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Citing Sources

Citation, also known as documentation, is properly acknowledging the sources you have used in your research. Depending on the subject area, how sources are cited will vary. Below are citation styles usually employed in broad subject areas; your professor will direct you on which style to use which may or may not correspond to the information below.

  • AMA (American Medical Association) - Health Sciences, Integrative Health Studies
  • AIP (American Institute of Physics) - Physics
  • ACS (American Chemical Society) -  Chemistry
  • APA (American Psychological Association) - Psychology, Business, Cultural Studies, 
  • APSA (American Political Science Association) - Political Science, International Studies 
  • Chicago - History, Art & Art History
  • CSE (Council of Science Editors) -  Biology
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) - Literature
  • Turabian - Based off of Chicago style and used for student papers, dissertations, and theses


Citing your sources is more than just busy work, it serves a number of purposes:

  1. Your credibility increases when you are well-informed and acknowledging your sources is evidence of performing thorough research.  

  2. Citing sources clearly defines your contribution by letting your readers know what ideas, analysis, and criticisms are your own, and where you have used others' ideas.

  3. It is a required convention in academic writing.


A common misperception is that you need to cite everything when the reality is you do not. 

Cite Sources When:  Do Not Cite Sources When:
Directly quoting, that is, word for word, taking material from another source. Expressing your own opinion.
Summarizing or paraphrasing another's words. Presenting original results from lab or field experiments.
Reproducing charts, diagrams, illustrations, photos, or any other visual materials that you have not personally made. Stating common knowledge or generally accepted facts.  If the information is found uncited in 4-5 other sources, it can be considered common knowledge.
Using electronic or multimedia materials you have not created. All of this considered, when in doubt, cite!


The ease of accessibility of information through the internet leads some to believe that any resource, whether found electronically or in print, are in the public domain and can be used without properly acknowledging the creator.  The reality is that the term "pubic domain" has no bearing on whether or not you need to cite a source.  Resources in the public domain can be used without having to seek copyright permissions, which is an entirely separate issue from acknowledging the creator in a citation. 

For instance, the works of Shakespeare are in the public domain, but if you are writing a paper about Macbeth, you still need to acknowledge Shakespeare as the author of the work.


The mechanics of citation will vary depending on what citation style you are using.  While there are guides available electronically and there are tools that can format citations for you, a best practice is to purchase the style manual for your major courses of study. 

Usually you will cite a source two times:

  • A parenthetical or in text citation is an abbreviated citation within the text of your paper.
  • Footnotes can also be used in the text, depending on the citation style being used.
  • A full citation is provided in a reference list or bibliography at the end of your paper.

Parenthetical citations should provide your reader with the necessary information to easily find the full citation in the references list or bibliography. The full citation should then provide sufficient information so that the reader can find the work. Think of it as a roadmap; you want your reader to easily get to the sources you used to support your arguments.  

Use the JKM Library's Research Guides to find out what citation style is used in your program. 


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