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Citations: Annoying but Necessary

by Meghan Kowalski on 2020-11-30T09:00:00-05:00 | Comments

Comic of a stick figure politician before a stick figure crowd with one person holding a sign that says "citation needed"You may find citations annoying, but they're something that you already do. Any time you tell someone, "I read it [here]," or "I heard it from [so-and-so]," you're showing where you got your information.

[Image at right from XKCD.]

We cite information for many reasons.​

​First, we want to give credit to the other authors and creators whose work we are using. Your research and work are building off of their hard work.​

Next, it creates credibility and shows that you did the work. When you cite something, you're telling your audience that you have looked at the information that is out there and are adding to the scholarly conversation. It tells your audience that they can trust you.​

Finally, it helps you to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is when you, intentionally or not, pass off someone else's work as your own. This can include directly copying text or simply rewording someone else's work. When you include a citation, you're showing where you found your information and are showing that it is not your original work.

It is important to provide a citation whenever you use work that you have not created. You should use a citation any time you quote, paraphrase, or summarize information from a source. It also includes any time you use someone else's data, facts, charts, and graphs. You should also provide a citation whenever you include an image or picture that you did not make or create. Essentially, if you didn't make it, think it, or do it, you should include a citation.​

There are two parts to a citation.​

​The first is the in-text citation. This is the parenthetical reference or footnote you include in the text of your paper.​

The second part is the bibliography or works cited page. This includes the complete information about your source. That may include the title, author, journal or website name, date of publication, and URL. Every source requires a different citation, so it's important to look at how you cite a book versus how you cite an article, podcast, or tweet.​

Luckily, when it comes to creating citations, there are great options to help you.​

​Purdue OWL is a website that can walk you through all the parts of creating and using citations. It even includes a style guide showing you how to build the two parts of different citations for different kinds of sources.​

UDC Search and most of the library databases also have built-in Cite buttons. When you click that option, the tool will show you how to cite that specific source in your bibliography or works cited page. It won't show you how to create the in-text citation, but at least it will show where periods go and what needs to be italicized in your reference list.

If you want to learn more about creating and using citations, visit our Citing Sources Help Guide.

If you ever have trouble with citations, don't hesitate to reach out for help! You can email us at

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