Citing Sources Overview

Citing sources means that you need to give credit to other authors’ specific information and ideas.  A reader needs to be able, at all times, to:

  • distinguish your ideas from your sources’ ideas within the text of your writing
  • find the original source you used

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In order to do this, you need to cite sources:

  • within the writing, to show where the source’s information starts and ends – this is called an in-text citation
  • at the end of the writing, to show the exact source used for each piece of source information incorporated into the writing – this is called an end-of-text citation

Citations are important because they:

  • help others find the information you used in your research paper
  • help establish the credibility of your research
  • connect your work to the work of other scholars
  • establish your entrance into a scholarly dialogue with others who have written about the issue
  • honor and acknowledge the work of others who have made your own research possible

The following video demonstrates the practical importance of always giving credit where credit is due.

There are many different ways, or formats, to cite sources.  Each format has its own conventions for in-text and end-of-text citations. Some of the most used formats are:

  • MLA – Modern Language Association – most often used in the arts and humanities field (and which this text focuses on)
  • APA – American Psychological Association – most often used in social science and business fields
  • Chicago Style – most often used in the history field (very similar to Turabian)
  • Turabian Style – most often used in humanities, social science, and natural science fields

Each format has different citation conventions.  However, you do not have to memorize these conventions. There are many online formatting tools that will automatically put your citation information into the proper form.  You just need to know what format is required.  If no format is specifically required, then you simply choose one and apply it consistently throughout the piece of writing.