Cite Your Sources

Why do you have to cite your sources?

No research paper is complete without a list of the sources that you used in your writing.  Scholars are very careful to keep accurate records of the resources they've used, and of the ideas and concepts they've quoted or used from others. This record keeping is generally presented in the form of citations.

A citation is a description of a book, article, URL, etc. that provides enough information so that others can locate the source you used themselves. It allows you to credit the authors of the sources you use and clarify which ideas belong to you and which belong to other sources. And providing a citation or reference will allow others to find and use these sources as well.  Most research papers have a list of citations or cited references and there are special formatting guidelines for different types of research.


  • Citation information of your sources usually includes: author(s), date of publication, title, and publisher's name and location (and for articles: journal title, volume, issue and page numbers).
  • There are guides specific to certain fields of study, or your professor or instructor may request a specific bibliographic and citation style.  Visit the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab for detailed online help on using MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style. For the sciences use The Writing Center @ University of Wisconsin, Madison's CSE (Council of Science Editors) guide.