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The Place to Start

Your guide to Research, Plagiarism, Copyright, Citation, Style Guides, and Writing Guides

Introduction to Citation

Citation


What's on this page?


A note about the examples

The examples on this page are formatted in APA style.

They are meant to be examples of the general concepts, however, not a detailed listing of all of the requirements.

Make sure to check the style guides themselves for required information and formatting.

This is the only way to make sure you're doing it right.  You can find more information on the Style Guides page.

Direct Quotations

Use quotation marks (" ") to indicate when words are not your own.


Direct quotation is pretty simple:

  • Indicate to the reader which words are yours and which come from your source.
  • Tell the reader where the quote comes from.

It's really not that hard.


Here are some examples

Take a look at this sentence from Paul Krugman's April 5, 2010 New York Times Magazine article, "Building a Green Economy":

Now look at some good and bad examples of direct quotation.

A quote with no citation

Here there are quotation marks, but the writer forgot to mention where the quote came from.

“But while the direct regulation of activities that cause pollution makes sense in some cases, it is seriously defective in others, because it does not offer any scope for flexibility and creativity.“

Sure, the reader knows you got the words from somewhere, but they have no clue where they came from.

A citation with no quotation marks

Here there is a citation, but there are no quotation marks to indicate that these are Krugman's own words.

But while the direct regulation of activities that cause pollution makes sense in some cases, it is seriously defective in others, because it does not offer any scope for flexibility and creativity (Krugman, 2010, para. 9).

This looks like paraphrasing, but it's not.  It's plagiarism.

Here's how it should look

You need to have both quotation marks and a citation. Here's a good example of a simple direct quote.

“But while the direct regulation of activities that cause pollution makes sense in some cases, it is seriously defective in others, because it does not offer any scope for flexibility and creativity” (Krugman, 2010, para. 9).

Notice the use of quotation marks to set off Krugman's text, and the paranthetical note at the end.

What about longer quotes?

If you're quoting a long passage of more than three or four lines (not usually recommended, but occasionally necessary and effective), use an indented block quote.  Here you omit the quotation marks ― the indentation serves to tell the reader the words are not your own.

Unfortunately, Paul Krugman (2010) has argued, one-size-fits-all regulations are not always effective.

Consider the biggest environmental issue of the 1980s ― acid rain. Emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants, it turned out, tend to combine with water downwind and produce flora-and wildlife-destroying sulfuric acid. . . . Imposing a tough standard on all plants was problematic, because retrofitting some older plants would have been extremely expensive.  By regulating only new plants, however, the government passed up the opportunity to achieve fairly cheap pollution control at plants that were, in fact, easy to retrofit. (para. 9)

Note the use of the ellipsis (. . .), which indicates that part of the original text has been removed.  Long quotes should be used sparingly, and anything you can do to shorten them is good.  This example also shows a signal phrase ("Paul Krugman has argued"), which forms part of the citation and which gives extra emphasis to your source.

Paraphrasing

What about Paraphrasing?


Of course, the best way to reduce the number of long quotes that you use is to take the author's words and rewrite them in your own words into a shorter, more concise form.  This is the art of paraphrasing.

Take another look at Krugman's text:

Now let's see how to paraphrase them.

What paraphrasing Is

Paraphrasing is the art of putting material into your own words, instead of copying the original author's words directly.

It is difficult to learn how to do properly and requires much practice, but it is an essential skill in academic writing.  You may want to ask your professor or check with the Writing Center if you're not sure if you've done it properly.  Here are some examples to give you an idea of what it looks like.

What Paraphrasing Isn't

One key misconception that students have is that as long as they change the words a bit, they no longer need to worry about citing.  However, paraphrasing isn't just about switching each individual word to a new one.

You can't simply open up a thesaurus and be done with it.

Now, a few examples of good and bad paraphrasing.

You can't just change a few words

Here is an example of an attempt at paraphrasing that simply exchanges words for new ones, while leaving the basic structure and intent of the sentence intact.

Though sometimes the active policing of pollution-causing behavior is sensible, at other times it is badly flawed, since there is no capacity for change or originality.

Despite the changes, it's still the same sentence.  Putting something into "your own words" means rewriting the material into a new and different form.

You have to actually re-write the sentence from scratch.

Here's how it should look

This second example conveys the spirit of the original text, but with original wording. This is proper paraphrasing.

Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all pollution regulations that cannot accommodate unique situations or new developments may not be very effective (Krugman, 2010, para. 9).

Keep in mind that you still need to cite your source when paraphrasing, just as you do when using a direct quote.

The words in this last example are no longer Krugman's.  The idea behind them still is.

Style, sentence structure, and ideas matter just as much as words.

Combining Quotes and Paraphrasing

Finally, note that you can also combine a paraphrase with a direct quote, if you wish to capture some of the original text while putting the rest into your own wording.

Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all pollution regulations that “[do] not offer any scope for flexibility and creativity” may not be very effective (Krugman, 2010, para. 9).

Use this technique only if there are specific words in the original text that you feel must be included.

Otherwise, you might as well just paraphrase the whole thing.

How to Cite

How to Cite Your Source


You'll notice that the source is mentioned in all of the "good" examples shown on this page.

Always follow your quote or paraphrase with a note or reference indicating the source you used.

Here are some examples.

It's more than a name

Here we have Krugman's name, but there is nothing else to tell the reader where this came from.

This not the right way to quote someone.

Krugman states, "But while the direct regulation of activities that cause pollution makes sense in some cases, it is seriously defective in others, because it does not offer any scope for flexibility and creativity."

Proper citation formats differ between the various style guides, but (with some exceptions) you'll usually need:

  • The author's name
  • The date of publication
  • The page number (or paragraph number, if no page numbers are available).

You'll need to check with each style guide for the exact formatting required, but here are a couple of examples.

APA Example

You've seen this one already, a successful paraphrase done in APA style:

Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all pollution regulations that cannot accommodate unique situations or new developments may not be very effective (Krugman, 2010, para. 9).

Chicago Example

MLA will look very similar to APA, but Chicago uses a completely different method: footnotes.

Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all pollution regulations that cannot accommodate unique situations or new developments may not be very effective.1

1 Paul Krugman, "Building a Green Economy," The New York Times Magazine, April 5 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/magazine/11Economy-t.html.

Here, each citation gets a number that refers to a note either at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or at the end of the paper (endnotes).

Notice that the Chicago format requires more information in the citation than APA.

The Bibliography

In addition to the in-text citations covered above, whatever style you use,

you will need to include a full citation of every source in the list of sources that you include at the end of your paper.

The various style guides have different names for this list:

  • "Works Cited" in APA
  • "Bibliography" in Chicago
  • "Reference List" in MLA
  • etc.

Each style has different rules about what is included and how it should be formatted.

The basic concept is the same in each, though.

Check with your professor or the individual style guides to see how it should be done.

Common Knowledge

What about Common Knowledge?


There's one more topic that should be covered, and this is where things get even more tricky.

Students often wonder,

  • Do you really need to go find an atlas to cite if you're just pointing out that "Madrid is the capital of Spain"?
  • Or cite a particular edition of the Periodic Table when you refer to Na as the chemical name for Sodium?
  • What if you want to mention the fact that Barack Obama is the current president?  How would you even figure out where you first learned that?

Some facts are just so basic that you don't need to cite them.

This is called Common Knowledge, and it applies to anything that can reasonably be assumed that you (and your reader) know already.

How do you know what is Common Knowledge?

Most Americans (should) know who the current president is, but they might not know the names of his daughters, and almost certaintly won't know that Mona Sutphen is one of his Deputy Chiefs of Staff.  If your paper is intended for a foreign audience, they may not have the same body of general knowledge.

Unfortunately, it can be hard sometimes to tell when something is really common knowledge or not.

There is no clear guideline here, so you may want to err on the side of caution and cite a source anyway.

Common Knowledge applies to technical terms and academic jargon.

Take this passage from Krugman's article, for example:

If you decide to paraphrase this bit in your paper about pollution policy, you can use the words "Pigovian tax" without needing to put quotes around it.  It's a standard term in Economics; Krugman didn't invent those words, nor the term "negative externalities".

You still need to cite it, though, as you do anytime you paraphrase something from a source.

Here's an example of citing Common Knowledge:

The concept of cap and trade, as an attempt to compensate for the negative externalities produced by pollution, is in some ways simply a new incarnation of the Pigovian tax (Krugman, 2010, paras. 9-12).

To repeat, you still need to cite Krugman here since you're using his ideas; however, the concept of Common Knowledge allows you to use commonly-used terms without needing to make it into a Direct Quote.