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Citation Basics

Quick Citation Help

Which citation style to use for your paper depends on the discipline and professor for whom you are writing it. The two most popular styles are MLA for humanities courses and APA for the sciences. Many social science courses may use the Chicago/Turabian style. When in doubt ask your professor which style they prefer.

Each citation style has a handbook describing the details of writing citations for various types of resources. The library has at least one copy of each handbook on reserve or in the reference collection that can be located by searching the online catalog.

Citation Builders

Automatically create quick citations. Remember to always double check against the official rules of the style!

Online Citation Guides

Get more in-depth help from these online guides.

Why Cite?

Citing your sources in a research paper allows you to give credit to the creators of the information you are drawing on. 

You should cite a source whether you are including a direct quote or paraphrasing. Beyond giving credit and avoiding plagiarism, citing your sources also proves that you are building your argument on solid evidence.

By completing your research project, you are adding your voice to an ongoing conversation about your topic. Providing citations allows your reader to follow the trail of your research to see what others in the discussion are saying.  Here is some more insight from the Yale University Center for Teaching and Learning:

"Academics conceive of scholarship as an ongoing and collaborative enterprise. Rather than try to invent a field from scratch, we read what others have discovered and try to build on or extend it in our own work. One scholar’s sources can therefore be an invaluable contribution to another’s research. So while we read your work looking for your original ideas, we also want help knowing how to pursue related questions. In this way, acknowledging your sources greatly enhances your paper’s value, as it shows readers where they might look to test, explore, and extend your conclusions."

Yale University Center for Teaching and Learning. Why cite your sources in academic writing? (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from

Cultural Variations in Author Names

The structure of names can vary by culture. It is important respect these cultural variations when citing authors. For help with citing names in languages other than English, please see the following resources:

You may also consult the manual of the citation style you are using. Style manuals are available for checkout at the circulation desk of the library. Page numbers for sections discussing cultural variations in names from the three most common style manuals follow:

APA - Format of the Author Element, and Spelling and Capitalization of Author Names
Sections 9.8 and 9.9
pages 286 - 287

MLA - Names in Languages Other than English
Section 1.1.4
pages 63 - 66

Chicago - Non-English Names in an English Context
Sections 8.7 - 8.18
pages 463 - 467

If all else fails, take this advice from the APA handbook (page 287): "If uncertain about the proper format for a name, consult others works that cite that author, bibliographic database records, the author's website, or the author's curriculum vitae (CV) to determine the appropriate format. This will help avoid mistaking, for example, a two-part surname for a middle name and sur- name or vice versa. Follow the most common presentation if any ambiguity remains."

Need help?

Check out our full list of Research Guides to get specialized guides for subjects and even some courses. 

And don't forget, you can always contact the library for personalized research assistance!

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