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Citation: Citation sources

All scholarly research is built upon knowledge of the past literature in a field. This guide will help you learn how to cite your work, citation styles, citation tools, and useful applications for citation

Cite these

Whether you are quoting, paraphrasing, copying and pasting, or just referencing, you do need to cite:

  • Anyone else's articulated ideas, arguments, opinions, or experiences.
  • Any artwork, pictures, videos, or other creative works produced by others.
  • Direct quotations of any words written or spoken by others.
  • Unique phrases or terms coined by others.
  • Data, statistics, or facts produced or documented by others.
  • Published research details and results, whether conducted by you or others.
  • And much more!

Don't Cite these

Listed below are a few items you generally don't need to cite no matter which citation style you use. 

  • Your own personal information or experiences.
  • Your own arguments or opinions.
  • Your own videos, photographs, and other artwork you've created.
  • "Common knowledge"- This one is a little tricky to distinguish.  Here is a general rule of thumb: if the majority of people in your classroom already know the information, then you may not need to cite it.  For example, you may not need to cite the fact that Barack Obama is the past President of the United States.  It's best to think of common knowledge as only the most obvious facts.
  • Generally accepted phrases or terms- this usually applies only to discipline- and audience-specific situations. 

If you're uncertain when not to cite something, check with your instructor, ask a librarian, or seek the answer in the appropriate style manual.

Why Cite sources

Giving credit to the original author of thoughts, words, and ideas is an important ethical concept.

  1. To avoid PLAGIARISM: While a bibliography does not prevent plagiarism, it is an important tool in avoiding plagiarism.
  2. BUILDING on research: Pertinent information is gleaned from the ideas of those who came before, and a researcher then produces new knowledge by integrating the ideas of others with her own conclusions. This is the scholarly research process.
  3. TRACING research: According to Joseph Gibaldi, the author of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, “in presenting their work, researchers generously acknowledge their debts to predecessors by carefully documenting each source so that earlier contributions receive appropriate credit” (104). This is the basis for all scholarship. It is important that researchers give credit so readers can trace the ideas presented back to the sources.
  4. CONTRIBUTING ideas: Your contribution, as a student, to disciplinary knowledge is the unique ways you interpret and synthesize the words, thoughts, and ideas of authorities. In fact, giving credit to experts and authoritative sources gives your conclusions validity that cannot be achieved by simply stating one's own opinions.
  5. LOCATING additional research: And that is another reason for citations: it allows readers to access the cited materials if they are performing research on that topic

What to Cite?

You must cite:

  • Facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge
  • Ideas, words, theories, or exact language that another person used in other publications
  • Publications that must be cited include:  books, book chapters, articles, web pages, theses, etc.
  • Another person's exact words should be quoted and cited to show proper credit

When in doubt, be safe and cite your source!