Skip to main content

Cite Your Sources: Avoid Plagiarism, and More!

Citing Your Sources

Why do I need to cite sources I use for information in my academic work?

There are three important reasons that we (researchers, students, citizens, netizens, employees, artists, etc.) cite sources of information we use:

  • to provide information that allows readers/viewers to access the original source of the information,
  • to demonstrate knowledge of other's expertise and contributions to advancing the topic or research,
  • to give credit where credit is due, and
  • to avoid plagiarism.

In academic communities and workplaces, accepted practice requires that you cite any information or ideas that you found in someone else's work. If you use someone else's information, ideas, words, photographs, etc. without attributing or citing them, you are plagiarizing (see video on the Avoiding Plagiarism tab above), and often the penalty for plagiarizing in college is to receive a grade of F on the assignment or to receive an F for the course, and possibly to be expelled from the college.

When should I cite information from sources I use?

You should cite information from other sources any time you use someone else's information, ideas, words, photographs, etc.

How do I cite sources I use?

Your instructor will let you know which citation style to use. Common citation styles are MLA and APA. Most citation styles include the following information at a minimum:

Who: the name of the person or organization who created the document, photograph, etc.

What: the title of the document, photograph, etc.

When: the date the document, photograph, etc. was published or posted (if available)

Where: the location of where the document, photograph, etc. was published or posted; if you found the item on the Web, include the URL; if you found the item in a Library database, include the name of the database

What the heck is plagiarism? And how do I avoid it?

This handout, "Acknowledging, Paraphrasing, and Quoting Sources," builds on the information mentioned in the video above.

For more info on the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing, check out this web page, Paraphrase and Summary.

And for a self-paced tutorial that goes into more detail than the video above, visit Don't Cheat Yourself.

Give Credit (or Attribute or Cite)

Citation Generator

You can use the following service to input information about your sources, and a citation for your reference or works cited list will be generated for you.

Wicked Useful Books