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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

What Is A Citation?

When To Cite

A citation is a reference to the source of information used in your research. Any time you directly quote, paraphrase or summarize the essential elements of someone else's idea in your work, an in-text citation should follow. An in-text citation is a brief notation within the text of your paper or presentation which refers the reader to a fuller notation, or end-of-paper citation, that provides all necessary details about that source of information.

Direct quotations should be surrounded by quotations marks and are generally used when the idea you want to capture is best expressed by the source. 

Paraphrasing and summarizing involve rewording an essential idea from someone else's work, usually to either condense the point or to make it better fit your writing style.

You do not have to cite your own ideas, unless they have been published. And you do not have to cite common knowledge, or information that most people in your audience would know without having to look it up.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations alert the reader to an idea from an outside source.

Parenthetical Notes

In MLA and APA styles, in-text citations usually appear as parenthetical notes (sometimes called parenthetical documentation). They are called parenthetical notes because brief information about the source, usually the author's name, year of publication, and page number, is enclosed in parentheses as follows:

MLA style: (Smith 263)

APA style: (Smith, 2013, p. 263)

Parenthetical notes are inserted into the text of the paper at the end of a sentence or paragraph:>

Example of a parenthetical in-text citation.

In MLA and APA styles, in-text citations are associated with end-of-paper citations that provide full details about an information source.

Note: Different source types and situations require different information within the parentheses. Refer to a style guide for the style you are using for details.


Note Numbers

In Chicago and CSE styles, in-text citations usually appear as superscript numerals, or note numbers, as follows:

These note numbers are associated with full citations that can appear as footnotes (bottom of page), endnotes (end of chapter or paper), or lists of cited references at the end of the paper.


Example of a footnote. After the paraphrased or quoted text, there is a superscript numeral to identify the citation. At the end of the page, all the citations for that page are listed.


Example of an endnote. A numeral to identify the citation is placed in superscript at the end of the quoted or paraphrased material. At the end of the document, the citations are listed in the order that they appeared in the document.


End-of-Paper Citations

End-of-paper citations, as well as footnotes and endnotes, include full details about a source of information. Citations contain different pieces of identifying information about your source depending on what type of source it is. In academic research, your sources will most commonly be articles from scholarly journals, and the citation for an article typically includes: 

  • author(s)
  • article title
  • publication information (journal title, date, volume, issue, pages, etc.)
  • and, for online sources:
    • DOI (digital object identifier).
    • URL of the information source itself
    • URL of the journal that published the article

There are many other types of sources you might use, including books, book chapters, films, song lyrics, musical scores, interviews, e-mails, blog entries, art works, lectures, websites and more. To determine which details are required for a citation for a particular source type, find that source type within the style guide for the citation style you are using.

At the end of your research paper, full citations should be listed in order according to the citation style you are using:

  • In MLA style, this list is called a Works Cited page.  
  • In APA style, it is called a References page.
  • In CSE style, it is called a Cited References page.
  • And, in Chicago style, there may be both a Notes page and a Bibliography page. 







Citations In Library Databases

When you search the library's databases for articles or e-books, the list of search results you see is actually a list of full citations. Instead of being formatted according to MLA, APA, CSE, or Chicago style, these citations are formatted according to the database vendor's style.

It is up to you to take the source information you find in a library database (or elsewhere) and format it according to the citation style you are using.


Database results list containing citation information.

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Disability Services by emailing them at  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website