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Get It Done Guide to Undergraduate Research

Got a research assignment coming up? We're here to help.

Citing Sources

Why do I need to cite my sources?

  • Citations give credit to the authors and publications that you built your research on. Citations are extremely important because failing to cite properly is considered plagiarism. Without citing the sources you referenced, you are essentially taking credit for their hard work, which is very uncool. Don't panic though, we are always here to help with your citation questions.
  • Citations can get a bad rep, but they allow you to curate your scholarly conversation. You, as a scholar yourself, get to choose whose voices are included in your research. That's powerful and exciting!

What's the deal with citation styles? Why are there so many?

  • The citation style that you use depends on the discipline that you are studying. For example, English uses MLA style, Psychology uses APA style, and Architecture uses Chicago style.
  • As a first-year student, you will probably be working with a variety of citation styles, so it is incredibly important to read your assignment carefully and understand your instructor's expectations. When in doubt, ask your instructor.

Learn more about citation styles and how use them on our Citation Styles page.

Do citation generators really work?

  • Citation generators are tools that format citations for you automatically (EasyBib, Citation Machine, etc.).
  • While these automatically generated citations are often a good starting point, it is incredibly important to double check your citations with the appropriate Style Guide (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).
    • Common mistakes include misplaced or incorrect punctuation, misuse of italics, mixing of citation styles, and errors in capitalization. Nobody wants to lose points on their assignment for small mistakes.
  • Pay extra attention to the formatting when pasting an automatically generated citation into your bibliography. Be careful not to clear important formatting elements, such as italics.

Citation Managers

If your research gets really heavy, citation managers can be a great way to keep track of your sources during your research process.