Scientific writing is one of the core competencies that must be mastered in every case if you want to complete a degree successfully. There are a few clear rules to follow in this scientific letter. This includes the correct citation. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “the right way to cite” – depending on your area of expertise, faculty and supervisor, many different regulations may apply. Many students are uncertain about the correct rendering of the sources they use. However, this uncertainty can be cleared up. In the following you will find for this reason the most important citation methods that are important at German universities and technical colleges.
Differences of citation from the school
In principle, you should use the citation method required by your faculty. The differences between different faculties are usually only marginal. However, as in any area of life, there are exceptions. A few faculty members and faculties demand rather idiosyncratic citation that would be considered false at other universities or faculties. You will be informed well in advance of writing a scientific paper on the regulations applicable to your field. If no clear rules are set, it is advisable to follow well-rated papers submitted to your department.
The basic citation methods and rules should already be known to you from the school. In this, some effort is made to prepare the students for a later study. In the area of the Gymnasiale Oberstufe science propaedeutic works – so you come already with some important rules in contact, which will also endure at the University. However, if you belong to the – admittedly rather large – group of those who have avoided dealing with citation through ignorance, this is not a relevant disadvantage. This technique can be learned or read in a simple way.
When are quotes needed?
First, however, is the question to clarify when quotations are needed. Basically, this is always the case when you play content from an external source or quote it directly. If you do not mark it, you will not meet the requirements of a scientific paper. If they are essential parts of your execution, you could also be confronted with the charge of plagiarism.
In principle, all verbal takeovers from other sources must be identified by quotation marks. In addition, it must be stated from which source the content was taken. Here are basically two different ways of quoting: First, the German citation, on the other hand, the American. At German universities and colleges both are common. It therefore makes sense to follow the instructions of the lecturers of the own department.
Cite primary and secondary sources
In order to fully prepare you for the rules of scientific work required in this respect, a brief digression into the good style of quoting is necessary.
For the first time you will probably have received this reference in the middle school. Thus, a distinction must be made between so-called primary and secondary sources.
The primary source is the original source. So there can only be one primary source. Secondary sources, on the other hand, can exist quite numerous. As such, all other sources are referenced that refer to the primary source. In order to guarantee scientific accuracy and to exclude distortions, the primary source should always be cited.
Citation of secondary sources, on the other hand, should be avoided as a rule. However, if you are unable to cite the primary source, because it is not accessible to you, for example, you must avoid citing secondary sources. This can be clarified by the suffix “cited after: xyz”.
The German and the American citation style
To return to the direct process of citation, now the German and the American citation will be considered closer. As you have already learned from the previous lines, both are used at German universities. Which of the two citation methods you should use depends on the preferences of your lecturers. In any case, you should know both types of citation.
In principle, both citation ways are very similar. Both the German and the American citation style, the quoted content is quoted. The difference is in the specification of the source. In the American citation method, the source is given directly in the text – after the quote. In the German citation, however, you will be outsourced to a footnote.
Ultimately, you should master both ways of quoting
The differences are slight. Furthermore, you should be able to know and apply the following abbreviations and phrases:
- “F” stands for “following”. Instead of “S. 10/11 “so” S.10f “is specified.
- “Ff” is used analogously if several pages follow.
- If parts of the quote are omitted, this is indicated by “[…]”.
- If a word is added to indicate the meaning of the quote, or to produce linguistic correctness, this word must be placed in a square bracket.
On the indication of the academic degrees of the cited authors is usually waived. So it is enough to specify “Mustermann” instead of “Prof. Dr. phil. John Doe”.
In general, the indication of the surname of the cited author, if it is unique enough. Otherwise it is necessary to enter the first letter of the first name or the whole given name.
All sources must be completely listed in the bibliography.
If citations are taken indirectly, not literally, they are not quoted.
If the German citation method is chosen, the source must be listed in detail at the first mention. (“See Mustermann: Exemplary Title of the Source (1999), pp. 50-60). If the source is cited one more time, a short message is enough. (see Mustermann, loc. cit., p.
At the last point it is noticeable that in the German citation mode at the first mention of a source the exact page numbers are indicated. Only from the second entry on “f” and “ff” is used. The indication “a.a.O.” or “ebda.” Indicates that the location of the source has already been indicated at the first mention of this. The German citation thus gives the sources more accurate than the American. Pay attention to correct references.