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Citation Style Guides

Purpose of Citations

Why do I need to cite?

Giving credit to the original author of a work or idea is an important ethical concept. There are several reasons why you must cite your sources.

  • To acknowledge the author(s) of the work that you used to write your paper.
  • To provide context to your research and demonstrate that your paper is well-researched.
  • To allow readers to find the original source and learn more about some aspect that you mentioned only briefly in the document.
  • To enable further research by letting others discover what has already been explored and written about on a given topic.


When do I need a citation?

You must cite any author's words, thoughts, or ideas that you use in your paper or that influence your ideas. This includes but isn't limited to books, journal articles, web pages, reports, data, statistics, speeches, lectures, personal interviews, etc. You should cite whenever you:

  • use a direct quote
  • paraphrase
  • summarize
  • use facts or statistics that are relatively less known or relate directly to your argument.

Selecting a Citation Style

The citation styles you use in your academic work will vary, most often dependent on the discipline of the individual course. When in doubt about what you should use, ask your instructor.

A style guide is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents. There are many different kinds of style guides, but three of the most used are the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (APA), the MLA Handbook for Writers of Researcher Papers (MLA), and the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago).