Citing Electronic Sources

Citing Electronic Sources

It is important to identify your sources when you write a paper. When you do not properly attribute your sources, you are plagiarizing. Plagiarism is using someone else's ideas as your own, either on purpose or by accident. It is unethical and illegal to plagiarize.

Reasons Not to Plagiarize

New ideas are built on existing information. When you compose a paper, you use information others have learned. This information is important in helping you build a foundation and establish the validity of the idea you are trying to prove.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

When you take notes be careful to keep sources and quoted material separate from your own conclusions. One way to distinguish between the two in your notes is to use a different font for quoted material. This will prevent you from accidentally plagiarizing.


The following situations all require a citation:

  • Facts
  • Direct quotes
  • Paraphrased information
  • References to the ideas of others

If you are unsure if you should cite a source, err on the side of caution.

Most instructors prefer one of four style guides for papers and references. Each style has its own particular uses, American Psychological Association (APA) and Council of Science Editors (CSE) are used primarily for scientific articles to be published in professional journals, Modern Language Association (MLA) is geared toward education and professional writers and Chicago/Turabian is often used for in-class papers and general publishing.

American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines

Council of Science Editors (CSE) Guidelines

Modern Language Association (MLA) Guidelines

Sites that will format your references for you

A variety of sites on writing and citations

You can use these research aids to store on line documents, help you make citations and evaluate the quality of your sources.

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