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Student Resources for Avoiding Plagiarism

What is a Citation?

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.

You will often be asked to compile a list of citations for the sources you've used at the end of a research paper or other assignment. Depending on the citation style you use, this list is called a "Bibliography," "Works Cited," or "References" page. 

When Should I Cite?

When in doubt, cite! You should acknowledge whenever your work is based on someone else's ideas or content. This is true not only when you use direct quotations, but also when you are paraphrasing or summarizing 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; it's okay if my personal path in life doesn't always seem clear to others. (Tolkien 182).

Why Should I Cite My Sources?

Citing your sources is a fundamental research skill. 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.