Citation and gray literature

In the preparation of a scientific work, such as a paper or a bachelor thesis or master’s thesis for the degree at the university is to pay attention to the correct citation of sources. If this is not done or done wrong, the reproach of plagiarism quickly comes up and the work can not be evaluated. In this article, you will learn what to look out for, how to identify a citation source, and what the term “gray literature” is all about.

What is gray literature?

The term “gray literature” includes any publication that has not been published by a publisher. In contrast to, for example, an article from a journal, this includes, for example, official writings, conference proceedings, transcripts of a lecture, or even an unpublished research report or a master’s thesis. Even a text found on the Internet often belongs to the category of gray literature. For this reason, it should always be carefully considered whether a quotation from such sources should be used in the preparation and processing of a scientific paper. Especially with Internet sources, you should pay special attention to the content, because almost everyone can write what he thinks is right, for example in a blog.

What needs to be considered in the citation of sources

The term citation is understood as the use of quotations from a source for one’s own work. This should not be confused with the term “civility”. By this one understands the qualitative requirements to the source, thus for example this work is scientific, who is the author and who the publisher of the publication. Basically, all works are citable, to which everyone has access. This guarantees that these sources can be checked in case of doubt. A book from the library is the best example of a citable source.

What is not quotable, that can not necessarily be answered flat rate. If it is a writing that is private, for example, a letter or the like, it can be very valuable, but is generally not as quotable, since the content and existence of this source can not be easily checked by anyone. One way to do this is to add such a source to the appendix of the thesis. However, this should be agreed in advance with the supervising professor or with the head of the seminar. Although the Internet is especially handy when it comes to finding material for your work, the texts found can also be problematic in terms of citability. When specifying such sources, you should therefore always make sure that these texts are also permanently available. To be sure when using such sources besides the URL always the date of access to the website should be specified.

How is proper citation?

For good quality scientific work, it is important to adhere to the correct formalities for the document, such as the rules of correct citation. To the correct form of such works also includes the correct structure, with cover page, thanksgiving, content and bibliography. If abbreviations are used, these are also to be explained in a list of abbreviations. In scientific papers, the following citation forms are distinguished:

APA: This citation policy was established by the American Psychological Association and is therefore used primarily in the social sciences. The source is specified directly in the text according to the following scheme: (last name of the author, year of publication, “S.” page number).

Harvard style: When quoting the Harvard style, the quote after the quotation marks directly in the text as follows: (last name of the author year of publication: page number)

German citation: Here, the quote in the text is marked with a footnote. At the bottom of the page the source is given in the following form: Author: Name of the work. City, year, page number. Above all, this form of citation should improve the text flow in the document.

What does a good bibliography look like?

Any source used for a thesis or other scientific publication must be listed in the relevant bibliography. This is in principle a catalog of all works used for one’s own work. It belongs in the appendix of each work. Depending on the citation used, care must be taken to ensure that the literature used is correctly stated with all required data. Also in your own interest, this should be correct and as detailed as possible so that the work is not rejected due to form errors. Despite all the support of the supervising professor of such work, it can lead to discussions and conflicts. How a good bibliography should be structured, you will find out here.

Where can you find quotable material?

For the procurement of suitable sources different possibilities are available. Using a public library or a university library for your own project is a very good basis in terms of reliability. Here you will find in most cases a very extensive collection of important works that can be used as sources. In addition, the Internet also offers a variety of options for research. A good option is Google Scholar. Here you will find a very large database of books, publications from research and scientific papers.