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General Library Research Tutorial: Module 6: Citing Sources

Learning Objectives

  • Understand when and why to cite sources.
  • Identify the bibliographic elements essential for properly citing a source.
  • Define plagiarism.
  • Understand the concept of fair use.
  • Choose the appropriate citation style for your discipline.


A citation is a reference to a book, article, video, website, or other information source for the purpose of giving credit to the author. Citations also give your work more credibility because your readers can find out exactly where you got your information from. Citations typically include: author names, title, publisher, publisher location, date of publication, journal title, volume, issue, and/or page numbers. Citing your sources is a fundamental research skill.

Example book citation:

book citation


Example article citation:

article citation


We recommend watching this two-minute video:

“Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction” by North Carolina State University Libraries is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.


If you use other people's ideas without giving them credit by citing their work, you are committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else's ideas or words and presenting them as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Plagiarism is a violation of the Benedictine University Academic Honesty Policy.

To avoid plagiarism, always provide a proper citation when you quote or paraphrase the idea of another person in your research paper, speech, slide presentation, etc. What constitutes a proper citation will depend on which citation style you're using. You'll learn more about citation styles later in this module.

For further information on avoiding plagiarism, see Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Plagiarism by Purdue OWL.

Fair Use

The Copyright Law of the United States provides legal protection for intellectual property. In your search for information, you should assume that all materials you find are copyrighted, unless the document specifies that it is public domain, which can be used freely by anyone. An information source does not have to be registered with the Copyright Office to be covered by copyright. It is copyrighted as soon as it is created.

The doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use generally applies to nonprofit, educational purposes that do not affect the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Section 107 of the Copyright Law describes four factors to consider in deciding when fair use applies. When an information source is copyrighted, you should cite it if you quote or paraphrase it in your paper or speech.

For further information see the Copyright Act and other important documents relating to the law and its interpretation.

Citation Styles

A citation style determines the information to include in the citation, the order of the information, the punctuation, and other formatting. Each discipline tends to use one or two citation styles. Always ask your professors which style they prefer.

Frequently-used citation styles:

  • APA - Used by nursing, business, and the social sciences, including psychology, education, sociology, and economics
  • MLA - Used by many humanities disciplines, including languages and literature
  • Chicago / Turabian - Used by history and the arts
  • CSE - Used by many disciplines in the natural sciences, including biology, geology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics
  • AMA - Used by medicine, health, and the sciences
  • APSA - Used by political science

For further information, see our Citation Research Guide.

Citation Generators

There are tools available to help you generate citations. Always review citations generated by these tools to make sure they're accurate and meet the exact formatting and punctuation guidelines of the style you're using.

Quick Citation Generators

Use a citation generator when you need to build a citation but don't need to save it long term.

Citation Managers

Use a citation manager when you're collecting many citations and you want to save and organize them for later use.

Module 6 Quiz


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