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Plagiarism Basics

This guide explains plagiarism and gives some tips on how to avoid it.

Citing and Citations

Throughout this guide and in most statements, videos, tutorials, etc., you are told to "cite" your sources or to provide "citations."  You may even be told to use a specific "style," such as MLA, APA, or Chicago.  What exactly is meant by these terms?

To cite a source means to document it in sufficient detail that a reader will be able to find that source and specific quotation or idea within that source in order to find more information.

A citation is the specific information or documentation that should be provided to make it possible to find the information cited.  Typical minimum citations for different types of materials include:

  • Books: Author(s) or editor(s) names, Title of the book, Publication information (place of publication, publisher's name, date of publication) and, for footnotes, the page(s) where the information is found.
  • Chapters in books or Encyclopedia articles: Author of the chapter or article (if available), Title of the article, followed by the preposition In, then provide the information listed above for books.
  • Articles in journals, magazine, newspapers, etc (including electronic versions): Author of the article, Title of the article, Name of the journal, magazine, etc., publication information (date of publication, volume and issue number [where available]) and the range of pages on which the article appears.
  • Web sites: Author (if available), Title of the item (if available), Name of the web site, URL of the web site, and Date the information was retrieved.

Citation Styles

citation style is the specific order in which you organize the portions of the citations shown above.  There are three styles that are most common, but there may be other, discipline-specific styles you will be asked to use.  Always check with your instructors to see if they require a specific style.  If they do not, you may use the style you prefer, but it is important to use one style consistently throughout your paper.

The most common citation styles are:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) - used in many of the social sciences
  • Chicago (University of Chicago) - also used in many of the social sciences, particularly in History
  • MLA (Modern Language Association of America)  - used primarily in the humanities

You will find additional information about citation styles and style guides on the Citation/Style Guides research guide.