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Citation Basics Guide: General Citation Rules

Why we cite


Citing helps ensure we are practicing ethical research as well as…


Gives credit to the original creator

Provides credibility to your paper

Shows your evidence

Helps the reader track down your sources

Shows you as an authority on your topic

And to prevent PLAGIARISM


APA Style can be utilized by any discipline. However, traditionally, APA is most frequently used by writers and students in:

  • Social Sciences, such as Psychology, Linguistics, Sociology, Economics, and Criminology
  • Business
  • Nursing

Be sure to check with your professor to ensure you are using the right citation style!


MLA Style can be utilized by any discipline, However, traditionally, MLA is most frequently used by writes and students in: 

  • English Studies - Language and Literature
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • Literary Criticism
  • Comparative Literature
  • Cultural Studies


Formatting Resources



How to do a hanging indent in Microsoft Word





How do a hanging indent in Google Docs





How to download Microsoft products



What are we citing and why?


We use sources to add credibility, complexity, and to support our research. How we use the information from those sources depends on what your needs are, sources are not meant to make your point for you but to SUPPORT a point you are making. Here are a few ways you can use your sources to support your paper and when to use them.



                  Quoting   This is when you are directly, word for word, using the author's EXACT phrasing in your paper
       Paraphrasing This is when you restate IN YOUR OWN WORDS, with great detail, what the author is saying. The wording should be mostly your own but the author's meaning and purpose should remain clear and the same.
  Summarizing This is similar to paraphrasing. You are restating the author's work in your own words. However, this would be summarizing the MAIN IDEAS, not the specific details like in paraphrasing. Summaries keep the main idea but do not need all the specifics.



When should I use quotes?

Using direct quotes is the easiest way to use your sources BUT SHOULD BE USED SPARINGLY. Only use quotes for the following reasons:

  • Accuracy: There isn't a way to rephrase the statement without changing its meaning.
  • Authority: To demonstrate the EXPERT authority of a point you have already made
  • Conciseness: You paraphrase or summarize are awkward or much longer than the source material.
  • Unforgettable language: The author's exact words are too important in historical context to be changed.

Avoid having a paper that is full of quotes!



When should I paraphrase?

You will want to paraphrase or summarize most of your sources, especially if the meaning of the source is more important than the exact wording. You may use the paraphrase often for the following reasons:

  • To show understanding of the material. Paraphrasing demonstrates that you understand the source you are using and understand how it relates to your research
  • To simplify the material. You may have to simplify overly  complex arguments, sentences, or vocabulary.
  • To clarify the material. You may have to clarify technical passages or specialized information into language that is appropriate for your audience.


  • When you paraphrase make sure you are EXPLAINING the meaning of the source in your OWN WORDS. Do not alter the meaning of the source or change the perception of the source.


  • This is a chance for you to pull out what is helpful to your argument and then explain how this supports your paper.


  • Sources are meant to ADD complexity and credibility to your paper. By paraphrasing and using sources correctly you are helping the reader to see you as an authority over your topic. 


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