Common Citation Errors In A Virtual Classroom: The Dos & Don’ts

Citations are an essential part of academic writing, as they give credit to the sources you use and help your readers find them. However, citations can also be tricky, especially in a virtual classroom where you may not have access to all the necessary resources. In this EDU Blog, we will discuss the Dos and Don’ts of some common citation errors that students make and how to avoid them.

Common Citation Errors in A Virtual Classroom

1. Missing citations or references

One of the most common errors is missing citations or references. This means you either forget to include a citation within the text when you use someone else’s idea or fail to include a reference in your reference list or bibliography at the end of your paper. This can lead to plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense.

To avoid this error, make sure that you cite every source that you use, whether you quote, paraphrase, or summarize it. Also, make sure that you have a corresponding reference for every citation and that they match in terms of author name, year, title, etc.

2. Incorrect paraphrasing

Another common citation error is incorrect paraphrasing. This means that you restate someone else’s idea in your own words, but you either change the original source’s meaning or do not change it enough to make it your own. Some examples of incorrect paraphrasing are:

  • Changing only a few words or the word order of the original text

  • Keeping the same sentence structure or length as the original text

  • Adding or omitting information from the original text

  • Not citing the source of the paraphrased text

Incorrect paraphrasing can be considered plagiarism, even if you cite the source. To avoid this error, you should ensure that your paraphrased text is significantly different from the original text in terms of words, structure, and meaning. You should also cite the source of the translated text using the appropriate citation style.

3. Citing an I statement

Another common citation error is citing an I statement. This means you cite a source when expressing your opinion, experience, or action. This can confuse your readers, who may think you are referring to someone else’s idea or research.

To avoid this error, ensure you do not cite a source when using an I statement. Instead, use a transition word or phrase to show the connection between your point and the source. For example:

“According to Smith (2022), purposeful sampling helps researchers gain qualified participants who meet a set of criteria; therefore, I used this sampling technique to select the instructors most familiar with ELL strategies.”

4. Citing a paraphrase from a previous paper

A fourth common citation error is citing a paraphrase from a previous paper. This means you use the exact paraphrase you used in another paper without changing it or citing it differently. This can also lead to plagiarism, as you recycle the same phrasing from assignment to assignment.

To avoid this error, make sure that you rephrase the source for each new paper with a new purpose. Also, ensure you cite the original source, not your previous paper.

5. Formatting errors

Another common mistake in citing sources is formatting errors. This means that you do not follow the rules of the citation style that you use, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, etc. This can affect how others see your credibility, your writing skills, and your grade.

To avoid this mistake, make sure that you learn the citation style that you use and its rules for punctuation, capitalization, order of information, etc. Also, make sure you use the same formatting for all your citations and references in your paper.

6. Outdated citations

One of the common citation errors that students make is using outdated resources in their research papers. For example, using a citation from 1990 to support a claim about the latest trends in social media is not appropriate. Outdated citations can also misrepresent the state of knowledge and research in your field and lead to inaccurate or incomplete conclusions.

To avoid this error, students should follow these steps:

  1. Check the publication date of the sources they use and ensure they are relevant and current for their topic.

  2. Use reliable databases and websites that provide access to peer-reviewed and scholarly sources.

  3. Evaluate the sources for their accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, and coverage.

  4. Cite the sources correctly using the appropriate style guide and format.

  5. Update their references list regularly and remove any outdated or irrelevant sources.


One of the essential skills for academic writing is citing your sources correctly. This helps you avoid plagiarism and show your credibility in a virtual classroom. However, citing sources can also be tricky and confusing. You can improve your writing skills and avoid plagiarism in a virtual classroom by avoiding the above common citation errors.

If you want to learn more about citation and academic writing, you can visit our EDU Blog. You can find citation guides, writing prompts, and other valuable resources for students and educators.

Don’t miss this opportunity to improve your academic writing skills. Join EDU Passport today and get access to our exclusive features and benefits. With our support, you can reach your academic potential.

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