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International Students: A Guide to Using Pratt Libraries

Why Do We Cite?

Why do we cite our sources in research papers?

  • Give credit where it's due and avoid plagiarism
  • Contribute to a scholarly conversation
  • Help others understand our work by tracing the origins of our ideas and research
  • Help others continue research in the area that our paper is focused

This short article, titled "Why Citations Matter," helps break down each of these points in greater detail.  

When To Cite

It can sometimes be difficult to understand when to cite. You do not need to cite information that is common knowledge, or your own thoughts. However, if you're quoting someone else's words, paraphrasing their work, or using their ideas, you will need to cite them.

The following checklist, borrowed from the University of Mary Washington's Library, explains when it is appropriate to cite a source.

You must cite the source when you...

  • Paraphrase someone’s ideas.

  • Mention someone’s ideas.

  • Summarize a source.

  • Quote someone’s exact words. (In addition to citing the source, you must also indicate that the words are a quotation, and not your own words.)

  • Use numerical data, such as statistics.

  • Use an image, such as a picture or a diagram.

  • Use multimedia, such as a video, an animation, or an audio recording.

  • Mention a fact that is not common knowledge. 

If you are still not sure whether you need to cite something, ask a librarian!

Where To Go

Our research guide on citing sources is a great place to go to learn more about citing sources. 

In addition, Purdue OWL offers a great deal of information on citing sources in a variety of styles. Purdue OWL offers detailed guides to APA, MLA, and Chicago citation styles, as well as a helpful section for students writing in English as a second language.