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Library Research E-Textbook - Instructor Version: Citing Sources

Citations Really Aren't so Bad


After reviewing this module, you will:

  • Know the basics of citation format for citing sources
  • Know how to use in-text citations
  • Be acquainted with tools for citing sources
  • Know where to go to get help with citing sources

What is a citation? Most academic work draws upon the works of others; therefore, citing your sources is an important part of the scholarly writing process.

Citations include the key elements that allow your sources to be identified and located. These elements vary depending on the type of resource.

There are several reasons to cite yor sources:

  • Give proper credit to the ideas, words, and works of others you use in your research
  • Allow readers to find your sources in order to determine if they are reliable, better evaluate your argument, and locate additional information
  • Avoid plagiarism
Check out the following video to learn more about the importance of citations.

Citation Manuals


The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th Edition, created by the Modern Language Association, is the preferred style manual for students in English Departments to use in preparing their research papers. While there are other citation styles you may use in other classes, we will focus on it here because it is used in most humanities fields. The rules of APA Style®, detailed in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, offer sound guidance for writing with simplicity, power, and concision. APA Style has been adapted by many disciplines and is used by writers around the world.    
Click here for a tutorial on how to cite resources using MLA style. Click here for a tutorial on how to cite resources using APA style.

It's important to cite your sources for the reasons mentioned in the previous video; however, the most important reason to use citations is to avoid accidental plagiarism. Because plagiarism can be a tricky subject to master, let's look at a great plagiarism tutorial from Vaughan Memorial Library at Acadia University.

Free Citation Help!: EasBib Tutorial

EasyBib is a free, online-based citation manage that helps you cite in any style guide. Use this Instructional Guide to explore the tool and get a feel for EasyBib.

While EasyBib is a fantastic resource, your professor is the final authority on style issues. Sometimes a professor will modify the style to accomodate his or her needs, so check with your professor for any problems.

Great Sites for Citation Help

  • Noodle Tools -- Automatically generate citations in MLA, APA or Chicago style!
  • Citation Machine
    Can be used to automatically generate citations, too.
  • EasyBib
    Another site you can use to generate citations and create a bibliography.
  • Owl at Purdue


For more information on APA and MLA Citations, check out the following pages:

   APA Citations

   MLA Citations

Click here to proceed to the next page of the module, Plagiarism and Academic Honesty.

SLOs and IL Standards

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Professional Competence

Information Literacy Standards:

  • Standard 2
  • Standard 5

Exercise: Identifying Citations

From Bobish and Jacobson's OpenSUNY's Information Literacy User's Guide (pg. 55- 61)

Take a look at some examples of citations by clicking the button below. You can see that there are differences between citation styles, and that each information format contains different elements. When you try to determine whether a citation is for a book, book chapter or journal, think about the elements inherent in each of these formats.

After you finish exploring the elements of a citation, take the online quiz by clicking the button below.  In this exercise, you will choose the type of resource that matches the citation. Don't worry about scoring - this is a learning exercise that will help you master the different parts of a citation.

Activity: Search & Cite

Find three sources on your topic (at least one should be a scholarly article) and cite them using MLA or APA style.

Please consider sharing your students' work with Rachel Santose ( for assessment purposes.