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Get Started with Library Research: Cite Sources

Why Cite?

Academic writing is filled with rules.  Knowing when and how to cite your sources shows that you can take part in academic conversation and avoid any charge of plagiarism.

No professor expects you to present your own ideas only; be clear about where your ideas, phrases, and special words come from.  Any time you refer to another person's work--whether you quote directly from another's work, refer to another's work in your own words, or base your ideas on another's work--you must cite the sources you used.  Citing your sources serves a number of very important purposes.  For example, citing properly:

  • Gives authors due credit for their work and ideas.
  • Provides evidence of the depth and rigor of your research. 
  • Gives others a way to also find the valuable information you have used.
  • Helps you to avoid plagiarism.

How Cite?

Always ask your instructor which style of scholarly citation you need to use for a particular paper or project.  See Citation Guides for examples of APA, Chicago, and MLA citation styles and more.

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using another person's words or ideas without giving him/her proper credit.  It is a serious academic offense. 

The Academic Integrity page defines plagiarism in more detail and provides information about Muhlenberg's Academic Integrity Code.  Check out Defining Plagiarism: A Guide for Students with helpful frequently asked questions. 

Indiana University's plagiarism tutorial also offers helpful information on understanding and recognizing plagiarism, including an overview with basics and recommendations and examples.  

Keep Track of Your Research

Keep careful track of where you found your ideas, phrases, and key concepts so that you can correctly cite your sources.  It may be helpful to use a citation management tool, like Zotero, to help you keep track of, organize, and cite your sources.  

  • Zotero
    "Free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources." Download instructions and help available on the site.
  • Zotero Guide
    Additional step-by-step instructions for using Zotero.

Get Help

Need more help with this?  Ask a Librarian.


Need help with writing?  Contact the Writing Center.