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Citations: Home

Learn what a citation is, how to read a citation and how to create APA, ASA, MLA, and Chicago style citations.

Citing & Using Sources FAQs

Ever wonder why we have to use citations or why they have to be in a certain format? Check out our FAQs for answers!

A citation is a way to tell people that an idea, words, or picture, came from someone else. It is a way of referring to the original work; it tells your reader or audiencewhere you got that idea, words, or picture from.

citation noun. A quotation from a reference to a book paper or author especially in a scholarly work
Image from Google Dictionary

The word "reference" is often used interchangeably with citation. It means the same thing. You are being asked to refer to wherever the information came from originally.

reference definition
Image from Google Dictionary

A bibliography is a collection of citations or references, usually at the end of a work.

In Western culture, we believe that ideas belong to the creator. Their ideas may come in different forms, whether written, spoken, or visual (like a piece of art or a photo), but it's still their idea. We give credit to those individuals who created the ideas originally. If you don't give credit to who the creator, that's stealing someone else's work  and it's known as plagiarism. 

Citing is how we give credit. But besides giving proper credit and avoiding plagiarism, there are a number of reasons why a person should cite. 

  • To provide enough information that your reader can go find the original source if they wanted
  • To show your reader you've done proper research and got your material from reliable sources
  • To show professionalism in your work by following formatting standards

Just like there is a specific format to writing a resume or a letter, citations have specific formats or "styles" as well. These styles set a standard for how to cite and where to put citation information in a paper.

These styles are developed based on the need of the creators, and they usually have slightly different focuses. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • APA - From the American Psychological Associate, it's usually used for social sciences, business and nursing
  • MLA - Modern Language Association style is often used in the humanities, like art and literature
  • Chicago/Turbian - This style is often used in the humanities as well
  • ASA - America Sociological Association style is often used in sociology

There are more styles than this, and you can find out more about them on the "Other Styles" page of this Citations Guide.

Working with citations, but can't seem to get the hang of it? There are a lot of resources to help you out!

  • Reference Librarians - Consider stopping by the reference desk, or contacting them by phone, email or online chat if you have any reference questions. 
  • Center for Academic SuccessThe tutoring center in the lower level of the library is here to help you with your papers and citations!


Below you'll find activities and tutorials to help you understand plagiarism and academic honesty.

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