Documenting Sources in Business Communication

Why is it important to cite your sources?

Just like in academia, it is important to cite your sources in business. However, the main concern in business is not plagiarism but rather strengthening your logos and ethos.

  • Logos: Citations allow readers to locate and consult your sources. This option allows your readers to gain additional insights or information, which can make your argument more compelling.
  • Ethos: Citations reinforce your credibility by demonstrating the validity of your sources and evidence. For example, if you simply write “Studies have shown…” without citing any specific studies, why should the reader trust your argument?


How do I cite my sources?

There are two main variables that will determine your approach to citing sources: Your communication’s level of formality and your company’s guidelines. For less formal writing, a hyperlink to your source is generally sufficient. This can be included directly in the text of your document. For example:

“Yet, a study by Morgan Stanley disproves this misconception. Companies that adhere to environmentally friendly practices show better operational performance, which translates to a positive effect on stock price performance.”

For a more formal writing (e.g. a business forecast to external clients), you would want to include formal citations to sources such as government agencies and trade publications.

We don’t prescribe a particular citation style in WH 2010. As long as (1) you cite work and information that isn’t original, and (2) your citation is clear (meaning your instructor can easily find the source material), we’re fine with whichever citation style you use. Pick a style and stick with it for consistency’s sake.


Do I need to cite sources for speeches?

Yes. When substantiating your logos in oral presentations you should still reference your source. Remember that citations in business are about logos and ethos. If you were the audience, which statement would you find more convincing?

  • “Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to choose an eco-friendly brand.”
  • “A 2020 report from McKinsey shows that consumers are 20% more likely to choose an eco-friendly brand.”


Additional Resources

If you have any doubt about whether or not you need to use citations, refer to the following guide for avoiding plagiarism: The Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism.

You can also use tools like those listed on the Citation Management Tools guide to format your citations.

If you are only dealing with a small group of references, you may find one-off resources like EasyBib useful.