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MLA & APA Citation Guide  

A citation guide based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.) and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.)
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Introduction to Citation

About Academic Citation

Most academic writing draws, to some extent, upon ideas and research previously published by others. It is important to research thoroughly to learn as much information about your topic as possible, and crediting your sources is an essential step in the research process. Citing sources benefits you as well as the authors whose work you have used in your research.

How citing sources benefits you:

  • Citing sources that support your own ideas gives your paper authority and credibility.
  • Citations act as proof that you have researched your topic thoroughly.
  • Giving credit to the sources you have used protects you from charges of plagiarism.
  • A strong Works Cited or References list can be a useful record for further research.



When to Cite

To avoid the potential for plagiarism, a good rule of thumb is to provide a citation for any idea that is not your own. This includes:

  • 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 widely-accepted common knowledge (e.g. "George Washington was the first President of the United States."), proverbs, or common phrases unless you are using a direct quotation.

When in doubt, avoid the possibility of plagiarism and cite your source.



Citation Styles

Different academic disciplines prefer different citation styles. Two of the most common are APA Style and MLA Style. Check with your instructor for details about the preferred citation style for assignments.

Note: Both APA and MLA have recently updated their style manuals. Make sure that any resources you consult reference MLA 7th edition or APA 6th edition for the most current information.


About APA Style

APA Style was developed by the American Psychological Association and is primarily used by scholars in the social sciences. Disciplines that might use APA style include:

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Education
  • Geography
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Women's Studies

More about APA Style


About MLA Style

MLA Style was developed by the Modern Language Association and is primarily used by scholars in the humanities and liberal arts. Disciplines that might use MLA style include:

  • Art
  • Drama
  • English
  • History
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies

More about MLA Style


Additional Citation Styles

Many other citation styles exist in addition to APA and MLA. Other citation manuals include Chicago/Turabian, AAA, AP, and more. Ask your instructor or stop by the library if you have questions about using additional citation styles.

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Plagiarism Tutorial

Check out the Library Tutorial on Plagiarism for more information about avoiding the consequences of plagiarism. 


On the Shelf

You can find the latest editions of the MLA and APA style manuals at all PSCC libraries/ERCs.

MLA Style:

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition

APA Style:

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition

Citation Tools

Note: To save your citations for future use, you must create an individual (free) account in each of the citation programs listed below.

  • EasyBib
    EasyBib is an automatic bibliography and citation composer. When you have sources you need to cite properly for your research papers and projects, EasyBib will help you format your sources quickly and accurately.

Useful Links

  • Find Books & More
    The online catalog includes books, e-books, audiobooks, films, and more.
  • Find Articles
    A-Z list of databases, or use Databases by Subject tab to choose an appropriate resource.
  • Research Guides
    Step by step guide to academic research.

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