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How To: Cite Your Sources


What is a citation?

Your professor has told you that you need to include citations in your paper. But what are those? Citations are the pieces of information that tell your reader where your research came from.

You always want to tell your reader where an idea comes from right at the time that you are explaining it. So there will always be some kind of hint right at the end of a quote or at the end of a paraphrased or summarized section. This hint could look like an in-text citation or as a superscript number that points to a footnote at the bottom of the page or end of the paper. 

In addition to the little hint right when you use someone else's ideas you also need to include the complete information for where that idea comes from. This is often at the end of the paper, but could also be in a footnote at the bottom of the page. 

Why do I have to cite things?

There are three main reasons why we cite our sources:  

  1. If we don't give credit to the original author or creator then it could be considered plagiarism
  2. It helps your reader know where your information came from--and helps them find it if they want to learn more.
  3. Using and citing a variety of sources in your paper adds to the credibility of your research by showing that the ideas included are shared or supported by others.

What goes in a citation?

No matter what "style" you are writing your paper in, the information needed to cite your sources is similar.

Generally, you will include:

  • Who wrote or created the thing (author or creator)
  • What the name of the thing is (title)
  • When it was published or made available (date)
  • Where you found it (source, url)
  • Which specific piece of the thing you used (page number--usually just for the in-text piece)


How do I find all the things I need to include in my citations?

While the kinds of information you need in your citation are similar no matter what type of thing you are citing (article, video, etc.), where you find that information can change pretty dramatically. Here are two examples of where to find the following information:

  1. Author (or creator, or speaker)
  2. Title 
  3. Source Title
  4. Additional Source information (volume, issue)
  5. Date
  6. Page range
  7. Database you found it in (for articles)
  8. Stable URL or DOI
Example 1: A peer-reviewed article
Diagram of citation info in a scholarly article


Example 2: A TED video

(Not every type of source will have every type of information--this video doesn't have pieces number 4, 6, or 7 and that's ok).

Diagram of finding citation information for a TED video


I have all the pieces, now what?

You've found all the pieces that you need in order to write a citation. Good work! Now is the moment when you need to know what style of citation you are using. Are you using APA, Chicago, MLA? Maybe another style? 

If you aren't sure, take a look at your syllabus or assignment instructions. Your professor probably mentioned which one they want you to use. 

Now, use the tabs on the left side of the page here to find the style you are using. Each of these tabs have examples of what citations look like in that specific style for a variety of common things you might cite (like peer-reviewed articles, websites, YouTube videos, and more).