Citing Your Sources

When to Cite Sources

Plagiarism is the act of respresenting the work -- words, thoughts, ideas, research, art -- of other people as your own. Plagiarism is a form of cheating. Any time you incorporate information into your project that is not your own idea, thoughts, or research, you need to indicate, with in-text citations and a formal bibliography, where you found that information. 

There are only a few instances in which you probably do not need to cite your sources.  You do not need to cite your sources if you are writing your own words, ideas, or original research.  You also do not need to cite information that is considered common knowledge, such as:

  • facts that are found in many sources (example: Marie Antoinette was guillotined in 1793.)
  • things that are easily observed (example: Many people talk on cell phones while driving.)
  • common sayings (example: Every man has his price.)

If you ever have any questions, be on the safe side and contact a librarian first.

Why to Cite Sources

  • To give credit to the people whose words and ideas you are using.  The first step to avoiding plagiarism is acknowledging when your material comes from a source other than yourself.
  • To distinguish other people's ideas from your own
  • To make your argument stronger by using supporting evidence from other sources
  • To allow people reading your work to verify your claims and get additional information related to the topic you're discussing

(Adapted from a list by Erin Mooney)

How to Cite Sources

To properly cite a source, most styles have two necessary components: the in-text citation which corresponds to a specific source in the bibliography.

Follow the guidelines in the citation manuals carefully to understand how to cite sources in the text of your paper as well as how to cite them at the end of your paper in a listed bibliography (also called a "works cited" list or "references").

Examples of in-text and bibliography citations can be found here:

Remember that Oxford College's Writing Center can be a resource for citation help. Additionally, citation tools are available as well.

Citation Tools

Oxford College has several tools available for helping you create bibliographies and manage your research. If you need assistance with any of the tools below, please contact a librarian.


Zotero is a free Firefox add-on that lives in your browser window.  A stand-alone client also exists to support Safari and Chrome. It allows you to capture information from websites (such as and databases (such as JStor), organize that information into folders, and create bibliographies in any format by dragging and dropping the items into a Word document.  If you have a Zotero account, you can sync your saved information so that it is available on any computer at any time.


EndNote is a software program installed on all library computers.  (It is also available as a free download for Emory students through Emory's software center.)  EndNote is an incredibly powerful tool that saves all the information you need for bibliographic citations and exports the citations directly into a Microsoft Word document.  EndNote is compatible with almost all of the library databases.

Internet Resources

Citation formats are tricky.  The Internet is a great source for getting help with creating citations.  Below are some links that you might find helpful.  No matter how you create your bibliographies, though, remember ALWAYS to double-check that the formatting is correct.  Mistakes can be made even by the best databases and citation generators.  It is YOUR responsibility to make sure your work is correct, and the actual handbooks and style guides are the ultimate authorities.

Keep in mind that these are just a few types of citation styles.  There are many, many more, and we can help you.