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Research Basics

Develop a topic, use the library catalog and databases, evaluate and cite sources.

What Is Citation?

Citation is quoting or otherwise referring to an author or their work to illustrate a point or to support an argument in your own essay or research paper. When you use someone else's work in your paper, you must acknowledge the contribution of that author with an in-text citation and a bibliographic citation. An in-text citation is a short reference to that part of the work you have used within the body of your paper, and a bibliographic citation is a full citation included in a list at the end of your paper, formatted according to the style you are using - usually APA or MLA style.

Citation as a Two-Part Process

Citing in the Text
  • An in-text citation is a brief reference to an author’s work within the body of your paper, pointing your reader to the corresponding entry in the reference list. MLA Style uses author-page format. APA style uses author-date format.
  • Alternatively footnotes and endnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page or at the end of a chapter or a project with complete citation information. Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) style requires these instead of in-text citations.

A list of full citations for all resources used, arranged alphabetically by authors’ last names appears at the end of the research paper.

  • MLA style refers to this as the Works Cited page
  • APA Style  and Chicago Author-Date style refer to this as the References page
  • Chicago NB style refers to this as the Bibliography

When to Cite

Do cite:
  • when you quote or paraphrase someone else's words, ideas, analysis, or opinions
  • when you use data collected or created by someone else
  • when you use someone else's images or illustrations
Don't Cite:
  • when information is common knowledge, something your reader already knows
  • when you use data you collected yourself, like an informal student poll or survey
  • when you use your own images or illustrations

When in doubt, cite it!

Quotation and Paraphrasing

Quotation Definitions and Guidelines

Quotation is using an author's exact words.

  • short quotations (40 or fewer words) should be enclosed in quotation marks and followed by an in-text citation
  • long quotations (more than 40 words) should be placed in block format, with the entire quote indented 1/2 inch, without quotation marks, and followed by an in-text citation
  • quotes should always be attributed to the original author with an in-text citation
When Should You Quote?

Quote when the exact wording is important to retain meaning.

  • when you’re reproducing an exact definition
  • when you can’t say the same thing more memorably or more succinctly
  • when you want to respond to the author’s direct wording to strengthen your argument
Paraphrasing Definitions and Guidelines

Paraphrasing is restating someone else's ideas in your own words.

  • a paraphrase is usually shorter than the original passage because it involves condensing an idea
  • do this to summarize or to focus on an important point
  • a paraphrase is preferable to a quotation because it is presented in the context of your argument and in your own writing style
  • paraphrases should always be attributed to the original author with an in-text citation
When Should You Paraphrase?

Paraphrase to maintain your own voice in the narrative.

  • summarize and synthesize ideas when you can
  • adapt the information to the context of your paper
  • retain your own writing style
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