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Citing Your Sources: Home

This guide will help you understand why citations are important, what information should be cited, and give you resources for creating citations.

What is a citation?

A citation is basic bibliographic information about a source organized in a specific format. Citations contain the title, author, publishing information, and access information in the case of electronic sources. 

The way that a citation is organized is determined by a citation style.  Citation styles are usually defined by professional organizations and are specific to academic disciplines.  Your professor may require you to use a particular style. Commonly used citation styles are APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and CMS (Chicago.Manual of Style).

Why cite?

Citations are a way to acknowledge your source and provide information about the resources used in your research.  But why?

  • To Give Credit
  • To Avoid Plagiarism
  • To Maintain the Accuracy and Credibility of Your Work
  • To Allow Readers to Trace and/or Expand On Your Research

What do I cite?

  • Direct quotations
  • A paraphrase or summary of another's words or ideas
  • A chart, diagram, illustration, or image created by another
  • Information, images, audio, video, or other media found on a website

Common knowledge, such as generally known dates, facts, myths, historical events, common sense, or common expressions do NOT need to be cited.

When in doubt, cite your source!

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using someone els'e words, ideas, or other original materials without acknowledging its source.

Plagiarism occurs when:

  • another's words are quoted without citing the source
  • someone else's thoughts or ideas, either in print, on the internet, or spoken have been copied into your paper without the source being cited
  • the summary or paraphrasing of another's thoughts or ideas is too closely related to the orignal language or syntax
  • text created by another student is turned in as your own
  • citations are falsely created

For more help understanding plagiarism view Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It provided by Indiana University Bloomington.

Website Resources

Citations created for you!

Citations can be automatically generated for resources located through a Summon search or from within many of the Library's databases.

In Summon

  • From your results list click the "save this item" icon
  • Open the Saved Items folder located at the bottom right
  • Choose citation format
  • Email, print, or export to Refworks your formated citations

NOTE:  MLA citations from Summon always appear as print format.  If the article has been accessed online alter the citation by removing the word "print", adding the name of the database, the word "Web" followed by the date of access.


 George Michael. "Extraterrestrial Aliens." Skeptic 16.3 (2011): 46. Academic Search Elite. Web. 22 Aug. 2013.

In Ebsco databases

  • From the Tools menu on the right select "Cite"
  • Scroll through the list and choose format style
  • Copy and paste citation into your document

Similar citation generators can be found in most of our other electronic databases.  See one of the Librarians if you need help.
Remember to double check these computer generated citations for accuracy. 

Get started with RefWorks

We're here to help

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Beth Miller
Washington & Jefferson College
Clark Family Library
60 S. Lincoln Ave.
Washington, PA 15301