Answered By: Emily Scharf
Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016     Views: 43

Most of us are familiar with citations for research papers, but when we use ANY source that we have not created we are bound by both rules and ethics to give credit to the original creator.  This issue becomes more complex when we start to parse out ideas, data sets, images, adaptations, etc.  

Attribution is a legal requirement based on copyright which protects copying or adapting items.  In most cases, you will see reuse of items allowed with specific attributions required.  However, it does not protect ideas.   So, many images, charts, etc. have copyright requirements that make it a legal offense to reproduce the item without proper attribution.

Citation is less legal, and more ethical or scholarly.    The benefits are that it provides clear connection to the original material for other researchers, demonstrates the quality of your research, and recognizes the contribution of the original creator.  While not a legal offense, plagiarism is an ethical offense that can harm your academic career, reputation, and future career.