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Citing Your Sources

A guide to writing academic papers using citation styles effectively and efficiently.

What is Citation?

Citing your sources is how to inform your readers that specific information in your work is from an outside source. It enables the reader to find that source again including general information such as:

  • the author of the source
  • the title of the work
  • the name and location of the company that published the source
  • the date the source was published
  • the page numbers of the material you are borrowing

Why Cite Sources?

It is important for writers to cite sources:

  • to prevent plagiarism and uphold academic integrity
  • to recognize the work of others
  • to provide authority to your work and to position your work in context
  • to help future researchers and yourself easily locate sources

Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction

What to Cite

You must cite:

  • Facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge
  • Ideas, theories, or language that is highly debatable
  • Books, book chapters, articles, web pages, theses, etc. when you are summarizing and paraphrasing
  • Another person's exact words should be quoted and cited to show proper credit 

Don't cite:

  • Statements of your own insight
  • Statements of common knowledge (knowledge that most educated people know or can find out easily in an encyclopedia or dictionary)


When in doubt, be safe and cite your source!

For information about citing images visit Finding and Using Image Resources.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is defined by the MTC Academic Affairs Student Guidelines and Expectations in this way:

"Plagiarism is taking another person’s work and using it without giving the source credit in any graded assignment."

Plagiarism may be:

  • Deliberate (intentionally presenting someone else’s work as your own)
  • Accidental (wrongly or unsatisfactorily citing ideas and words from a source)

It may not be possible for your professor to establish whether plagiarized work was deliberate or accidental, but in either case, you and your professor are placed in a difficult situation.

Scholarship requires you to learn from others, while academic integrity demands work resulting from your own effort. As a student, you will synthesize others’ knowledge as well as your own insights to create new scholarship. You must recognize the portion of your work that comes from others’ work to meet standards of academic integrity, and you this is done by citing the work of others.

Plagiarism occurs when you neglect to recognize the work of others and do not appropriately cite your sources.

A Writing Process for Avoiding Plagiarism


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