Brevia’s Ethics and Citations Guide

This document exists to introduce you to the citation and documentation practices that are standard at Brevia. These standards are very important for a few reasons:

1) Any publication with “Harvard” somewhere in its name is automatically on a national stage. Harvard is well-known in the research world and any research-related publication that comes out of it will be held to Harvard’s standards.

2) If we want cool people (cool professors and student researchers) to be interested in talking and writing for us, then we have to be credible. We can’t be credible without good citation practices.

3) We all come to Brevia with different educational backgrounds. Nobody is a specialist in everything, but we often find ourselves writing about specialized topics and trying to make them comprehensible to the interested public. We need a way to inform ourselves about those topics that’s more reliable than Wikipedia–because part of the fun of writing these articles is the opportunity to learn something, right?

So here we go. General rules first:

1) We use MLA format because even though we do science-y things, Brevia is still a journalistic publication and journalistic publications use MLA. (Occasionally, we will break this rule and use APA or Harvard style, but MLA is the preferred format and we ask that you use it unless there are special circumstances).

2) Never plagiarize.


-If a study is central to your discussion, then you should mention its author, date, title and place of publication in the body of your article in addition to listing it in your works cited. E.g. “In a 2014 study titled, ‘The Lives of the Rainbow Beetles’ and published in Nature, Joe Smith showed that rainbow beetles have very long lives.”

-Cite every article you consult in MLA format in your works cited and give it a number according to where it appears in the article (your first citation should have the number 1). Then use that number in a superscript at the end of the sentence where you cite the source. For example: Rainbow beetles live for many years ^1^. Then the first work in your Works Cited would be Joe Smith’s article. View an example works cited here. Any subsequent references to Joe Smith’s article should also have the “1” superscript, even if they come later in your piece. E.g., “Rainbow beetles live for many years.^1^ Sometimes, they live so long that the population of older adult beetles far outnumbers the population of baby beetles, as Dana Silver has argued.^2^ But as Joe Smith’s study further showed, rainbow beetles have devised clever ways of sustaining themselves throughout their long sojourns on this earth.^1^

-Hyperlinking your citations is not enough, because if we ever want to print your piece then that means you will have to go back and reconstruct a Works Cited from those links, and that is tedious and difficult!



-Wikipedia policy

-Wikipedia is a great resource for getting a general flavor for a topic. However, we can neither cite Wikipedia nor use it without citing it. It also tends to wildly oversimplify scientific concepts, especially in the introductions of its articles.

-You are welcome to read the Wikipedia page about a topic, but from there you must find a more credible source for any information you use in your article. Different universities put out informational web pages about various scientific topics, and I usually use those. UC Berkeley has an amazing one about evolutionary bio called “Understanding Evolution” that rarely lets me down for evolutionary biology things.

-Cite your credible source in MLA format in an in-text parenthetical citation in your article and

-One additional scary thing about using Wikipedia: it’s tempting to copy. Sometimes they seem to explain the topic in the clearest and simplest way possible. But copying Wikipedia is still plagiarism and still unethical. 


-The format for quotations is always “Blah blah blah,” Professor X said. It’s always said after direct quotations. Never use stated or declared or says. “Said” is the most neutral term.

-When paraphrasing, you don’t have to cite information that came from an interview except to say something like, “As Professor X explained…” Keep in mind that you’d only say explained when you were about to paraphrase something Professor X said, not when you are directly quoting Professor X.

-Please send a copy of your article to the person you interviewed for review. It’s a courtesy and sometimes can be very important if you were trying to paraphrase some technical concept that the person explained to you. You can make changes if they ask you to in any section of the article that consists of your own words, but you shouldn’t change the person’s quotes from what was said in the interview, unless he or she claims you got them wrong and you didn’t tape your interview. Which brings me to…

-Always tape or record your interviews somehow. Then you’ll know what the interviewee actually said and not what he or she is saying after the fact.

-If you get substantial help from someone outside Brevia in putting together your article, please ask that person if he or she wants to be credited (you’d write something like, “this article was composed with assistance from X.”) Usually, they’ll say no, but it never hurts to ask.

And on the subject of asking…

If you have questions, please always ask. This citation thing is annoying, but if you’re just careful and take care of it then it’ll really help polish your work and reflect well on Brevia as a whole.