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Citation Help: Get Started

Introduction to citation and guidance for specific citation styles.

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Alexi Sprague
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What is Citation and Why Do We Do It?

  • Citations give authors their due credit. We cite to avoid plagiarism - nothing is worse to an author than discovering their hard work has been stolen and claimed as original by someone else. 
  • Citations are necessary in order to assure that the next person would be able to access the same information through different means. Webpages expire, books and articles get lost, photographs and films degrade.
  • Citing is also important for credibility and building on research. You may have a good idea, but simply stating it does not make it true or believable. Give your ideas validity and support by citing established authors.

Text reused and slightly altered from  Why Cite? by the University of Michigan Library is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

When to Cite

You must document:

  1. Direct quotations (these are the author’s exact words and must be in quotation marks)
  2. Ideas, opinions, insights, or conclusions of another even if you paraphrase that person’s wording
  3. Information that is not well known or is open to dispute
  4. Tables, graphs, charts, or statistics taken from another source.

You do not need to document:

  1. Common knowledge
  2. Your own original ideas, opinions, insights, or conclusions.

Following the above guidelines, a paper on John F. Kennedy would not need to document that he was elected President in 1960; however, your summary of a historian’s analysis of his performance as President would need to be cited.

These guidelines apply to information from any type of source, including websites and other digital resources.

Text reused and slightly altered from When to Cite: Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism by University of South Florida Libraries.

Helpful Definitions


  • The basic information necessary to locate a work.
    The style (e.g. MLA, APA) dictates the order and format of the information, but the
    basic elements necessary such as title, author, publication date and so on are generally universal.

In-text Citation:

  • An attribution to quoted or summarized material used within the text of the paper.
    Contains a limited amount of information which varies by style.


  • List of all the citations referred to in your paper, usually at the end of the paper.
    MLA calls it a Works Cited page, while APA calls it References.

Annotated Bibliography:

  • List of the citations along with a brief summary and evaluation of each work.

Helpful Definitions by the University of Michigan Libraries is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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