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First-Year Writing Resources: Citing Your Sources

A guide for instructors and first year students to library resources

Why Cite?

 It is important to cite the resources you use when researching a paper for many reasons. 

Why do I need to cite? 

  • It gives credit to the person who created the idea. Remember to cite whether you quote them or not. 
  • It allows your readers to locate the sources you used, so they can read and judge themselves.
  • It provides evidence of your research. 

How do I cite? 

  • If you are writing a paper or assignment, consult with your instructor about the proper style used in your discipline or needed for the assignment. 
  • If you are writing for publication, check the author guidelines on a publisher's web page for the required style.

More Resources:

What is Plagiarism?

What is Plagiarism? 

Northeastern University Academic Integrity Policy defines plagiarism as: 

"..... as using as one’s own the words, ideas, data, code, or other original academic material of another without providing proper citation or attribution. Plagiarism can apply to any assignment, either final or drafted copies, and it can occur either accidentally or deliberately. Claiming that one has “forgotten” to document ideas or material taken from another source does not exempt one from plagiarizing." 


  • Plagiarism is an act of cheating.
  • It disrupts the trust between a student and an instructor, and among classmates.
  • It may result in a failing grade for an assignment, or even dismissal from a course.
  • It can lead to a ruined reputation and loss of one's job.


The following sources require citation: 

  • Word-for-word quotations from a source, including another student's work. 
  • Paraphrasing (using the ideas of others in your own words).
  • Unusual or controversial facts not widely recognized. 
  • Audio, video, digital, or live exchanges of ideas, dialogue, or information. 


Since it is a serious violation of intellectual integrity, plagiarism harms the reputation of the university as well as the individual. For more information, see our guide to Avoiding Plagiarism and read the policy on  Northeastern University Academic Integrity Policy


Citation Management Software

Citation Management software are great tools for collecting and managing your references, and auto-form citations and bibliographies in your papers. Be sure to check with a professor or advisor about whether not your program requires a specific citation manager.  

Northeastern Library currently supports  EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero, and Mendeley. EndNote and Refworks are licensed by current NU faculty, staff, and students.  Zotero is an open sourced software and the free version of Mendeley is supported. 


Use our Comparison Chart to help you decide which software would be the best for you. 

  • Compares EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero, Mendeley

Northeastern Library also runs citation management workshops in the fall and spring semesters. The recordings of past workshops are available. 

Choosing a Citation Manager