This guide is designed to help you with citing the sources you use for your research projects.

Choose from the menu at the left to learn more about:

  • why citing sources is important in academic research
  • three of the most commonly used citation styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago
  • software citation management tools that can make it easier to generate and keep track of your citations
  • avoiding plagiarism by knowing when and how to cite sources

Why Do We Cite?

There are many reasons why it is important to cite the sources you use in your research:

  • You demonstrate to your reader that you've done proper research by listing the sources you used to get your information.
  • You avoid plagiarism by quoting the words and ideas of other scholars. See the "Avoid Plagiarism" tab in this guide for more information.
  • You give credit to other researchers and acknowledge their ideas.
  • You allow your reader to find the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper, using in-text citations or footnotes in combination with a bibliography or a Works Cited list.

Citation Styles

                            MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers Book Cover

There are many different citation styles used in research papers. APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and Chicago are three of the most commonly used citation styles. Citation styles are often associated with certain academic disciplines. APA style, for example, is often used for papers in psychology, education, and other social sciences, as well as nursing, and the sciences. MLA style is used in English and other disciplines in the humanities. Chicago style is used often in history and the fine arts. If you are unsure which style to use for your paper, ask your professor. Citation style guidelines are usually published in an official handbook or manual, each containing numerous examples and detailed explanations.

The most recent editions of these style manuals are available as printed books in the reference section of the University Library of Columbus (ULC), as well as online, through IUCAT. If you need help accessing these materials—or with anything else related to citing sources—please ask a librarian at the information desk, or use this online form.

Besides the officially published style manuals, there are several third-party organizations that provide online information on how to cite in a given style. One of the most popular, and most reputable, of these online sites is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL):

While sites such as these can be very convenient and helpful, please be aware that the official manuals are always the most authoritative sources.