Citing Sources

To me, one of the best parts of writing is doing research, especially when you’re looking for information on a subject that really interests you.

Recently I wrote an article about the USS Monitor, the famous Union ironclad that fought a historic sea battle with the Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia, in the Civil War. Fascinating stuff. The information I used came from sources such as military publications and websites, naval archives, private blogs, old newspaper articles and from conversations with museum personnel.

You have probably noticed how often journalists refer to unnamed sources in the columns and articles they put out to the public on a daily basis. These writers tell us all sorts of juicy things but frequently fail to say how they actually came to know about their oh-so-interesting subjects. So, who are their contacts? Who spilled the beans? Very often they don’t name names and we are left wondering whether what they’ve written is just so much fake news.

The thing is, you need to preserve sources for the information you acquire for articles and blogs; first, so you can sift through it again if you need to, and second, so you will be able to tell anyone who asks where you got it. Sometimes publishers ask for your sources, sometimes they don’t. But even if you are just writing an article for your in-house newsletter, someone—possibly your boss—will want to know where you came up with your facts. Take notes, keep links and be prepared to cite your sources. Being able to do this makes you look competent. And smart.

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