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Cite My Sources and Avoid Plagiarism

This guide explains how and why we cite sources in a research paper.

Parts of a citation

To cite your sources, you'll need to gather these pieces of information:

  • Author - or editor, speaker, artist, etc.
  • Title - of the article, book chapter, song, webpage, artwork, etc.
  • Title - of the journal, book, album, website, art exhibit, etc.
  • Dates - of publication, post, lecture, interview, electronic access, etc.


Ma Lei, Hsieh, et al. "Four Pedagogical Approaches in Helping Students Learn Information Literacy Skills." Journal of Academic Librarianship 40.3/4 (2014): 234-246. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Jan. 2015.

You will also use shortened versions of citations throughout a paper. These are called in-text or parenthetical citations.


"The Franklin F. Moore Library (Moore Library) at the Lawrenceville campus of Rider University in New Jersey provides an active information literacy instruction (ILI) program and offers course-integrated ILI to its 5500 undergraduate and graduate students at the request of faculty" (Ma Lei, Hsieh, et al.2014, p. 234). 

Some citation styles use footnotes/endnotes as an even shorter method to refer to citations. You'll learn more about those on the How To Use Citations page of this guide. 

Watch this short (3-minute) video for more in-text citation examples:

Which citation style do I use?

You will need a resource for the citation style required by the assignment.

What is a citation style? Basically, it's a set of rules about how to organize and punctuate these pieces of information when citing a source, agreed upon by a professional organization (for example, MLA style was created by the Modern Language Association and APA style by the American Psychological Association). Different styles, different professional organizations. Your professor will tell you which citation style they want you to use. 

To learn more about the different styles and their rules, check out the Citation Styles Research Guide (below). VCU Writes! also includes an online guide for Focused Inquiry students that walks you through citing most sources using MLA and APA.