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How to cite and reference for improved credibility

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 19th October , 2021 in The Write Fit
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This is an excerpt from the 54th edition of The Write Fit, a fortnightly newsletter about writing, editing and proofreading, content marketing and good editorial practices for business, from Sarah Mitchell and Dan Hatch at Typeset.

 

A cite for sore eyes

It’s that time of the year where we’re flooded with original research reports. Nothing enhances content like new data, especially when you can relate it back to your own work.

Or maybe not. I was going to dig into the findings but there’s an overwhelming amount of data and you don’t have time to hear me prattle on.

Instead, I want to give tips on how to boost your credibility when using other people’s research, because having all these new reports on my desk made me think about a more serious problem than having too much good data at our fingertips. Using research incorrectly—or having a complete lack of citation and references—might be doing your content more harm than good.

For example, I can tell you that long blog posts are more effective than short posts, but you don’t know if it’s the truth or if it’s my opinion. Instead, referencing Orbit Media’s 8th annual blogging survey that shows 69% of bloggers report strong results from blog posts of 2000 words or more, is a more authoritative way to go to market.

Why are citations and references important?

As content marketers, we have to earn the trust of our audience, especially if we’re working with a naturally sceptical bunch like engineers or lawyers. Using research is a great way to demonstrate:

  • You’re not making false or shallow claims but have done the work to thoroughly understand your topic
  • Where you are getting your information and giving proper credit to other people’s ideas or work
  • Where your readers can dig deeper into a topic and find additional information they might not have known otherwise.

Citations vs references

Citations are a way to acknowledge an idea or data you picked up from another author or creator. A citation also protects you from claims of plagiarism.

A reference expands on a citation and contains all the details the reader needs to find the source you’ve cited. It’s a way to let your readers confirm and cross-reference your content.

In formal publications, references are listed in a bibliography. For digital publishing, a hyperlink easily does the job but it’s still good form to include the title, publisher, and date in your text.

Example: Instead of writing about “new B2B research”, use a proper citation and reference.  “B2B Content Marketing Insights for 2022: More Budget, More Work, More Empathy [Research] from the Content Marketing Institute, published on October 13, 2021” is a more trustworthy way to reference the research.

No matter what, please do this

Link to original sources only. Linking to a blog post that references an original source is a foul. (That’s how we ended up with that infernal goldfish attention span myth which has been kicking around for at least a decade, despite recent reports saying it’s from 2015 Microsoft research.)

Excellent citation resources for writers

The University of Melbourne has a fantastic website called Re:cite to help you manage your citations and references. It’s full of guides, tools, and software recommendations anyone can use.

Make sure to check out Links You’ll Love. I’m listing more of the original research reports that came out this month, in addition to the two reports I’ve used as examples. Have fun diving in.

Sarah Mitchell
19 October 2021

 

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