Citations are Necessary

Everyone agrees that citing sources is a hassle, but it is incredibly important because it gives credit to the ideas of others and adds veracity (truth; reliability) to your research and conclusions.

Someone reading your work should be able to find the exact source of your information to evaluate the quality and accuracy of your source and to confirm that you did not plagiarize someone else's words. Seeing that you can back up your information with reputable sources gives more weight to what you write than relying on sources that are published by questionable organizations or authors. To do that, readers need all the publication information about your sources: the title, author, publisher, date of publication, source, etc.

The conclusions of one researcher are based on the reliable information and conclusions of others. Break the link in the chain and all research that follows is invalid.

Copyright Laws

Citation is done to comply with national copyright and patent laws. No one may take credit for another person's ideas, words, or inventions. In academia, past research is the foundation for new research, so researchers must cite the ideas and words of others or be accused of copyright infringement. It must be obvious to the reader what ideas already have been published and what ideas or conclusions are new.

When TO cite

  • If you quote an author, even if you are only borrowing a single key word, you need to tell your reader the origin of the quotation
  • You also need to cite a source:
    • if you restate an idea, thesis, or opinion stated by an author
    • if you restate an expert's theory or opinion
    • if you use facts that are not common knowledge
    • if you need to provide an informational or explanatory note

When NOT to cite

  • If the information is well and widely known and indisputable, including mathematical and scientific facts:
    The Republicans succeeded in winning the majority in both the House and Senate in the November elections. AIDS is a disease that is managed but not cured.
  • Statistics and information that can easily be found in several sources and are not likely to vary from source to source. For example:
    The population of the United States is 281 million.

Types of citations

Parenthetical Citations and a Works Cited Page

  • A Works Cited page lists all sources used for quotations, ideas, and information (not generally known) that has been mentioned in the research paper. Sources are listed alphabetically by author (or another name as indicated by style format if there is no author).
  • Parenthetical (in text) citations within the report itself refer the reader to the Works Cited page by stating the author's last name followed by the page number on which the preceding quote or piece of information is located.
    (Jones 5)
  • This is the most commonly used format for student research papers.


  • Explanatory or informational notes placed at the end of the paper that further describe the source of the information and listed by number:
    5. Jones, M. Death Penalty and Teenagers. 23
  • Small superscript numbers that refer to the endnotes are placed in the text of the paper at the end of the information being cited.


  • Citations placed at the bottom of a specific page in a paper
  • Rarely used today in style manuals designed for students in schools and colleges
  • Superscript numbers in the text of the paper refer to the citations at the foot of the page on which they occur.


  • A list of all resources examined in the course of researching information relating to the topic of the paper that is placed at the end of the paper.
  • Resources are listed alphabetically by author and do not refer to any particular piece of information or quote in the paper.
  • Often used to suggest to the reader where more information on the topic can be found.

Citation Styles

Different Styles for Different Reasons

Differences between citation styles are primarily based on the requirements of different disciplines. In literature, for example, the author, name of the work, and the exact page number are more important than when it was published. Little Women is the same today as when it was first published. On the other hand, in the sciences, the date of publication is very important, because science is always changing. Therefore, that identifying information is placed in a more prominent position. Remember when it was decided that Pluto is not really a planet? So, for scientific publications, the age of the information is primary, and more emphasis is placed on that in the citations. This affects the order of citation data or how a parenthetical citation is written.

Preferred Styles

Academic organizations have designed their preferred styles and require research performed in those fields to follow their guidelines. Individual professors usually have a preference for one or another and will inform their students of it. Here are the main types of styles:
  • MLA - Modern Language Association
  • APA - American Psychological Association
  • Turabian
  • Chicago
Here at Saddlebrook, the faculty has a general policy of requiring MLA citation styles for research papers, but some teachers prefer other styles. Their preferences take precedence.

Citation Resources

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL)

The OWL is a great resource for all sorts of writing advice, including citation.
Go to for the guide or watch this video about MLA formatting and citation:


Research and Documentation Online
Gustavus Alolphus College - the online version of citation information from Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age, Fifth Edition, by Diana Hacker and Barbara Fister.

University of Wisconsin: Writer's Handbook

The Writer's Handbook offers an MLA Documentation Guide at



Easybib and Easybib's Citation Guide

The EasyBib website offers a set of general guidelines, , a comprehensive MLA7 guide and another one about using parenthetical citations .

Citation Generators

Some of the above resources will actually create citations for you using an interactive tool. Find more on the Citation Generators page and the Research Guide page.