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Citing Sources

What is a Citation?

Citations allow writers to give credit to the creator of information and ideas they have drawn upon when creating a research paper or project. It includes the author, title, source, and publication information. The different citation styles prescribe what exact information is needed for a given source, how this information is ordered, and the format.

Why should I cite sources?

First and foremost, citations indicate when you are drawing information and ideas from other authors, but there are other secondary reasons, including:

  • helping readers find more information about the ideas in your work
  • demonstrating the amount of research you have put into your project
  • strengthening your work with outside ideas

When do I need to cite sources?

Citations are needed anytime outside information or ideas are used in your work. This includes:

  • Direct quotations
  • Paraphrase
  • Using Ideas already expressed
  • Specific reference to a given work

When DON'T I need to cite a source?

  • When the information you're presenting is common knowledge. That is, information that is available from many different sources or is a matter of public record
  • You are expressing an original idea or conclusion
  • You are reporting the results of your own research


Plagiarism is the appropriation by any means of another’s work or words and the unacknowledged incorporation of that work or words in one’s written [as well as oral] work offered for credit. Some ideas have such wide currency that all may use them freely; some words, such as proverbs and clichés are public property. But when the writer borrows what belongs to another, the writer must indicate the source by way of an internal reference, and she/he must enclose all distinctive words of the source within quotation marks.

Los Angeles Valley College takes plagiarism and academic dishonesty very seriously. Please refer to LAVC's policy on Academic Dishonesty to learn more.

How to avoid Plagiarism

  • When in doubt, cite your source
  • Be clear with who said what with in-text citations
  • When paraphrasing, do more than change a word here and there

Citation Syles

MLA: is based on the Modern Language Association’s MLA Manual & Guide to Scholarly Publishing. MLA Style is commonly used in the Arts and Humanities.

APA: is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . APA Style is commonly used in the Social and Applied Sciences, Psychology, and Education.

Chicago: is derived from the The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago Style is commonly used in history, business, and art.

Book cover for The Chicago Manual of Style

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