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Section: What is a citation?

What is a citation?

When you are writing an academic paper, sometimes you will make reference to other people's work to support your own arguments and to gather ideas. You need to give a reference to the source/s you have used and this reference is called a citation. At the end of your paper you need to list all the sources you have made reference to in your writing and this list is called a bibliography (more on this later). This is where a reader will find complete information about the sources you have cited.

Most Internet sources are free, why do I need to cite them?

Although most sources of information that are found on the Internet are freely available, this does not mean that these sources can be used without acknowledging the author/s. In professional and academic writing, sources need to be properly cited and included in a reference list (or bibliography) just like other sources such as printed books, journal articles, newspapers and so on.

Proper citation of your sources can help you to avoid plagiarism (more on this later).

Citation guides and their uses

There are several citation guides available.  Two commonly used styles are American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA). APA is the style of choice for most disciplines in the Social Sciences, while MLA is the style of choice for most disciplines in the Humanities. Make sure you use the style specified by your professor and if none has been specified, choose one and be consistent with it. 

Citation guides contain not only information about how to cite and document sources in your research paper, but are also useful resources to guide you through the process of research, gathering ideas and formulating your research paper.


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