When doing research and writing for your college courses, you will be expected to cite your sources. To learn more about citing sources visit our Citing Sources Guide.
A citation is a reference to a published source. In other words, in your paper, you are acknowledging that you found this information published somewhere, by someone.
Why do I have to cite my sources?
Citing your sources is important for three reasons:
1. It gives credit to the person whose idea you are referencing.
2. It leads readers to your sources.
3. It helps you avoid plagiarism.
When you find information in another source, whether it is a newspaper, magazine, academic journal, or an online resource, someone else has published it, which means that essentially that person “owns” the information and the ideas (intellectual property). Not giving that person credit when you borrow their ideas or words is called plagiarism, and that is a very serious academic infraction. For more information, see the tab about plagiarism in the Citing Sources Guide.
Often one of the most difficult aspects of writing a paper is knowing how to properly integrate your sources into your paper. Many cases of plagiarism are unintentional and happen because the writer is unaware of how to properly incorporate and cite sources in the text of a paper. The following steps can help you make certain you have all the information you need to compile proper citations.
Why type of citation style should I use?
The type of citation style that is best for your assignment depends on several factors, including which discipline your course is in and your instructor’s preferences. Certain majors or professional fields use certain styles. Your instructor should be able to give you an idea of which style would be most appropriate for your assignment.
The Public Service Desk has copies of the latest editions of several major style manuals, including the APA, MLA, and Chicago guides.
If you are using one of the databases, many of them have citation help and suggested formatting built-in. If you have trouble, you are welcome to ask a librarian for help.
With any tool that generates a citation for you, always check the suggested formatting for things like capitalization and punctuation. Some database citations need minor corrections to comply with style requirements.