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Citing Sources: Why Cite Sources

Learn more about why we cite the sources we use, how to cite sources in a specific style, and strategies for avoiding plagiarism.

Why Cite

When you research a topic you may use information from articles, books, or the Open Web to support your ideas. Building upon the ideas and knowledge of other people is the way we as individuals build and contribute to the knowledge around us.

When you integrate other peoples' ideas and work into your own, it is importent to give those authors credit for their hard work. This enables others, who see your work, to also look at those peoples' ideas that have contributed to your project. To cite means that you state where you found the information so that others can find the exact item again.

Tips for researching and citing:

  • Take clear, accurate notes about where you found specific ideas.
  • Write down the complete citation information for each item you use.
  • Take advantage of online citing tools.
  • Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words.
  • Always credit original authors for their information and ideas.

Burke, A. (Project Lead), Dorafshar, D. (Animation), Langdon, K. (Narrator), Orphanides, A. (Script), & Duckett, K. (Team Lead). (2014). Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction. NCSU Libraries. Video retrieved from

In general, any citation will include the

  • author(s) name,
  • the complete title of the work,
  • publication information, and
  • the date of publication.

Different types of sources will dictate the inclusion of different elements in the citations. Consult the Citation Styles Guides page for more examples in different styles.




So how do you know when to cite? A few basic rules apply.

1. If you quote a resource, cite it.

2. If you paraphrase someone else's idea or statement, cite it.

3. If you're unsure, cite it.

4. If you state a fact that is not common knowledge, cite it.

Fact Statement Cite? Reason
The Internet has brought many changes to the field of journalism. No Most people are aware of this.
Newspaper circulation has dropped by 20 percent because of the Internet. Yes This is a specific fact that is not common knowledge.
Also, readers may want to know where this information came from so that they can use it for their own research.
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