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Getting Started With Your Paper / Project

Tips from UMSL's Reference Librarians on researching papers and projects.
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Automatic Citations

Some resources such as Microsoft Wordcitation managers, various websites, and some library databases will either offer a ready-made citation or allow you to create citations/a bibliography automatically by importing information about your sources.

These tools can be extremely helpful in saving you time!  However, they are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.  Errors could be due to an issue with importing information, the use of an old edition of a citation style, or other factors.

Therefore, it is always recommended to double check your citations, even if you use one of these tools.  You will still have saved a lot of time by not typing everything yourself.

Citations. White text on red background

When doing research and writing for your college courses, you will be expected to cite your sources. For more information, visit our Citing Sources Guide.


What does it mean to "cite my sources"?

A citation is a reference to an outside source. In other words, you did not create or discover this information yourself.


Why do I have to cite my sources?
  • It gives credit to the person whose idea you are referencing.

  • It leads readers to your sources.

  • It helps you avoid plagiarism.

Not giving the original author/creator credit when you borrow their ideas or words is called plagiarism, which is a very serious academic infraction.


How do I create my citations?

The guidelines you use to format your citation - the citation style - will depend on several factors, including your field of study and your professor's preferences.

You will most commonly use one of the styles listed below.  However, you should always check with your professor first.

When in doubt, visit the official citation manual to check your formatting.



MLA Style refers to the standards created by the Modern Language Association.  This style is most commonly used in humanities disciplines such English, modern languages, and cultural studies.

A sample journal article MLA citation (8th edition) might look like:

  • Knope, Leslie, and Swanson, Ronald. "A Sample MLA Citation Title." UMSL Libraries Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, 2021, pp. 12-16.

For more guidance, visit:

Purdue Owl: MLA Style and Formatting Guide

Chicago / Turabian

Chicago Style refers to standards published by the University of Chicago Press.  This style is most commonly used in disciplines such as history, literature, and the arts.  It is unique in that it offers two sub-styles:

  • author-date: functions similarly to MLA and APA styles by using in-text parenthetical citations
  • notes-bibliography: offers readers shortened citations at the bottom of the page in footnotes

You may also see the term Turabian Style, which refers to a simplified version of Chicago.

A sample journal article Chicago style citation (17th edition, bibliography) might look like:

  • Knope, Leslie B. and Ronald U. Swanson. "Sample Chicago Style Citation Style." UMSL Libraries Journal 5, no. 1 (2021): 12-16. Accessed September 14, 2021.

For more guidance, visit:

Purdue Owl: Chicago Style and Formatting Guide
Turabian Citation Quick Guide


APA Style refers to the standards published by the American Psychological Association.  This style is most commonly used in disciplines such as psychology, sociology, business, economics, nursing, social work, and criminology.

A sample journal article APA citation (7th edition) might look like:

  • Knope, L.B. & Swanson, R.U. (2021). A sample APA citation title. UMSL Libraries Journal5(1), 12-16.

For more guidance, visit:

Purdue Owl: APA Formatting and Style Guide