Skip to Main Content

SSH205 Library Instruction

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.

APA Style

*All links and sources reflect APA 7th edition (2019) unless noted.

Style and Formatting Help

APA Style from Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) *Updated for APA 7th edition (2019)

APA FAQ *Updated for APA 7th edition (2019)

Quick Help

Citing sources in the body of your essay

In-Text Citations (Authors and websites)

Creating a Reference List/Bibliography


Electronic sources (Online Articles, E-books, Websites, YouTube etc)

APA in your Essay

What an APA paper looks like (OWL Purdue)

APA Style Guide (Official Copy)

The Library has multiple copies of the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th edition). It is available at the following locations:

  • Reserve (2nd floor Check-out desk). One copy is available to be checked out for 2 hours.
  • 5th floor. One copy is available for regular loan period.

The call number is: BF76.7 .P82 2020


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

Chicago Manual of Style

Style and Formatting Guides""

Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition from Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Chicago Basic Style Guide from Student Learning Support (Toronto Metropolitan University)

Official Versions 

Chicago Manual of Style. 17th Edition
10th floor. Call number: Z253 U69 2017 (1 week loan)

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition 
10th floor, Call number:  Z253 .U69 2010