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How to Cite

your sources using different styles.

Why Cite?

Citing your references, or the sources of information that you use in your research, is critical for a number of reasons.  Citing references:

  • strengthens the authoritativeness of your work;
  • shows you've incorporated other scholarly research into your work;  

  • gives a record of the sources you've used in your research;

  • provides the reader with valuable information, indicating where to go to find further information;

  • extends professional honesty and courtesy.  Writers have a responsibility to indicate when they have used someone else's ideas or words.

When citing a reference or compiling a bibliography, there are many style choices.  Check with your professor to see which style (APA, MLA, etc.) you should use.

Image source:  Reasonist.  Used with permission.

What is a Citation?

Writers use citations to acknowledge the sources of information they've used and to avoid plagiarism. A citation is the information needed to locate an article or book. 

Regardless of the citation style or type of resource, the elements in a citation always include author name, title of the work, and publication date.

  • Book citations include publisher name and publisher location.
  • Online, electronic sources, or full-text articles often add the URL where the document is located, the date the item was retrieved, and sometimes a DOI (a Digital Object Identifier), which is a unique string of numbers assigned to an article--think of it as the article's Social Security number. Some styles include a DOI; others do not. 
  • Journal (example above), magazine, or newspaper articles include the journal, magazine, or newspaper title, article title, volume and page number. 

When Do I Cite?

"Whenever you borrow words or ideas from another source, you need to acknowledge that source. The following situations almost always require a citation:

   1.   Whenever you use quotes

   2.   Whenever you paraphrase 

   3.   Whenever you use an idea that someone else has already expressed

   4.   Whenever you make specific reference to the work of another

   5.   Whenever someone else's work has been critical in developing your own ideas."

The only time you don't need to cite is when you're using 'common knowledge.'

When do I need to cite? Retrieved June 8, 2012.