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Citations can help you

  • identify the who, what, when, and where of a publication or other source of information
  • find new sources which may be relevant to your research topic
  • track down incomplete references

Citations are

  • references to the text or part of a text from which a passage has been quoted or paraphrased
  • references to sources used as the support or authority for a statement or an idea
  • found primarily in footnotes, endnotes, bibliographies, references or works cited lists, and indexes
  • a formal way of describing a publication or any other source of information. This format includes the:
    • name(s) of the author(s), editor(s), or creator(s)
    • title of the item
    • publication information, including periodical title if appropriate
    • the URL and the date of access for websites
  • generally written according to defined style or format. These styles are found in style guides, such as the American Psychological Association Style Guide, the Council of Biology Editors Style Guide, or the Chicago Manual of Style
  • are called bibliographic records in a database or library catalog

Citations form essential building blocks in the development of knowledge because they:

  • identify information sources in the context of a systematic framework
    For example:
    • a subject or research guide, lists important sources of information on a specific topic area
    • a finding aid to an archival collection tells you what that collection contains and how to use it
    • an index provides you with access to information sources organized according to specific topics within a broad subject area
  • place a specific information source in its larger context of knowledge, creativity, or opinion
  • acknowledge the contributions of others' ideas, work, and words
    (Failure to cite one's sources constitutes plagiarism)