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Library Research Tutorial

Citing Your Sources

When you have completed this module, you should be able to:

  • describe when to cite sources used in your work
  • recognize different parts of a citation
  • list ways to avoid plagiarism
  • understand the reasons for copyright

Why Cite?

There are a number of different styles or formats for citations. Which style you use depends upon the subject discipline you are working in. If you are uncertain about which style to use, ask your professor.

Each style includes the same basic parts of a citation, but may organize them slightly differently. The most common citation styles used at Inver Hills are:

  • MLA, Modern Language Association: The MLA style is often used by students in languages and English. 
  • APA, American Psychological Association: The APA style is often used by students in the social sciences.


Plagiarism is presenting the words or ideas of someone else as your own without proper acknowledgment of the source. If you don't credit the author, you are committing a type of theft called plagiarism. When you work on a research paper you will probably find supporting material for your paper from works by others. It's okay to use the ideas of other people, but you do need to correctly credit them.

When you quote people -- or even when you summarize or paraphrase information found in books, articles, or Web pages -- you must acknowledge the original author. It is plagiarism when you:

  1. Buy or use a term paper written by someone else.
  2. Cut and paste passages from the Web, a book, or an article and insert them into your paper without citing them. Warning! It is now easy for professors and instructors to search and find passages that have been copied from the Web.
  3. Use the words or ideas of another person without citing them.
  4. Paraphrase that person's words without citing them.


Five Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism
  1. First, use your own ideas. It should be your paper and your ideas that should be the focus.
  2. Use the ideas of others sparingly -- only to support or reinforce your own argument.
  3. When taking notes, include complete citation information for each item you use.
  4. Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words.
  5. A good strategy is to take 30 minutes and write a short draft of your paper without using any notes. It will help you think through what you want to say and help prevent your being too dependent upon your sources.

It's against school policy to plagiarize. Don't let it affect your education!  Here is the Inver Hills Community College Academic Integrity Policy.

Parts of a Citation

Parts of a Citation

As you do your research, keep a list of your sources -- books, periodicals, and the Web. Below is the type of information you need to write down for a citation with each of its important parts labeled.  Remember, too, that the Library Catalog and the article databases you access through the Library will create a citation for you. 

     Citation of a book

Citation of an article from a periodical:

Citation of a web page: 



Copyright insures that the person who created something -- whether a book or a piece of music -- is reimbursed for his or her intellectual work.  If there were no copyright protection, there would be no economic incentive to create these works.  Look for this symbol to see if a work is copyrighted.   ©

A copyright is a set of legal rights that an author has over his or her work for a limited period of time. Copyright covers everything from using images or sound files from the Web to photocopying.

Most information is protected by copyright. The exception is work that is in the "public domain," which can be reproduced or used by anyone. However, you must still credit the author. Some examples of public domain sources:

Public Domain Sources                                                  Examples
Publications of the U.S. Government   U.S. laws and other publications of the Federal government, the U.S. Constitution
Copyright has been waived by the author.   Software called freeware
Works on which the copyright has expired   Works by William Shakespeare

Introduction to Citation Styles -- APA 7th Edition

Introduction to Citation Styles-- MLA 8th Edition

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