Citation, Documentation of Sources

Note: Recently we have been swamped with questions like the following.

Q. I am summarizing a book as part of a research paper. Am I required to cite ideas at the end of every paragraph or can one citation serve for the whole book?

Q. I am writing a history paper using three articles. If I am talking about one and source it, and then in the next sentence talk about it again, do I just keep re-sourcing it again and again?

Q. If I have multiple citations from the same author on the same page, how do I write the footnote? Do I list each separately? Abbreviate them?

Q. I am a history minor, and in my paper I put citations at the end of paragraphs, unless otherwise needed. A professor wants me to cite virtually every paragraph. He even wants me to cite information that is general knowledge, saying that not citing these things would be plagiarism. What is generally accepted when citing in a scholarly paper?

A. So let’s review the basic ideas behind citing sources. You should cite a source (including a page number or page range) for every idea or quotation you borrow. You don’t have to cite a source in full every time—the author’s surname and a page number will do after the first time. You can use a single citation (with all the relevant page numbers) at the end of a paragraph if two or more quotations or statements from that source aren’t separated by information from another source. You can cite in a single note all the sources you used in a single paragraph; cite them in the order you used them. If you want to be more precise, you can use a separate note at the end of each relevant statement. Don’t ever put two note callouts side by side; instead, use one note and put both sources in it. General knowledge is not cited in scholarly work—it would be absurd and even at times dishonest to attribute it to a specific source—but since people may disagree on what is general knowledge, err on the side of generosity in your documentation.