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Citing your Sources

Citing Your Sources

Publication manual of the American Psychological Association Chicago manual of style MLA handbook for writers of research papers

Why must I cite my sources?

When you write your research paper, you must cite the sources which you have used or consulted in defending your thesis or in constructing your paper. Citing your sources provides evidence for your arguments, enables a reader to find your research sources, demonstrates where you fit into the academic conversation, and helps you to avoid plagiarism.

Which style manual you should adopt for documenting your research paper largely depends on the academic discipline for which you are writing the paper and your instructor's preference. The three most commonly used style manuals at QVCC are the current editions of The Publication of the American Psychological Association; MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers; and A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian).

Can I ask a librarian for help?

Yes. Any staff member in the library will help. Please drop in or email the librarians at

Does the QVCC Library have guides and style manuals?

Our library has hard copies of all three style manuals. We also have handouts to help with documenting sources, based on the manuals. Click the links below to go to the PDF version of the library handouts.

  1. Citing Your Sources - APA Format
  2. Citing Your Sources - Chicago/Turabian Format
  3. Citing Your Sources - MLA Format

Are there free websites that can help me to cite my sources?

To format MLA or APA style citations, we recommend Citation Fox.

To format Chicago or Turabian style citations, we recommend Son of Citation Machine.

To learn more about formatting your paper and citing your sources in MLA, APA, or Chicago styles, we recommend the Research and Citation Resources at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

The best citation generator we've found is Knight Cite created by Justin Searls when he was a student at Calvin College in 2004. Access is free. Final responsibility for formatting the citation correctly is YOURS. Check the results against QVCC guides or ask a librarian for help.

Do the databases on the QVCC Library website have citation help and examples?

They sure do, but how you locate the citation example varies from database to database. For instance, if you want MasterFile Premier to format an MLA style reference for the article you’ve found, then you need to follow a few simple steps before you can cut and paste a reference into your Works Cited page or bibliography.

In MasterFile (and all other Ebsco databases for that matter), you’ll find the citation format of an article by looking at the Detailed Record and selecting the Cite tool from the Tool menu on the right side of the screen. Always check to be sure that the database has formatted the reference correctly because there can be errors. Here’s an example:

NOTE: Opposing Viewpoints, Credo Reference, and most of the QVCC Library’s databases offer citation formatting tools. It’s just a matter of learning where they are. For instance, in Opposing Viewpoints the citation is at the bottom of an article.

Can I use the citations from free websites or databases as is?

Only sometimes. Computer generated citations, including from library databases, can have errors so you'll have to get in the habit of checking your citations against current standards. Some of the kinds of errors you may see include (but are not limited to):

  1. Titles or author names generated in ALL CAPS.
  2. Magazines cited as journals or journals cited as magazines.
  3. Extraneous URL information.

Does the Online Catalog have a tool that will cite a book for me?

Yes. In the Online Catalog use the "Want to cite this item?" link to the right of an item's detailed record. This will take you to the site which will give you a "Cite/Export" option in its toolbar. Here's an example:

last update: 9/17/2012 by michael lynch

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