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How to do Library Research: General Citation Help

How and when to Cite Sources

It's important to properly cite sources in a research paper or project so you can accurately give credit for information that is not common knowledge or an original idea. Proper citation will help you avoid plagarism, and is an essential part of the research process.

The State University of New York at Albany has provided a useful resource for understanding when, where, and why to provide citations.

SUNY's resource explains when you should provide citations:

While professors and scholars may have specific requirements based on the needs of their discipline, there are cases where you should always cite your sources.

  1. Direct quotes of more than one word. If the author’s words are powerful or you need to be specific for your argument, the authors’ words can be used as a direct quote.
  2. Paraphrasing or summarizing. If you want to use someone else’s idea to help you make your point or to support your own ideas, in this case you would “translate” the ideas into your own words.
  3. Information which may be common knowledge but still unfamiliar to your reader. This would also include statistical information which may be familiar information but still requires confirmation.
  4. Not just books or articles should be cited. Any source that you use for information can and should be cited including interviews, websites, TV programs, etc.
  5. Whenever you are not sure if something should be cited, err on the side of caution and cite sources.

Which Style Do I Use?

A common question you might have about citations is what style to use? Different disciplines often use different citation styles, so you might use MLA citation styles for an English class, for example, and APA style for your psychology class. An overview of citation styles is here:

If you are uncertain which style you should use, always check with your professor.

Here is list of a few disciplines and the common styles used:

Plagiarism: How to avoid it

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