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Citation Guide

This guide gives overviews and sample citations for MLA and APA citation styles.

Citation Styles

Citation Styles

Different academic disciplines prefer different citation styles. These include MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, AAA, AP, and more. Each citation style dictates how a paper should be formatted overall, but the primary focus is to show writers how to properly construct the two major components involved in citing your sources: in-text citations or footnotes/endnotes and the list of sources you used (typically called works cited, references or bibliography). In-text citations are notes within your paper that appear next to each quotation, paraphrase, fact, etc., to show which source the information came from and to point your readers to the complete list of sources at the end of your paper.

Your instructors will give you details about the preferred citation style they want you to use in their courses. Make sure that any citation tools and resources you use follow the most current editions of the manuals for each citation style.


Citation Guide content adapted, with permission, from Pellissippi State Community College Libraries. June 2016.

Citing Your Work

About Academic Citation

Most academic writing draws, to some extent, upon ideas and research previously published by others. It is important to research thoroughly to learn as much information about your topic as possible, and crediting your sources is an essential step in the research process. Citing sources benefits you as well as the authors whose work you have used in your research.

How citing sources benefits you:

  • Citing sources that support your own ideas gives your paper authority and credibility.
  • Citations act as proof that you have researched your topic thoroughly.
  • Giving credit to the sources you have used protects you from charges of plagiarism.
  • Citing enables anyone who reads your paper to locate the sources you used.
  • A strong Works Cited or References list can be a useful record for further research.

When to Cite

To avoid the potential for plagiarism, a good rule of thumb is to provide a citation for any idea that is not your own. This includes:

  • Direct quotation
  • Paraphrasing of a quotation, passage, or idea
  • Summary of another's idea or research
  • Using specific, little-known facts, statistics, graphs, pictorial representations, or phrases*

*You do not need to cite widely-accepted common knowledge (e.g. "George Washington was the first President of the United States."), proverbs, or common phrases unless you are using a direct quotation.

Plagiarism can also take other forms, such as:

  • Collaborating on a graded assignment without the instructor’s approval
  • “Self-stealing” - submitting work previously graded in another course without instructor’s approval
  • Submitting work simultaneously presented in two classes, unless permission is granted by both instructors
  • Copying and pasting information from a website without paraphrasing or citing
  • Downloading or ordering papers from the web

Citing sources you've consulted and adhering to specific citation guidelines protects you from unintentional plagiarism. When in doubt, avoid the possibility of plagiarism and cite your source!

For help with writing, visit the Writing Center, part of the MSJC Learning Resource Centers:

SJC, inside the Library, Bldg 300

MVC, Room 835

A Writing Center tutor can help you with every aspect of an assignment, from brainstorming ideas for a topic or preparing a working outline to the reviewing of a final draft. The tutor cannot, however, compose the paper for you and will not, as a rule, edit and revise, in full, a rough draft. Instead, the tutor will help you, the writer, focus on a particular problem area (such as grammar, verb/subject agreement, format, citation, etc.) and/or help you strengthen the content of your paper (i.e., its introduction, internal content, conclusion, etc).

Walk-in Tutoring covers:

  • Thesis development and preparation

  • Developing effective organization

  • Properly citing sources (APA & MLA)

  • Creating clear supporting content

  • Improving unity and coherence

ESL Tutoring

Grammar Tutoring - not proofreading

Computer Lab for Writing and Grammar

Directed Learning Activities

(Image by Juhko - Own work, Public Domain,