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Citation Guide

A guide to create citations for bibliographies and works cited in research papers.

Why Cite Sources?

Why should we cite sources?  Most importantly, we site for the following reasons:
  1. To BUILD on previous research:  Scholarly work is built upon the previous scholarship and the ideas of those who came before.  A researcher produces new knowledge by integrating the ideas of others with her own conclusions, demonstrating that she has taken others' ideas into account while developing her own conclusions. This is the scholarly research process.
  2. 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.
  3. CONTRIBUTING ideas: As a student, you contribute the unique ways you interpret and synthesize the words, thoughts, and ideas of authorities to a greater scholarly community. In fact, giving credit to experts and authoritative sources gives your conclusions credibility and validity that cannot be achieved by simply stating one's own opinions.
  4. LOCATING additional research: By citing the research upon which your work was based, you allow your readers to find additional sources that may interest them for their own research.
  5. To avoid PLAGIARISM: While a bibliography does not prevent plagiarism, it is an important tool in avoiding plagiarism.  Bibliographies indicate in which works you find ideas that were not exclusively your own.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Always cite the source of any information in your paper with a parenthetical citation.  If you did not originally compose the ideas you are including in your paper, be sure to cite them!  The purpose of the parenthetical citation is to lead the reader to an exact item in the bibliography, so the first entry in the bibliography (usually author’s last name, sometimes title if no author is listed) is what is included in the parenthetical citation. Additionally, the exact point (page number) is listed.

Plagiarism is using the words, thoughts, or ideas of someone else without giving credit. Plagiarism can take many forms, and it can be intentional or accidental.  In an academic environment, students may often plagiarise unintentionally, by simply being careless:


Kate Turabian, in A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (2003, p.77) succintly describes the occasions where plagiarism is most likely to occur.  She writes:

But many students fail to realize that they risk being charged with plagiarism even if they were not intentionally dishonest, but only ignorant or careless.  You run that risk when you give readers reason to think that you've done one or more of the following:

  • You cited a source but used its exact words without putting them in quotation marks or in a block quotation.
  • You paraphrased a source and cited it, but in words so similar to those of your source that they are almost a quotation: anyone could see that you were following the source word-by-word as you paraphrased it.
  • You used ideas or methods from a source but failed to cite it.

Please be aware of these likely occasions.  Be careful to cite your sources as you work, and feel free to contact the Library or your instructor should you require advice about citing any source!