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.
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:
- Political Science
- Women's Studies
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:
- Religious Studies
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.
On the Shelf
You can find the latest editions of the MLA and APA style manuals at all PSCC libraries/ERCs.
Note: To save your citations for future use, you must create an individual (free) account in each of the citation programs listed below.