Here are some challenges that might make knowing when and how to cite difficult for you. Our best advice for how to overcome these challenges is in the first item.
Running Out of Time
When you are a student taking many classes simultaneously and facing many deadlines, it may be hard to devote the time needed to doing good scholarship and accurately representing the sources you have used. Research takes time. The sooner you can start and the more time you can devote to it, the better your work will be. From the beginning, be sure to include in your notes where you found information you could quote, paraphrase, and summarize in your final product.
Having to Use Different Styles
Different disciplines require that your citations be in different styles: which publication information is included and in what order. So your citations for different courses could look different, particularly for courses outside your major.
Not Really Understanding the Material You’re Using
If you are working in a new field or subject area, you might have difficulty understanding the information from other scholars, thus making it difficult to know how to paraphrase or summarize that work properly.
Shifting Cultural Expectations of Citation
Because of new technologies that make finding, using, and sharing information easier, many of our cultural expectations around how to do that are changing as well. For example, blog posts often “reference” other articles or works by simply linking to them. It makes it easy for the reader to see where the author’s ideas have come from and to view the source very quickly. But in these more informal writings, blog authors do not have a list of citations (bibliographic entries). The links do the work for them. This is a great strategy for online digital mediums, but this method fails over time when links break and there are no hints (like an author, title, and date) to know how else to find the reference, which might have moved.
This example of a cultural change of expectations in the non-academic world might make it seem that there has been a change in academic scholarship as well, or might make people new to academic scholarship even less familiar with citation. But in fact, the expectations around citing sources in academic research remain formal.