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Failing to properly cite sources in a capstone project can have very serious consequences that could negatively impact a student’s academic career and beyond. It is crucial for students to fully understand why citing sources is so important and to learn how to do it correctly.

One of the most significant consequences is that not citing sources properly is considered a form of plagiarism or academic dishonesty. Plagiarism involves presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own without giving them proper credit. It is considered a very serious academic offense. If plagiarism is discovered in a capstone project, it could result in the student failing the course and receiving no credit for all the hard work that went into the project. This would require the student to redo the entire capstone from scratch.

Plagiarism could also lead to more serious penalties through a student’s college or university administrative disciplinary process. The penalties may include a formal warning, a failing grade for the course, suspension from school for a semester or longer, or even expulsion from the institution. Having an expulsion or suspension on an academic record can destroy a student’s chances of getting into graduate school and seriously hurt future career prospects. It would take a long time to recover credibility after such a severe penalty.

Beyond just penalties, plagiarism in a capstone project signifies to professors and future employers that the student lacks integrity and does not take academic honesty seriously. Capstones are meant to demonstrate a student’s accumulated knowledge and ability to complete an major independent research project. Plagiarism calls into question whether the work was truly the student’s own and damages their credibility and reputation. Professors who discover plagiarism may become unwilling to write strong recommendation letters, hurting graduate school and job applications. Employers also take plagiarism very seriously and it would undermine trust in a candidate.

Even if plagiarism is not discovered or formally punished, failing to properly cite sources in a capstone still has negative consequences. Professors will not be impressed if they cannot tell what ideas are uniquely the student’s versus what is unoriginal work from other sources. The purpose of citing is to give credit to original authors while also demonstrating to readers how the student’s synthesis of multiple sources led to new understanding or conclusions. Without proper citation of ideas and information taken from sources, there is no way to distinguish the student’s original research and analysis. This significantly weakens the quality, impact, and credibility of the entire capstone project.

Students also do themselves a disservice when they do not fully learn and practice proper citation techniques. Source citation is a fundamental skill needed not just for student research projects, but also in many real-world professional careers that involve research, writing, data analysis, or information management. Failure to learn citation in school makes it much more difficult to pick up those key skills after graduation when they are needed for success in a related career path. It represents a large gap in a student’s knowledge that could undermine future workplace performance and career growth.

Not citing sources correctly in a capstone can raise questions about whether the student rigorously and carefully researched and analyzed information from reliable scholarly sources. Capstones are meant to push students to their highest level of independent work and demonstrate mastery of critical thinking, research methodology, and written communication within an academic discipline. Improper or missing citations calls into question the depth, validity, and quality of the student’s research process. It suggests a capstone that did not meet its full potential or learning objectives and represents a lackluster conclusion to a student’s undergraduate education.

Failing to properly cite sources is a serious issue that goes beyond simple penalties. It damages credibility and integrity, limits future opportunities, and represents an incomplete mastery of important skills. For all these reasons, students must make citing sources properly in capstone projects, and all academic work, a top priority. Taking the time to fully understand citation styles and techniques ensures academic honesty and produces a higher quality final project that showcases a student’s very best abilities.