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Citation Help: Overview

When Should I Cite?

Citations are a necessary component of a research paper. Scenarios that need a citation:

  • Direct quotations
  • Original ideas or arguments
  • Statistics or original research
  • Opinions or claims made by others
  • Images or artwork
  • Data/datasets

You do NOT need to cite:

  • Common knowledge, which includes commonly accepted facts, common sense, myths, and historical events (but not historical documents)
  • Your own words or ideas unless published in a previous work

Citation Tools

Look for a "Cite" button in library databases or Library Search. You can also export citations to a citation manager like Refworks or Zotero.

Citation generators are a time saver, but they are not always correct. If you use them, be sure to check for errors.

Common Errors of Citation Generators

Check that the following match the citation style you are using:

  • Titles are correctly capitalized. Some styles capitalize all words and some only capitalize the first word.
  • Names are properly formatted.
  • Correct to make sure nothing is in all caps.
  • Look for incomplete information.
  • For citations generated from databases, remove database links. Leave DOI links.

What Is a DOI?

A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is an alphanumeric string that provides a persistent link to content online. It is good practice to try to include a DOI for every citation accessed electronically. APA, MLA, and Chicago Style all recommend including the DOI in your citation. 

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