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Citation Guide: Citations Home

Help with citing your sources for a research paper.

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Check with Instructor

Remember, instructors have the right to add specific requirements to any assignment. When you have questions about what and how to cite for a particular class, you should speak directly to your instructor about what she expects.  For example, while the most recent MLA format does not require you to include the full URL in your citation, some instructors prefer that you do. You may also be using special sources that will require special citations. Your instructor is always your best documentation resource.

A Note About Online Citation Tools

Online and word processing programs exist that can help format documentation entries in various styles, but they are tools, not magic. They will include what information you feed them, not always in the correct forms. You need to be aware of the form you are trying to construct so that you can check and proofread any entry generated electronically--even one from online databases or other library based sources. Remember, you are responsible for the content and appearance of your final product.

Introduction to Citation

About Academic Citation

Most academic writing draws, to some extent, upon ideas and research previously published by others. It is important to research thoroughly to learn as much information about your topic as possible, and crediting your sources is an essential step in the research process. Citing sources benefits you as well as the authors whose work you have used in your research.

How citing sources benefits you:

  • Citing sources that support your own ideas gives your paper authority and credibility.
  • Citations act as proof that you have researched your topic thoroughly.
  • Giving credit to the sources you have used protects you from charges of plagiarism.
  • A strong Works Cited or References list can be a useful record for futher research.

When to Cite

To avoid the potential for plagiarism, a good rule of thumb is to provide a citation for any idea that is not your own. This includes:

  • Direct quotation
  • Paraphrasing of a quotation, passage, or idea
  • Summary of another's idea or research
  • Specific reference to an obscure fact, figure, or phrase

You do not need to cite widely-accepted common knowledge (e.g. "George Washington was the first President of the United States."), proverbs, or common phrases unless you are using a direct quotation.

When in doubt, avoid the possibility of plagiarism and cite your source.

Citation Styles

Different academic disciplines prefer different citation styles. Two of the most common are APA Style and MLA Style. Check with your instructor for details about the preferred citation style for assignments.

Note: Both APA and MLA have recently updated their style manuals. Make sure that any resources you consult reference MLA 7th edition or APA 6th edition for the most current information.

About APA Style:

APA Style was developed by the American Psychological Association and is primarily used by scholars in the social sciences. Disciplines that might use APA style include:

  • Anthropology                                                
  • Archaeology
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Education
  • Geography
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Womens Studies

More about APA Style

About MLA Style:

MLA Style was developed by the Modern Language Associaion and is primarily used by scholars in the humanities and liberal arts. Disciplines that might use MLA style include:

  • Art
  • Drama
  • English
  • History
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies

More about MLA Style

Additional Citation Styles

Many other citation styles extist in addition to APA and MLA. Other citation manuals include Chicago/Turabian, ACS, and more. Ask your instructor or stop by the library if you have questions about using additional citation styles.

On the Shelf

MLA, and APA have recently updated their style manuals. You can find the latest editions at the Reference Desk located on the library 2nd floor.