What is a Citation?
A citation is a reference to a book, article, video, website, or other information source for the purpose of giving credit to the author. Citations also give your work more credibility because your readers can find out exactly where you got your information from. Citations typically include: author names, title, publisher, publisher location, date of publication, journal title, volume, issue, and/or page numbers. Citing your sources is a fundamental research skill.
When Should I Cite?
You should provide a citation whenever your writing is based on someone else's work or original idea. This includes when you quote, paraphrase, or summarize someone else's work. For example:
Quote: When you use phrases or sentences exactly as they appear in the source document. Note the quotation marks.
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “…not all those who wander are lost” (182).
Paraphrase: When you restate an idea from the source document using your own words.
In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien speaks about wandering adventurers who may seem lost, but instead are on a personal quest (182).
Summarize: When you provide a brief version of what you learned from the source document.
Not everyone who wanders is necessarily lost (Tolkien 182)
Why Should I Cite My Sources?
Whenever you do research, you need to acknowledge the sources you used that informed your own work. It is an important practice for showing academic integrity as a student and is crucial for avoiding plagiarism. By including citations, you are:
- Giving credit to other researchers and creators, by acknowledging their original ideas.
- Backing up and strengthening your arguments by providing evidence from other scholarship or research on your topic.
- Enabling your readers to examine the sources you used for themselves and expand their own research.
Watch the following video for a short introduction to citation:
“Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction” by North Carolina State University Libraries is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.
There are two kinds of tools to help you generate citations: quick citation generators and citation managers. Note: Computer-generated citations sometimes contain errors! Before you turn in an assignment, always review any citations generated by these tools against an online or print style guide to make sure they're accurate and meet the exact formatting and punctuation guidelines of the style you're using.
Quick Citation Generators
Quick citation generators are a good way to get a fast start on your bibliography. The library catalog, as well as many library databases, have built-in citation generators.
In the library catalog, look for the Cite button in the listing for your book or article.
When viewing a book record in the catalog, look for the Cite button in the upper right hand corner.
When you click on the Cite button, a pop-up box will give you options for many different citation styles.
In an EBSCO database like Academic Search Premier, a quick citation generator can be found in the article record under the Tools menu on the right hand side of the page.
Clicking the Cite button will bring a pop-up window with the citation available in multiple styles. Scroll through the list of generated citations to find the style you want.
Use a citation manager when you're collecting many citations and you want to save and organize them for later use.