Citing Sources

Citing Sources

Citation styles differ mostly in the location, order, and syntax of information about references.  The number and diversity of citation styles reflect different priorities with respect to concision, readability, dates, authors, publications, and, of course, style. 

There are also two major divisions within most citation styles: documentary-note style and parenthetical style.  Documentary-note style is the standard form of documenting sources.  It involves using either footnotes or endnotes so that information about your sources is readily available to your readers but does not interfere with their reading of your work. 

   In the parenthetical style, sometimes called the “author-date” style or “in-text” style, references to sources are made in the body of the work itself, through parentheses.  An example of this would be the following sentence, taken from page 23 of a book written by Professor Scott in 1999:

Professor Scott asserts that “environmental  reform in Alaska in the 1970s accelerated rapidly as the result of pipeline expansion.”  (Scott 1999, 23)

This is generally considered an abbreviated form of citation, and it does not require footnotes or endnotes, although it does require the equivalent of a “Works Cited” page at the end of the paper.  It is easier to write, but might interfere with how smoothly your work reads.  See your instructor for information on which form, documentary-note style or parenthetical style, is appropriate for your paper. 

With so many different citation styles, how do you know which one is right for your paper?  First, we strongly recommend asking your instructor.  There are several factors which go into determining the appropriate citation style, including discipline (priorities in an English class might differ from those of a Psychology class, for example), academic expectations (papers intended for publication might be subject to different standards than mid-term papers), the research aims of an assignment, and the individual preference of your instructor. 
If you want to learn more about using a particular citation style, we have provided links to more specific resources below.  Just choose the appropriate discipline from the menu on the left, or scroll down until you find the style that interests you.  



•    Writer’s Handbook: Chicago Style Documentation
•    Quick Reference Guide to the Chicago Style
•    Excellent FAQ on Usage in the Chicago Style
•    Online!  Guide to Chicago Style

MLA        (Modern Language Association)

•    Writer’s Handbook: MLA Style Documentation
•    The Documentation Style of the Modern Language Association
•    MLA Citation Style
•    Online! Guide to MLA Style
•    Useful Guide to Parenthetical Documentation

Turabian    (an academic style that works in other disciplines as well)
•    Turabian bibliography samples (Ithaca College Library). Based on the 6th edition of Turabian's  Manual.
•    Turabian Style: Sample Footnotes and Bibliographic Entries (6th edition) (Bridgewater State College)
•    Turabian style guide: (University of Southern Mississippi Libraries)
•    Turabian Citation Style Examples (Northwest Missouri State University


ACS        (American Chemical Society)

•    ACS Style Sheet
•    ACS Books Reference Style Guidelines

AMA        (American Medical Society)

•    AMA Style Guide
•    AMA Documentation Style
•    AMA Citation Style

CBE        (Council of Biology Editors)

•    Writer’s Handbook: CBE Style Documentation
•    Online!  Guide to CBE Style
•    CBE Style Form Guide

IEEE         (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

•    Handbook: Documentation IEEE Style
•    Sample IEEE Documentation Style for References
•    Electrical Engineering Citation Style

NLM        (National Library of Medicine)

•    NLM Style Guide
•    Citing the Internet: A Brief Guide
•    National Library of Medicine Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation (PDF format)

Vancouver     (Biological Sciences)

•    Introduction to the Vancouver Style
•    Vancouver Style References
•    Detailed Explanation of the Vancouver style

Social Sciences

AAA        (American Anthropological Association)
•    Citations and Bibliographic Style for Anthropology Papers
•    AAA Style Handbook (PDF format)

APA        (American Psychological Association)

[if one of the below needs to be deleted, delete APA Style Guide]

•    Writer’s Handbook: APA Style Documentation
•    APA Style Guide
•    Bibliography Style Handbook (APA)
•    APA Style Electronic Format
•    Online!  Guide to APA Style
•    APA

APSA        (American Political Science Association)

•    Writer’s Handbook: APSA Documentation

Legal Style

•    Cornell University’s Introduction to Basic Legal Citation
•    Legal Citation: Using and Understanding Legal Abbreviations
•    Legal Research and Citation Style in the USA

Other:     General info on citing web documents

Recommended Multi-Style Links

 Preventing Plagiarism: Student Resources

In a research paper, you have to come up with your own original ideas while at the same time making reference to work that’s already been done by others.  But how can you tell where their ideas end and your own begin?  What’s the proper way to integrate sources in your paper?   If you change some of what an author said, do you still have to cite that person? 
Confusion about the answers to these questions often leads to plagiarism.  If you have similar questions, or are concerned about preventing plagiarism, we recommend using the checklist below.

A.    Consult with your instructor

Have questions about plagiarism?  If you can’t find the answers on our site, or are unsure about something, you should ask your instructor.  He or she will most likely be very happy to answer your questions.  You can also check out the guidelines for citing sources properly.  If you follow them, and the rest of the advice on this page, you should have no problems with plagiarism.

B.    Plan your paper

Planning your paper well is the first and most important step you can take toward preventing plagiarism.  If you know you are going to use other sources of information, you need to plan how you are going to include them in your paper.  This means working out a balance between the ideas you have taken from other sources and your own, original ideas.  Writing an outline, or coming up with a thesis statement in which you clearly formulate an argument about the information you find, will help establish the boundaries between your ideas and those of your sources.

C.    Take Effective Notes

One of the best ways to prepare for a research paper is by taking thorough notes from all of your sources, so that you have much of the information organized before you begin writing.  On the other hand, poor note-taking can lead to many problems – including improper citations and misquotations, both of which are forms of plagiarism!  To avoid confusion about your sources, try using different colored fonts, pens, or pencils for each one, and make sure you clearly distinguish your own ideas from those you found elsewhere.   Also, get in the habit of marking page numbers, and make sure that you record bibliographic information or web addresses for every source right away – finding them again later when you are trying to finish your paper can be a nightmare! 

D.    When in doubt, cite sources

Of course you want to get credit for your own ideas.  And you don’t want your instructor to think that you got all of your information from somewhere else.  But if it is unclear whether an idea in your paper really came from you, or whether you got it from somewhere else and just changed it a little, you should always cite your source.  Instead of weakening your paper and making it seem like you have fewer original ideas, this will actually strengthen your paper by: 1) showing that you are not just copying other ideas but are processing and adding to them, 2) lending outside support to the ideas that are completely yours, and 3) highlighting the originality of your ideas by making clear distinctions between them and ideas you have gotten elsewhere.

E.    Make it clear who said what

Even if you cite sources, ambiguity in your phrasing can often disguise the real source of any given idea, causing inadvertent plagiarism.  Make sure  when you mix your own ideas with those of your sources that you always clearly distinguish them.  If you are discussing the ideas of more than one person, watch out for confusing pronouns.  For example, imagine you are talking about Harold Bloom’s discussion of James Joyce’s opinion of Shakespeare, and you write: “He brilliantly portrayed the situation of a writer in society at that time.”  Who is the “He” in this sentence?  Bloom, Joyce, or Shakespeare?  Who is the “writer”: Joyce,  Shakespeare, or one of their characters?  Always make sure to distinguish who said what, and give credit to the right person. 

F.    Know how to Paraphrase:

A paraphrase is a restatement in your own words of someone else’s  ideas.  Changing a few words of the original sentences does NOT make your writing a legitimate paraphrase.  You must change both the words and the sentence structure of the original, without changing the content.  Also, you should keep in mind that paraphrased passages still require citation because the ideas came from another source, even though you are putting them in your own words.    
    The purpose of paraphrasing is not to make it seem like you are drawing less directly from other sources or to reduce the number of quotations in your paper.  It is a common misconception among students that you need to hide the fact that you rely on other sources.  Actually it is advantageous to highlight the fact that other sources support your own ideas.  Using quality sources to support your ideas makes them seem stronger and more valid.  Good paraphrasing makes the ideas of the original source fit smoothly into your paper, emphasizing the most relevant points and leaving out unrelated information. 

G.    Evaluate Your Sources

Not all sources on the web are worth citing – in fact, many of them are just plain wrong.  So how do you tell the good ones apart?  For starters, make sure you know the author(s) of the page, where they got their information, and when they wrote it (getting this information is also an important step in avoiding plagiarism!).  Then you should determine how credible you feel the source is: how well they support their ideas, the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the information provided, etc.  We recommend using Portland Community College’s “rubrics for evaluating web pages” as an easy method of testing the credibility of your sources. 

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