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Why cite? What is a citation style?

You must always cite information you use from other sources for the following reasons:

1. You need to let the reader or your instructor know the original source of information. Citing sources strengthens your paper and lets your instructor know that you did the work.

2. Citing is a service to the reader. The reader may be interested in a reference you have used in your bibliography or works cited page and will be able to identify and access the sources you have used for their own use. You may also want to return to your citations and build on your own research in the future.

3. You want to give credit to the person whose ideas you have used.

There are two places where you need to cite information:

  1. in the body of your paper (known as "in text citations), and
  2. at the end of your paper in a list of sources known as a bibliography, works cited page, or reference list.

Style guides show you how to appropriately cite sources for your paper. There are many style guides available for citing sources. Which one you should use depends on the discipline. For example, Psychology uses the APA style, English uses the MLA Handbook, and History uses the Chicago Style Manual. Usually your instructor will tell you which style to use, if not, ask!

Citation Styles

Buley Library has a number of research guides dedicated to specific citations styles and tools:

Generate Pre-formatted Citations in Databases

Many databases, including Google Scholar, will automatically generate a citation in MLA, APA, Chicago, and other major style formats. Others will only provide the basic information, and it's up to you to do the formatting. Look for links like "Cite" or "How to cite" within the databases and on article pages. Also check the top and bottom of the page or article for citation info. 

Warning: Most of the citations in databases, web services, etc., are produced automatically using a computer algorithm. That means that if the data is incorrect, the resulting citation is incorrect. You have the final responsibility of checking that the citation is fully correct using the guidelines provided by your professor (or publisher). Always check details like capitalization, dates, and page numbers.

Pre-formatted Citation from a ProQuest database