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RHET:1030/1040/1060: Rhetoric (Writing & Reading, Speaking & Reading)

Quick Tips - Steps for Citing your Sources

Citing your sources correctly is the right thing to do because...

  • you give credit to people who did research before you
  • your readers may want to follow-up and track down some of your original sources
  • it helps you avoid plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty, which is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work” (

Step One: Take good notes as you do your research

If you cut 'n' paste text, be sure to: 

  • Put quotation marks around any works that you pull directly from another source
  • Transfer the information about where the text came from as you go, for example cut 'n' paste the URL of the web site, and list the author, title, journal, etc. right below the text that you copied
  • Keep all the research you collect in one place
  • Write citations as you go

Step Two: Select the citation style you are going to use

  • Use the citation style recommended or required by your professor (commonly APA, MLA, or Chicago)
  • If the citation style is left up to you, use the one that is recommended for your discipline
  • Stay consistent, using only one citation style throughout your project

Step Three: Decide when you need to cite

  • Have you quoted something directly?
  • Have you paraphrased another person's idea?
  • Every time you cite something within the text of your paper, there should be a corresponding entry in the References / Works Cited list

Step Four: Carefully follow the rules of the citation / style guide

  • Rules apply to indentation, alphabetization, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, element order, using full names or initials, etc.
  • Example citations are listed in each of the style guide to be used as models
  • If you are citing something unusual, provide enough information to track down the original source, following the same general rules of punctuation, capitalization, etc. 

Step Five: Be consistent and proofread

  • Watch for the little things - those little things are what make a citation style distinctive
  • Have a detail-oriented friend proofread with you to help catch things you may miss
  • If you have used "machine-generated" citations, you need to "human-proofread" those citations to make sure they are following the current rules, and so they are consistent with the rest of your citations.

Resources - Style Guides, Writing Manuals, and Helpful Websites

Helpful Websites

Style Guides

Other Useful Guides for Writing