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Citing Sources   Tags: apa, chicago, citation, cse, guide, ieee, mla, style, turabian  

A guide for source citation
Last Updated: Jun 2, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Citation Introduction

Citations perform very important roles in research, both at an academic and a professional level.

  • They tell your readers where you located your information.
  • They tell your professors what kind of research you've performed.
  • They connect your research to the work of other researchers & scholars.
  • They give you authority as a writer and research.

Why Should I Cite?

Citing your sources

  • provides credit to the original authors,
  • prevents plagiarism, and
  • meets requirements of assignments.

When Should I Cite?

You should use citations whenever you quote, paraphrase, or summarize the work of someone else.

  • Quotations are exact duplicates of other people's words.
  • Paraphrases are other people's ideas rewritten in your own phrasing. They're usually about the same length as the original material.
  • Summaries are other people's ideas that you've shortened to highlight the main ideas. They're always shorter than the original material.

You should cite your sources whenever you write ideas that aren't your original ideas. For specific situations, take a look at: Plagiarism, Copyright, & Fair Use.


Style Elements

All citation and style guides provide the same types of information:

  • Who. Who's responsible for writing the source? Author, editor, translator.
  • When. When was the source published or produced? Date. Sometimes just year; sometimes month and year; sometimes day, month, and year.
  • What. What's the name of the source? Book, article, or journal title; series title; subtitle; etc.
  • Where. Who produced the source and where are they located? Publisher, publisher location, website URL or DOI, etc. Is the source from a specific location? Book chapter, edition, journal volume and issue number, etc.
    (What is a DOI? DOI stands for digital object identifier; it provides a persistent link to a source's online location. Similar to a shortened URL.)
  • Some citation styles want to know the source's format, such as print or web, as well as when you accessed the material.

Citation Basics

While there are different styles of citations (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.), they all serve the same purpose and have similar fill-in-the-blank properties. Think of them like jigsaw puzzles. You just have to put the pieces together. And just as different jigsaw puzzles are completed in different ways, different citations have different orders of placement.

citation jigsaw pile
citation jigsaw puzzle pile

Also, syntax and punctuation matter in the creation of citations. Those of you who are familiar with forms of coding, whether complicated computer coding or just HTML and CSS, should be familiar with this idea. If you code in the wrong order with incorrect punctuation, the code doesn't work. The same thing happens with citations. If you place the citation elements in the wrong order with incorrect punctuation, the citation won't work.

citation jigsaw solved
citation jigsaw puzzle solved


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