Our editors address authority and expertise in many different ways during the review process. From plagiarism to lack of audience, most items on our review scale have something to do with increasing authority. Check out the following tips so you can use citations with authority and avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
Helpful Citations vs. Aggregated Plagiarism
Sometimes the line between research and plagiarism can feel gray. As a writer, you’re the assumed authority on your topic, and how you present your information can assert your position. Use citations to strengthen your points, but if used incorrectly, they can sabotage your expertise and the reader’s trust in you.
Say you’re writing a legal article that naturally requires more research. How do you use citations without appearing too dependent on outside sources?
Start by drafting your point or section in your own words or perspective. The links, if necessary, should serve to validate specific facts or phrases, not your entire section. Meaning, the percentage of original information or insight should be the majority, not the minority.
If you rely too much on links in every section, it reads like a paper mache collage of everyone else’s opinions. You show your authority by explaining your topic from your perspective, and not relying someone else’s.
It’s easy to make a few mistakes with authority or hyperlinks, no matter if you’re new to WritersDomain or are numbered among our veterans. While the following linking faux pas won’t merit revision requests, we don’t want you to forfeit potential 5-star reviews!
Link anchor texts, not URL citations—This helps improve readability. It’s distracting to see a URL in the middle of a paragraph. Instead, highlight the text that directly refers (or is most relevant) to the link—also known as anchor text—so the reader can choose to pause and click the text for the link or keep reading. Readability indirectly helps your authority by demonstrating your online writing expertise.
Don’t add citations to get around plagiarism—Remember that just you cite something doesn’t mean it doesn’t violate our plagiarism rules, and taking out the links doesn’t fix it, either. The citation could still fall under aggregated plagiarism, patchwriting, or idea theft. You’re unlikely to run into this problem if your own perspective and unique ideas outweigh the amount of words devoted to that citation.
Use your own voice—It’s very telling when the tone or diction changes whenever you’re offering a definition or describing a principle readers need to understand. Using another writer’s voice shows that you aren’t confident enough in your knowledge of the keyword. Plus, it can get you into plagiarism trouble if you’re mirroring their language too closely. Instead, “translate” definitions or explanations your sources use into language that matches your online writing style and your chosen audience.
Citations are an integral part of being a responsible web writer, and thus take practice to eventually master. If you have further questions about citations and how to use them correctly in your piece, check out these WritersDomain insights:
- Citations: Whatcha Gonna Do?
- Statistically Speaking | The Do’s and Do Not’s of Sharing Numerical Data
- Making Sure You’re NOT The Weakest Link: Finding Quality Sources
- This Ain’t Your High School English Class: Why Plagiarism Is a Big Deal
Remember that authority is an important part of online writing overall. With so many opinions available, readers want trustworthy information that is logical and proven. Having authority also makes the clients look good, since they don’t want to be associated with bad or false information.
Hopefully these tips will help you better understand some tactics for strengthening authority through citations. Did we leave something out? How do you exhibit your authority indirectly through your writing?