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Research Step 5: Cite (Style Guides, Citation Managers, and Bibliographies)

Use the appropriate style guide to cite your sources


We cite to uphold academic integrity, a set of principles defining ethical academic work. A student or professor who has academic integrity takes responsibility for his or her own writing and ideas. This means carefully acknowledging the contributions of others and representing one's own research process accurately.

Citing all your sources may seem like a lot of work, but there are important reasons to do so, aside from the requirements of your professor.

Citations serve three purposes:

  • They give credit to the author for his or her contributions.
  • They help your reader find more information about the subject of your paper. Just as you can look at the bibliography of an article for more relevant works, so can others who are reading your work.
  • They show that you have considered the work of others before contributing your own. This adds to your credibility because it proves you are knowledgable about your topic.

Because all these functions are very important in academic life, your professors take academic integrity very seriously and will expect you to cite all your sources correctly.


An important part of academic integrity is citing the sources that you use. Your professor will probably recommend a specific style for you to use.

In order to cite materials properly you should use a style manual. Different style manuals are used for different fields. This is because practitioners in these fields are interested in different kinds of information about the sources being used.

The most commonly used style manuals are APA (American Psychological Association), which is usually used in the social sciences, MLA (Modern Language Association), which is used in the humanities, and Chicago Manual of Style, which is used primarily in History.

You will need to cite:

  • Any quotations that come from another source
  • Specific facts or statistics that you needed to look up
  • Ideas that you read about and are using in your paper, even if you do not quote the author directly

You do not need to cite:

  • Common knowledge
  • Your own ideas, unless you have written about them before


When you are writing a research paper, you have to be aware of plagiarism and its consequences. Plagiarism is taking credit for someone else's writing as if it were one's own. To avoid plagiarism, you must provide full citations for all types of sources, including, books, articles, government documents, interviews, Internet sources, and media.

The penalties for plagiarism are heavy, starting with failing grades and extending all the way to expulsion. Furthermore, plagiarists lose the opportunity to develop their writing skills and this diminishes the value of their education. Therefore, you should be very careful to avoid plagiarism.

Remember that accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism! Knowing the standards of academic integrity can help you use sources in an academically acceptable way.

Strategies for avoiding plagiarism:

  • Write down the citation information and page numbers for every source you use, so that you can easily find it again later.
  • Take notes as you are reading to remind yourself what information came from each source.
  • Instead of copying and pasting, put the original source aside and write down the main ideas in your own words. This is one method of paraphrasing — using someone else's ideas but putting them in your own words. Note that you will still need to cite the source of these ideas.
  • It is a good idea to quote directly from sources, but you must make sure that you put any words that are not your own into quotations and cite their source.

Because not all cultures have the same understanding of plagiarism, and because college is different from high school, it's important that you take time to familiarize yourself with the academic integrity policies at Queens College.

For more information on what constitutes plagiarism and the penalties for committing it, please see the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity.