Skip to Main Content

Citations & Plagiarism: APA, MLA, and more

Use this guide to learn how to format your work in APA, MLA, and Chicago style, and to avoid plagiarism.

Citations 101

How do I use sources in a paper or presentation?

We cite sources to give credit to the creators of the materials we are using in our own work. Citations are how we give credibility to our work by providing evidence for our claims, as well as avoid plagiarism by being honest about where we get our information. Citing sources also allows us to enter into a scholarly conversation, and demonstrate that our work is part of a larger body of work on a topic.

If you're writing for a class assignment, your professor may want you to use a certain citation style. The library has many style guides and manuals available to help you. Be sure you know what your assignment requires.

What does this all mean?

A citation helps the reader locate a particular source of information and usually includes the title of the source, names of authors or editors, name of the publisher, place of publication, and a copyright or retrieval date. 

A citation style describes what information you need to include in a citation, as well as how to order, format, and punctuate the citation. Academic disciplines usually has their own preferred citation styles. APA, AMA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and APSA are all types of commonly-used citation styles.

A bibliography is a list of all the relevant resources you consulted during your research.

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations with a brief noteor annotationthat explains, describes, or evaluates each source.

A works cited list includes only the sources that are specifically referenced in a paper, presentation, or other project—this may be the same list as your bibliography, or it may be shorter.

An in-text citation is designed to give the reader just enough information to find the full source in a list of works cited. Different citation styles format in-text citations differently, but they often include an author's name and a year of publication. They may sometimes include a page number to show exactly where the information was found in the original source.

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism is easy to avoid if you give credit whenever you use:

  • quotations of someone's written or spoken words;
  • paraphrases of someone's written or spoken words;
  • facts, statistics, graphs, images—anything that is not common knowledge
  • someone's ideas, opinions, or theories.

The Avoiding Plagiarism section of this guide can show you the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and synthesizing sources, as well as help you identify and avoid plagiarism if you're not yet sure about how to recognize it.

The Bedford Handbook

Citation tools

Citation Generating Tools

These resources can help you format your bibliographies and references:

  • Citation Builderautomatically generates citations for print or online sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago
  • KnightCiteanother citation generator for MLA, APA, and Chicao
  • ZoteroBib — use a URL, ISBN, DOI, PMID, arXiv ID, or title and get a full citation!

Most of the citations tools are updated regularly, but you can always explore the rest of citations research guide for more information on commonly-used styles.