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Plagiarism Resource Center: Why Cite?

Plagiarism Awareness and Prevention

Citation Poll

What is the hardest part of creating a citation?
Knowing which format (MLA, APA) to use: 0 votes (0%)
Figuring out which example to follow: 1 votes (6.67%)
Citations instructions are unclear or confusing: 1 votes (6.67%)
Not sure what my source type is: 0 votes (0%)
Can not identify the information (publisher, date, etc.) from my source: 1 votes (6.67%)
Putting everything in the right order: 0 votes (0%)
Getting all those commas, periods, and italics just right: 2 votes (13.33%)
All of it!: 10 votes (66.67%)
Total Votes: 15

Citing Sources

You will need to cite the sources of information used in your papers. (See the Using your Sources tab for guidelines on how to quote and paraphrase properly.) This is not only to give credit to the ideas of the original author or creator, but it also takes the burden of responsibility off of you in case that information turns out to be incorrect.

In the body of your paper you will need to include an in-text (or parenthetical) citation whenever you quote or paraphrase from a source. In addition, your paper will have a works cited page at the end that includes the complete citation for each item. The works cited citation lists all the publishing information of the source so that anyone can easily find it again. The in-text or parenthetical citation is just enough information for the reader to clearly identify which resource on the works cited list it is referring to.

Example of Paraphrased Quote with Parenthetical Citation in MLA format:

America‘s history of the right of freedom of speech includes the right to read without your reading material being traceable (Rosen 168).

Your reader can browse your Works Cited page for Rosen (the author) and find the full citation:

Example of Works Cited page Citation in MLA format:

Rosen, Jeffrey.  The Unwanted Gaze: the Destruction of Privacy in America.  Random House, 2000.

The Works Cited page citation is enough information for anyone to look up the book in a library catalog, search for it on Google, or ask a librarian to help find it again. Once it's found, your reader can turn to page 168 (the page number noted in the Parenthetical Citation) to read more about what the author says on this topic - or check to see if you've quoted the source correctly! 

Citation FAQs

The most common citation styles used at WCC are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association) formats, but there are many more. Your professor will tell you which format (or style) your paper should be in. If you are not sure which format to follow, ask your professor. If you need help finding and following format guidelines, ask a Librarian.

A format or style guide tells you to how you should present information in your paper.  It shows how to create citations and gives overall formatting requirements such as pagination and headings.

Following a citation style ensures you have included all the necessary information about a resource in a clear consistent way. This makes is easier for a reader to know which source you are referring to and supplies all the information to easily locate that source again.


MLA and APA are just two of many formats, or styles, created by their respective scholarly organizations as guidelines for research papers written in their fields.

There are formats for Medicine (AMA), Law (Bluebook), History (Chicago), Sociology (ASA), Physics (AIP), Chemistry (ACS) plus additional styles in these and many other disciplines. Professional organizations develop different formats based on what information they believe is important and how it should be presented. (E.g. One format may require listing whether a source is print or digital while other formats do not. Some formats use footnotes instead of parenthetical citations.)

When writing for others you will be instructed on the correct format to use. If you are writing a paper for ENG 101 on a sociological topic, do not decide on your own to use ASA (American Sociological Association) style. Using the incorrect format will affect your grade and cause you to waste time on needless corrections.

To create proper citations, use the style guide for the citation type and source you are using. See the How to Cite tab for specific citation examples.


The standard MLA format for a parenthetical citation is (Lastname Pagenumber) : (Rosen 168).

There may be cases when a source will not have an author or a page number. Use the information that is given to create your citation.

If you are citing an internet source, there will be no page number to provide. Use the authors last name (Lastname) : (Lahey)

Some resources might not credit a specific author.* Use part of title of your source in quotes if there is no author name ("Title") : ("Migraines & Headaches"). Check your works cited page to be sure the shortened title cannot be confused with another source. *Note that sometimes the author may be an organization (e.g. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).


The general APA format for a parenthetical citation is (Lastname, year, p. pagenumber) : (Eisenberg, 2010, p. 584)

Like MLA format, the citation includes the author's last name and the page number of the reference. APA also requires the year of the source, using p. before the page number and commas to separate author, year and page. For The American Psychological Association it's important to know immediately how old the research is, which is why the year is part of the parenthetical citation format (the reader does not have to turn to the works cited page and look up the source to find out).


The works cited page will list complete publishing information appropriate for the type of source (book; database; internet; dvd etc). Follow the guidelines to create a properly formatted citation.

If your citation is missing too many pieces because they are not listed on the source (no author, no date, no publisher etc.) it's probably not a resource to use for a research paper.

E.g. Article from an online newspaper:

MLA: Marcus, Gary. "Face It, Your Brain is a Computer." NYTimes.com. 27 June 2015. www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/opinion/sunday/face-it-your-brain-is-a-computer.html.

APA: Marcus, G. (2015, 27 June). Face It, Your Brain is a Computer. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/

Both citations include all the information needed to identify and locate the article but require formatting it in different ways:

Marcus, Gary :  Marcus G.

"Face It, Your Brain is a Computer." : Face It, Your Brain is a Computer.

27 June 2015 : (2015, 27 June)

NYTimes.com : http://www.nytimes.com/

See the How To Cite tab for citation guidelines and examples of various source types.

Yes! Following a citation style ensures you have included all the necessary information about a resource in a clear consistent way. This makes is easier for a reader to know which source you are referring to and supplies all the information to easily locate that source again.


It is acceptable to leave out part of the parenthetical citation (usually the author name) if you have just mentioned it in your text.

Strittmatter and Bratton's study showed that students who attended a library instruction session were significantly better at understanding and identifying plagiarism than those who did not (738).

Strittmatter, Connie and Virginia K. Bratton. "Plagiarism Awareness among Students: Assessing Integration of Ethics Theory into Library Instruction." College & Research Libraries, vol. 75, no. 5, Sept. 2014, pp. 736-752. Academic Search Complete, doi:10.5860/crl.75.5.736.

Since the authors are mentioned at the beginning of the sentence there's no need to repeat them in the parenthetical citation. The page number is enough information (in MLA format).


There will be times when you cannot identify a piece of information for your works cited page citation (e.g. author, date, page numbers). Follow the specific format guidelines for what to do when you are missing a part of your citation: For a parenthetical citation in MLA or APA format, use part of the source title in quotation marks if you have no author. In the works cited page citation use n.d. if there is no date.

Think twice about using a source where you cannot put together a fairly complete citation. A website with no author, no date and no publisher may have correct information but is not one to be used in a research paper.