Attribution

Attribution refers to the act of citation—i.e., the act of referencing or attributing a source of information. Avoid plagiarism and academic dishonesty by understanding when you need to provide attributions.
"The referee takes his red card out as he prepares to send of Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG, as the Chelsea players gather round Oscar" by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

"The referee takes his red card out as he prepares to send of Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG, as the Chelsea players gather round Oscar" by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

"The referee takes his red card out as he prepares to send of Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG, as the Chelsea players gather round Oscar" by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is Attribution?

In life, attribution refers to

  1. the quality, characteristic , or feature belonging to an something or someone. For instance, gregariousness or friendliness could be an attribute of somone’s personality

In writing and speech, attribution refers

  • to the act of citation–i.e., the act of identifying the source of information, noting
  • for a summary, paraphrase, or quote.

Synonyms

The terms attribution and citation are synonymous.

Related Concepts: Archive; Authority (in Writing & Speech); Canon; Citation Tools; Intellectual Property; Paraphrase; Quote; Summarize


Why Does Attribution Matter?

In workplace and academic writing Writers and speakers attribute sources so their audiences will take their work seriously. Educated readers are critical: they ask questions about the trustworthiness of a source. When writers and speakers cite sources, they know their audiences will evaluate the source from five critical perspectives–i.e., the CRAAP test:

  1. Currency
  2. Relevance
  3. Authority
  4. Accuracy
  5. Purpose.
Jimmy Wales and two others hold aloft a Citation Needed sign
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, and several supporters, calling for attributions for claims. Photo Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic by Sage Ross

People attribute sources

  1. to acknowledge the ideas of others that contributed substantive to your works and thinking
  2. to adhere to copyright law and avoid plagiarism
  3. to follow professional standards of ethical behavior in the workplace
  4. to bolster their authority, their ethos in texts, when composing
  5. to allow readers to access their source(s), which they might want to do in order
    1. to more fully assess the source’s credibility
    2. to identify the status of the conversation on the topic.

To learn more about the importance of attribution, see Citation.