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2.3: Decide When to Cite

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    Ethical speakers are not required to cite commonly known information (e.g., skin is the largest human organ; Barack Obama was elected President of the U.S. in 2008). When speaking publicly you must orally cite all information that isn’t general knowledge. For example, if your speech claims that the sun is a star, you do not have to cite that information since it’s general knowledge. If your speech claims that the sun’s temperature is 15.6 million Kelvin, then you should cite that source aloud (Nine Planets, 2011).

    The OWL, an online writing lab at Purdue University, provides an excellent guide for when you need to cite information (see Table 2.1).

    Understanding when to include source material is the first step in being able to ethically cite sources. The next step in this process is to determine how to appropriately cite sources orally and in written materials.

    Understand Paraphrasing and Direct Quotations

    Next, it is important to understand the process for paraphrasing and directly quoting sources in order to support your speech claims. First, what is the difference between paraphrasing and directly quoting a source?

    If you research and learn information from a source—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance— then share that information in your own words; you don’t use quotation marks; but you do credit the CDC as your source. This is known as a paraphrase—a sentence or string of sentences that shares learned information in your own words. A direct quote is any sentence or string of sentences that conveys an author’s idea word-for-word.

    According to the APA (American Psychological Association), when writing speech content, you must include quotation marks around an author’s work when you use his or her keywords, phrases, or sentences. This would be relevant for a speech outline, a handout, or a visual aid.

    Develop Accurate Citations

    Ethical speakers share source information with the audience to attribute information correctly, and to build or maintain credibility. On written materials, such as handouts or speech outlines, citations are handled much like they would be in any essay. Oral citations will look and sound different, as the audience usually does not have your outline in front of them.

    You should provide enough information so that an audience member understands where the information came from and is able locate the source. To give the most thorough and supportive oral citation, you should include the author(s) name or source, the publication, the date, and the credibility of the author(s).You may choose to briefly describe the author to lend credibility to your supporting information.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Citations
    Type of Citation Example

    Sample Oral Citation

    Professor of Communication Studies, Elena Ruiz’s 2015 article in Communication Monographs states that …(enter direct quote or paraphrase here).

    Sample Reference Citation

    Ruiz, E. (2015). Communication apprehension in the classroom and beyond. Communication Monographs, 63 (2), 413-450.

    As you can see, there is information in both the reference citation and the oral citation that is not included in the other. Ethical speakers provide written, oral, and visual citations to their audience.

    Visual aids, just like speech content, must be displayed ethically for the audience. It is not sufficient to include a “Sources” or “References” slide at the end of your PowerPoint because that does not accurately link each author to his or her work. Instead, ethical presenters provide an author reference on the slide in which the cited content is shown. Similarly, you should cite sources on your PowerPoint throughout the presentation. Visual aids will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 9, include posters, objects, models, PowerPoints, and handouts.

    It’s also important to understand how copyright law might affect what and how you include information in your speech and on your visual aid. The fair use provision allows for copyrighted information to be shared if it is used for educational benefits, news reporting, research, and in other situations.


    Nolo (2010) explains, “In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner” (Nolo, 2010). In order to determine if the use of content falls under the fair use provision, there are four factors to consider:

    1. How will this be used?
    2. What is to be used?
    3. How much will be used?
    4. What effect does this have?

    You can find more about these four factors at the U.S. Copyright website.

    Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.

    ~ David Herbert Lawrence

    Contributors and Attributions

    2.3: Decide When to Cite is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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