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Plagiarism & Writing with Sources: Citing Sources

What is a citation?

A citation is a reference to an outside source of information. It is a way of giving credit to the original author of language or ideas that you are using in your own writing.

Citations appear in the body of text in the form of a parenthetical (or in-text) citation:

Dr. Frankenstein described his creation as a “miserable monster” and a “hideous wretch” (Shelley 126). 

... or in a bibliography, list of references, or works cited page:

Shelley, M. W. (1823). Frankenstein; Or, the modern Prometheus. New York, NY: Dover Publications.


Why do we cite?

Citations have several important purposes:

  • to provide credit to the creators of original ideas and works
  • to point readers to the original source
  • to help the reader gauge the writer's credibility
  • to uphold intellectual and academic honesty

When do we cite?

You must provide a citation for any facts, ideas, or data which you take from another source. The only time you do not need to cite is when the fact or idea is 'common knowledge' (see below). You must also provide a citation for any images, graphs, charts, etc. unless you created them yourself.

Tip: Common Knowledge

Common knowledge refers to facts or ideas which are widely known or widely agreed upon.

For example: Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States

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