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Bloomington Library 3.0: Citing Sources

Citing sources

What is Citation / Documentation?

When you conduct research for a paper or speech, you will consult sources of information (books, journals, etc.) relevant to your topic. In your paper or speech, you will use some of the words and/or ideas and maybe graphics from these sources. You must tell those reading your paper or listening to your speech from which sources the words/ideas/graphics came. This is documentation.

If you do not document your sources, you are leading the reader to believe the ideas/words/graphics are your own when they are not. This is plagiarism.

Documentation Styles

There are many different documentation styles.  Two of the most common in academic communities are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).  In addition to spelling out how to format your paper, both of these styles require two things:

  • Parenthetical (MLA) or in-text (APA) citations
  • Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA) page


Parenthetical or in-text citations:
Parenthetical or in-text citations are a way of telling the reader, “This bit of information came from this particular source on my works cited or references page.”  For example:

  • MLA    

According to Sánchez-Jankowski, “youth gangs have been depicted as the trade schools for organized crime” (131).

  • APA    

According to Sánchez-Jankowski (1991), “youth gangs have been depicted as the trade schools for organized crime” (p. 131).


Works Cited or References Page:
The Works Cited or References page is a list (in alphabetical order) of all sources that the writer used.  It appears at the end of the paper.  Examples:


Works Cited

Sánchez-Jankowski, Martin. Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society. Berkley: California UP, 1991. 



Sánchez-Jankowski, M. (1991). Islands in the street: Gangs and American urban society. Berkley: University of California Press.


One way to avoid plagiarism is to give credit to the original authors whose IDEAS you use in your writing. There are several documentation and citation styles you can use. Check with your teacher to make sure you are using the correct documentation style.

Resources for source citation


Credo Instruct - Information literacy tutorial

Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)

MLA Style

MLA Formatting and Style Guide from Purdue University's OWL

♦ Watch a short YouTube video on the NEW MLA style

♦ Learn about the NEW MLA core elements and the concept of containers at: Works Cited: A Quick Guide

♦ See a sample citation for a Journal Article Retrieved from a Database (a source in two containers)

♦ Download an MLA Practice Template

♦ Download an MLA Template with Explanations

Turabian Style

Turabian Citation Guide from the University of Chicago Press

♦ Create Turabian style notes and bibliographies with eTurabian