Citations perform very important roles in research, both at an academic and a professional level.
Why Should I Cite?
Citing your sources
When Should I Cite?
You should use citations whenever you quote, paraphrase, or summarize someone else's work.
You should cite your sources whenever you write ideas that aren't your original ideas. For specific situations, take a look at: Plagiarism Resources.
"I've heard some people say citation, and other people say reference. What's the difference?"
Citations and references are linked to each other. When you cite a source, you're providing credit for that source in two different places: a citation and a reference.
The citation should always match the reference. That way, if a reader wants to find more information about a source while reading your work, s/he can just flip to the back to locate the source in your reference list according to the information you provided in your citation.
It's also a good idea to double-check that all of the sources in the in-text citations are in the reference list, and vice versa. In other words, don't include sources in your reference list that you didn't quote or paraphrase; that's called "bib padding."
Difference subjects/disciplines tend to favor specific style guides.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Check your syllabus and assignment instructions to see if your professor requires a particular citation style. Your professors' preferences will always be a higher priority that these general disciplinary categories.
While there are different citation styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.), they all serve the same purpose. And they all have similar fill-in-the-blank properties. Think of them like jigsaw puzzles. You just have to put the pieces together. And just as different jigsaw puzzles are completed in different ways, different citations have different orders of placement.
citation jigsaw puzzle solved
citation jigsaw puzzle pile
Also, syntax and punctuation matter in the creation of citations. If you place the citation elements in the wrong order with incorrect punctuation, the citation won't work — just as the jigsaw pieces wouldn't fit together if the shapes or edges weren't exact matches.
All references provide the same types of information:
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