What Is a Citation?

A citation is a documentation of a source. It includes important information about a source, such as the creator, the title and the publication date. This information is formatted and sequenced in a specific way according to a style guide.

Why Do You Need to Cite?

The practice of citing sources is important for several reasons:

  • It gives credit to the person or organization who created the idea or work. Citations acknowledge that the ideas belong to someone else and helps you to avoid plagiarism. It also acknowledges the contributions of the author's intellectual and creative labor.
  • To direct your readers to the specific source you used.
  • To showcase the scope and depth of your research. Citations indicate which sources informed your research; They show who and what ideas you are conversing with and valuing.

When Do You Cite a Source?

You will generally need to include a citation for a source whenever you:

  • You directly quote someone else's words. Make sure that you enclose the quote in quotation marks.
  • You mention (paraphrase, evaluate, critique, etc.) someone’s ideas or work. Remember, you want to give credit and acknowledge the author's intellectual work; this includes their ideas, arguments, or other output and not just their direct words.

The Library's Guide to Citations and Bibliographies

Citation Styles

What are citation styles?

Citation styles are the rules and guidelines for formatting citations. Different academic disciplines prefer different citation styles. Your instructor will generally specify the preferred citation style for your class. Full citation style manuals are available in the library and in some cases, online.

Frequently used citation styles:

APA (American Psychological Association)


MLA (Modern Language Association)

Citation Management Software

Use citation management software to help you collect and manage your references, import citations for articles and books from databases and the library catalog, and auto-format citations and bibliographies in your papers. The Library supports four programs: EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, and Zotero.