information generated by LLMs is 100% original. Double-check facts and cite verifiable sources.
* **Paraphrase responsibly:** If you use LLM-generated text as a starting point, paraphrase it responsibly and  cite sources that might have influenced the concepts. 
* **Focus on understanding:** Use LLMs to brainstorm ideas or get different perspectives, but focus on developing your own understanding and critical thinking. 

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with you to ensure your work is original and properly references sources.  It's always best to consult your instructor or university guidelines for specific expectations on using AI-generated text. 


Science is built on the shoulders of titans and everyone who shares his knowledge or opinions.

Protect yourself from reputation loss. Missed citations can lead to blocked content, a downgraded career, or a loss of respect from the community. Don’t put yourself into the dog’s house; cite properly and respectfully. That way, you will progress happily.

Are you curious about publishing your research paper? I will discuss publishing your best paper in one of my next posts. You can subscribe to receive new post notifications if you have not subscribed.

Thanks for reading my blog!

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I am affiliated with some of them (to support my blogging at no cost to you). I have also tried these apps myself, and I liked them.

Chatbase provides AI chatbots integration into websites.

Flot.AI assists in writing, improving, paraphrasing, summarizing, explaining, and translating your text.

CustomGPT.AI is a very accurate Retrieval-Augmented Generation tool that provides accurate answers using the latest ChatGPT to tackle the AI hallucination problem.

Originality.AI is very effecient plagiarism and AI content detection tool.

Did you like this post? Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

Posts about AI that might be interesting for you


1. Zotero

2. Google Scholar

3. Originality.AI

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About Elena

Elena, a PhD in Computer Science, simplifies AI concepts and helps you use machine learning.

Elena Daehnhardt. (2024) 'To cite or perish', daehnhardt.com, 04 May 2024. Available at: https://daehnhardt.com/blog/2024/05/04/citation-ethical-rules-explained-for-students-academic-integrity/
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