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School of Performance THF 101 Library Instruction

This guide is an updated version of the performance instruction guide

Why we cite

Learning Objective: Understand why researchers cite other sources.

Information has value!

Watch one of these videos on why we cite from the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University. 


Why We Cite
From The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (CC)

Citation: A (very) Brief Introduction 
From North Carolina State University (CC)

Image of Video for Why we Cite - click on image Citation Video from NCSU

Here's a break down of why we cite:

  • To attribute words and ideas to their original source – simply giving credit where credit is due

  • To provide your readers with a kind of “map” of what you have been reading that will help your readers understand what has influenced your thinking

  • To add weight and credibility to your paper and demonstrate that you are engaged in the relevant research material

  • To provide an easy way for your readers to get access to the source material

  • To situate yourself in an academic community with shared conventions

  • To avoid plagiarism

Check Mark

You always cite your sources because you understand that information has value. 

What to Cite

Golden Rules

The golden rule is to always cite other people’s words, ideas and other intellectual property that you use in your papers or that influence your ideas.
This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Anything that you read in any format like books, journal articles, web pages, etc.
  • Anything that is presented or spoken like speeches, lectures, personal interviews, performances, etc.
  • Other works like films, songs, dramatic performances, etc. that are the intellectual property of someone else


Common Knowledge

You don’t need to cite what would be considered common knowledge, such as facts, events, concepts, etc. that are widely known and accepted as true. In other words, you don’t cite information you can reasonably expect other people to know.

For example it is widely know that there are bilingual (French and English) speakers in Montreal. So if you wrote, “there is a bilingual population in Montreal”, you don’t need to cite this because it’s an accepted fact, or common knowledge.

BUT, the specific number of bilingual speakers or percentages of where they live is not common knowledge. So you if you wrote, “70% of bilingual speakers live in the downtown core of Montreal,” you would cite your source.


Your Own Ideas

So how can you tell what’s your own idea and what came from one of your sources? The best way to avoid this dilemma is to use good note taking techniques. Make sure when you are going through your notes, you have indicators of which ideas are your own and which ideas or quotes are from a source. Remember to always keep track of a source’s Author, Title and Publication information (as well as the page number).

If you are in doubt whether something is common knowledge or not- cite! 
Better to be safe than sorry.

MLA Style

MLA Style is commonly used in the arts, literature and the humanities.

Style and Formatting Help

MLA Formatting and Style Guide from Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Official MLA Style Guide  

MLA Handbook

MLA Plus (online version of 9th ed. of the MLA Handbook)

MLA Plus