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Library Basics: Citation Styles

Why Cite?

Most academic work draws upon the works of others; therefore, citing your sources is an important part of the scholarly writing process.

Citations include the key elements that allow your sources to be identified and located. These elements vary depending upon the type of resource.

There are several reasons to cite your sources:

  • Give proper credit to the ideas, words, and works of others you use in your research
  • Allow readers to find your sources so they can determine if they are reliable, better evaluate your argument, and locate additional information
  • Avoid plagiarism

Style Guides

The specific format of your citations will depend upon the documentation style you are using. Different disciplines use different styles - always check with your instructor and/or syllabus for every class. 

Commonly used styles include APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian. Each of these has an official style guide. These manuals contain detailed examples on citing a wide variety of sources. In addition, they contain information about proper formatting, such as margin and font size.

Some disciplines have their own discipline-specific citation style. Check with your instructors.

For most styles, you cite your sources in two places:

1) Within your paper (in-text citation) - immediately after using a source, include a parenthetical citation, footnote, or endnote.

2) At the end of your paper - a complete list of your sources known as a Bibliography, References, or Works Cited section.

Save Time

Use software like EndNote and Zotero to manage your sources - download citations from library databases; export the bibliography into your paper. Compare the features of some different citation manager programs here.

Zotero is a free Firefox plugin that easily saves citations from most library databases, as well as sites like Amazon and the New York Times online.

Zotero has a Word plugin that automatically create bibliographies in the style of your choice.

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