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Citation Styles: Citation Basics

Citation Styles

Choose a citation style to learn more about citing your sources!

What is a citation?

Citing a source means that you show, within the body of your text, that you took words, ideas, figures, images, etc. from another place. They are a short way to uniquely identify a published work (e.g. book, article, chapter, web site).  They are found in bibliographies and reference lists and are also collected in article and book databases. 

Citations consist of standard elements, and contain all the information necessary to identify and track down publications, including:

  • author name(s)
  • titles of books, articles, and journals
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • volume and issue numbers (for articles)

Why are citations Important?

You must cite:

  • Facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge
  • Ideas, words, theories, or exact language that another person used in other publications
  • Publications that must be cited include:  books, book chapters, articles, web pages, theses, etc.
  • Another person's exact words should be quoted and cited to show proper credit 

When in doubt, be safe and cite your source!

Why are citations important?

It's important to cite sources you used in your research for several reasons:

  • To show your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information
  • To be a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas
  • To avoid plagiarism by quoting words and ideas used by other authors
  • To allow your reader to track down the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by way of footnotes, a bibliography or reference list

Citing sources: Overview, MIT Libraries