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Citing sources: Citation basics

When and how to cite (and avoid accidental plagiarism!)

Which citation style do I need to use?

First things first!

  • Check with your instructor to confirm which citation style to use. At TCC, instructors typically request MLA or APA citation styles.
  • Note: Sometimes, instructors require extra or different information. Your instructor might want information not usually required by APA or MLA standards. Find out.

Two parts

A proper citation has two parts:

1. Citation in the bibliography

The reference list (APA) or works cited (MLA) list is an alphabetical list of citations for the sources you used in your work. This list appears at the end of your work. Here is an example of an entry in an APA-style References list (note the 2nd line hanging indent):

Foisy, M. (2010). Urban architecture. New York, NY:

Simon & Schuster.

2. Corresponding in-text citations

You also need to create in-text citations. In-text citations are brief parenthetical notations that appear each time you use material from outside sources. In-text citations correspond to their entries in the reference list. Here is the APA-formatted in-text citation that corresponds to the example above:

(Foisy, 2010).

It would appear at the end of the quoted or paraphrased material like this:

The new tower will serve as a "feat of innovative architecture, and a symbol of hope and resilience for a city, a nation, and the world" (Foisy, 2010, p.107).

A page number is added because this is a direct quote.

Basic parts of a reference list citation

The type of source you use, and the citation style will require more detail, but here are some basic parts in a citation, including author, title, and publication information.

Table of basic parts of a citation and common types of sources
  Books Periodical articles Web sites
Author All authors named; editor(s) usually considered author All authors named All authors named; personal or corporate
Title Complete title and complete subtitle Complete title of article (e.g. "Life and times of George Conway") Title of web site/page
Publication information City, publisher, year of publication Title (e.g. Journal of American History), volume, issue number (when available), and date of periodical; page numbers of article URL, date retrieved or used

Remember that each citation style has its own rules for citing sources. The following pages in this guide have information about how to list your sources according to the different citation styles.

Table source:  List, Carla. An Introduction to Information Research. Dubuque, Ia.: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1998, p. 129

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