A citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source that you consulted and obtained information from while writing your research paper. The way in which you document your sources depends on the writing style manual your professor wants you to use for the class [e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, etc.]. Note that some disciplines have their own citation method [e.g., law].
Citations show your readers where you obtained your material, provides a means of critiquing your study, and offers the opportunity to obtain additional information about the research problem under investigation.
Properly citing the works of others is important because:
In any academic writing, you are required to identify for your reader which ideas, facts, theories, concepts, etc., are yours and which are derived from the research and thoughts of others. Whether you summarize, paraphrase, or use direct quotes, if it's not your original idea, the source needs to be acknowledged. The only exception to this rule is information that is considered to be common knowledge [e.g., George Washington was the first president of the United States]. If in doubt regarding whether something is common knowledge, take the safe route and cite it, or ask your professor for clarification.
Citing Information. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Referencing More Effectively. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra.
Referencing your sources means systematically showing what information or ideas you are quoting or paraphrasing from another author’s work, and where they come from. You must cite research in order to do research, but at the same time, you must indicate what are your original thoughts and ideas and what are the thoughts and ideas of others.
Systems used to reference the sources you've used vary among different fields of study. However, always speak with your professor about what writing style for citing sources should be used for the class because it is important to fully understand the citation style to be used in your paper, and to apply it consistently.
How to Cite Other Sources in Your Paper. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Lunsford, Andrea A. and Robert Connors; The St. Martin's Handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; Research and Citation Resources. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Using Evidence. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University.
SHU Library has a collection of Quick Guides to help you cite your sources. They are all available on our Citation Style Guides page.
Listed below are particularly well-done and comprehensive websites that provide specific examples of how to cite sources under different style guidelines.
Type in your information and have a citation compiled for you. Note that these are not foolproof systems so it is important that you verify that your citation is correct and check your spelling, capitalization, etc. However, they can be useful in creating basic types of citations, particularly for online sources.
Most databases provide some kind of automatically generated citations for the major citation styles. Here is a video explaining how to find the citation feature in an EBSCO database.