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This guide contains resources specific to the needs of TRIO students enrolled in the Steps to Success TRIO curriculum.

Why Cite?

As a college student you are asked to make sure to cite your sources. But why do we cite? Citing can be both obvious and complicated. Let's look at a few main reasons why we cite. 

Reason #1: Citing sources helps you avoid plagiarism, which is the intentional and unintentional action of using others' works and passing them off as your own.

Reason #2: Citing helps others learn about the research you've done and track down the sources you've used in your work.

Reason #3: Citing ensures that you are viewed as an honest and credible person; someone who can be trusted. 

Reason #4: Citing credits the original author or creator, giving credit where credit is due. 

What is a citation?

Simply, a citation is the information of a particular source you are using, whether that is a book, article, YouTube video, or even a TikTok.

Citations include these basic components:

  • Name of the author or creator
  • Title of article, video, or chapter
  • Name of the book, journal, or other work
  • Location or where the thing is found or hosted
  • Date
  • Publisher or URL

Depending on the citation style you are using, each component is arranged in different orders, with some included and not included. 

Citations are made up two parts:

Full Citation

  • More detailed list of your sources at the end of your work
  • Includes all essential publication information (i.e. Author, Title, Publisher, Date, etc.)
  • Allows your readers to find the exact resource you used
  • Different names depending on the style
    • MLA: Works Cited
    • APA: Reference List
    • Chicago: Bibliography

In-Text Citation

  • Brief notation of the source you're referencing in the body of your paper
  • Each in-text citation has a corresponding entry in your reference list or bibliography
  • Also called parenthetical citations, this typically includes the title or author's name and a page number or date in parentheses ( ).

Adapted from the UI Libraries' Citation Help guide. 

Watch the video below for a simple explanation of citations.

Common Citation Styles

First things first. What citation style is your professor asking for? 

The most common styles are MLA, Chicago Style, and APA. Each one has an in-depth style guide that you may want to take a look at.



MLA is commonly used in the humanities, such as English. Chicago Style is a popular choice for history and law. APA is used mostly in the social sciences. These are often thought of as the main three styles, but there are many different styles used in scholarly publishing such as Vancouver for medicine, AMA for engineering, Blue Book for law, and many others.

Remember, there are always exceptions to the rule and a different citation style may be needed so, it never hurts to double check and ask your instructor! 

See more for each style: