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MLA & APA Citation: Citation Overview

Citation Overview

Most academic writing cites others' ideas and research. How citing sources benefits you:

  • Sources that support your ideas give your paper authority and credibility
  • Shows you have researched your topic thoroughly
  • Crediting sources protects you from plagiarism
  • A list of sources can be a useful record for further research

Different academic disciplines prefer different citation styles, most commonly APA and MLA styles. Besides these styles, there are ChicagoTurabianAAAAP, and more. Only use the most current edition of the citation style.

Ask your instructor which citation style to use for assignments.

When to Cite

To avoid plagiarism, provide a citation for ideas that are not your own:

  • Direct quotation
  • Paraphrasing of a quotation, passage, or idea
  • Summary of another's idea or research
  • Specific reference to an obscure fact, figure, or phrase

You do not need to cite common knowledge (ex. "George Washington was the first President of the United States.") or proverbs unless you are using a direct quotation. When in doubt, cite your source.