Online Writing Lab

Citing Sources

Once a source is found and incorporated into an essay, the source needs to be cited.  The information that must be included to cite a source depends on the format (MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style) that is being used for the essay.  However, regardless of format, the purpose of all citations is the same: to avoid plagiarism and to provide the reader with further information. 

Many beginning writers think of plagiarism as trying to pass off information or writing from another person as one’s own.  While this is true, plagiarism also occurs when outside information that is used in an essay is not cited correctly or cited at all, regardless of intent.   The consequences of plagiarism can be quite severe and can range from flunking an individual assignment or class to facing possible expulsion and sometimes even legal consequences.  Because of this fact, all writers need to learn how to cite sources properly. 

Additionally, quotes from others are not the only type of information that needs to be cited in an essay.  Any information that is taken from another source, even if it is paraphrased (put into different words), needs to be cited in the same manner that a quote is.  As mentioned earlier, the proper way to cite a source depends on the type of source and the format that is being used for a paper, but regardless of which format is used, the most important aspect of citing any source is making it clear that the information being presented is coming from another source by giving the name of the author or person behind the information that is being used.

Additional Resources

  • How to cite sources videos
  • Further information on citing sources correctly can be found on the MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style pages and examples located on this site, use a credible reference manual, and/or visit the Learning Commons and speak with a librarian or writing tutor.