Citing or to cite your sources means to give credit to the authors whose writings you are using. Think of the references cited or the bibliography at the end of a paper you have written. Each one of these entries for a book, article or website is one citation. In addition, you will have “in-text” citations that will appear in your paper itself. For example, you might write in your paper: According to Key and Peele (2035), the 2030 Olympics will be canceled due to rain. (I made that up so you will not see it in the reference cited list of this document.) This is an in-text citation. Then at the end of your paper you would write the citation for this that would include the publication, publication date and so on. When you read a peer review journal or scholarly book, notice the in-text citations and how they are written. Then notice how they correlate to the citations on the references cited page at the end of the book or article.
Always remember to cite your sources. If you are on a college or university campus, there is most likely a writing center or English Center where staff can help you cite your sources. There are also numerous style guides you can consult. Each field (e.g. History, Chemistry, English, Anthropology…) has their favorite style guide. Some have a style guide specific to their fields. These style guides not only show you how to cite, but also how to set up your paper: margins, font size, title pages and so on. The two most commonly used guides are referred to as APA and MLA. Use the one required by your instructor.
- APA (American Psychological Association) APA’s guide is called Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Many libraries will have the physical book you can use. You can also go to their website: http://www.apastyle.org/.
- MLA (Modern Language Association) MLA’s guide is called MLA Handbook. Many libraries will have the physical book you can use. You can also go to their website: https://www.mla.org/MLA-Style.
A very good site (website, not cite as in citation) that explains both these styles and gives wonderful help with writing is from Purdue University. See their OWL (Online Writing Lab) at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. There are also software programs to help with writing citations such as Refworks, Criteria, Medeley and Endnote. Do not take this as either an endorsement or a lack of endorsement of the software, but rather as a heads up that such things exist. When sending articles and such from databases to your email, you will notice that many of the databases will ask you in which citation style you would like to receive them. The citations from databases might offer a good starting place, but you always want to check the citations for accuracy and conformation with the style format. It is not uncommon for the database generated citations to have errors or for the database not to have incorporated the latest edition of a style manual. Explaining errors in your citations by saying the database sent it to you that way will probably not put a smile on your professor’s face.