Citing Sources FAQs
Why must I cite my sources?
- When you write a college research paper or essay, you must cite the sources you used (and for some assignments, those you merely
consulted) to defend your thesis or construct your argument. Citing your sources:
- helps to demonstrate that the facts, information and opinions you express are valid, credible, and worthy of your reader’s attention;
- provides evidence or support for your arguments;
- allows a reader to find your research sources;
- demonstrates where you fit into the academic conversation; and,
- helps you to avoid plagiarism.
- When you write a college research paper or essay, you must cite the sources you used (and for some assignments, those you merely consulted) to defend your thesis or construct your argument. Citing your sources:
What is plagiarism?
- Plagiarism is theft. If you present another person's words, ideas or creative products (including images) as your own, then you are stealing from that person. At QVCC, instructors may assign a penalty for student work that contains plagiarism and may report that student for disciplinary action (QVCC Student Handbook 8).
When does a source need to be cited?
How do I cite my sources?
- You must follow a standard style or set of guidelines for citing your sources. Which style you should use depends on (1) your instructor's requirements or (2) the academic discipline for which you are writing the paper. The three most commonly used style manuals at QVCC--MLA, APA, and Chicigao/Turabian-- are available in the libraries at Danielson and Willimantic. They are the current editions of:
MLA APA Chicago or Turabian
- View and download printable guides. Choose the required citation style:
- Talk with a real, live librarian or send us an email:
Do any sources come with ready-made citations?
YES, but.... Be careful.
The good news: sources you find using online QVCC Library "find" search buttons -- Find Books, Find eBooks, Find Articles, Find Images, and Find Videos) will come with a ready-made suggested citation, usually available in several styles. Look for the citation tool or ask a librarian for help.
The bad news? Every citation generated by a machine is susceptible to errors. Common errors include capitalization, mixing up the different formats for citing journals and magazines, and too much or too little URL or DOI information for online sources.
So, what should you do? FIRST, copy and paste citations from library databases: you will save yourself some time and probably get all the elements of the citation that you need (such as author, title, etc.). SECOND, you will still need to check the format using a style manual or one of the library's downloadable guides--see the links above.
QVCC Library Database Examples
In MasterFile Premier, for example, open the detailed record for the article you’ve found, then use the citation tool on the right and find the format you need. Copy and paste.
In the Online Catalog of print books, use the "Want to cite this item?" link to the right of an item's detailed record. This will take you to the WorldCat.org site which will give you a "Cite/Export" option in its toolbar. Here's an example:
Can I use a citation generator?
Yes. Just be careful. Citation generators make mistakes. Here's what you need to know:
Citation generators are interactive tools that let you enter each separate component of a citation into a data field (for example, you enter the author's name, the title, the year the article was published or the date you accessed the information online) Then, the tool generates a citation that is supposed to be properly formatted. Sounds great, right? But remember, every citation generator makes mistakes.
It's up to YOU to make sure your citations are formatted according to the style your instructor assigns. If you use a citation generator, be sure to check the results against a manual or against one of the QVCC Library's downloadable guides.
KnightCite is a citation generator we really like. It's free, user-friendly, let's you create an account so you can save your work as you go along, and let's you edit mistakes and save those edits. Citations can be generated for MLA, APA and Chicago/Turabian styles--be sure to choose the right style. The generator was created by Justin Searls when he was a student at Calvin College in 2004 and it's maintained by the Hekman Library at Calvin College.
Are there free websites that can help me to cite my sources?
To format MLA, APA or Chicago-Turabian style citations, we recommend the citation generator KnightCite.
To learn more about formatting your paper and citing your sources in MLA or APA style, we recommend the Research and Citation Resources at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).
last update: 11/17/2015 by michael lynch