A brief overview of writing research, sources and citations.

We know that it can be intimidating to use sources in your writing. Between MLA, APA, Chicago… How are you supposed to know the correct way to cite something? 

Don’t worry. Regardless of whether you’ve never written a citation, or if you’re trying to use a source that is tricky for you to cite, the Writing Center is here to help. 


What is a citation?

A citation is a way to give credit in your writing to other authors and mediums that influenced the ideas for your assignment. You can and should cite almost any type of medium that you drew information from, like YouTube videos, websites, tweets, emails, lab reports, magazine articles, and more. 

Citations can be in-text abbreviations or bibliography entries that are found at the end of your assignment. 


What’s an in-text citation?  

An in-text citation is an abbreviation found embedded in, before, or after a sentence. It indicates to the reader that you’ve found the evidence you’re presenting somewhere else. You’re telling your reader where they can reference that information. 

In-text citations are different from bibliography entries that are often found at the end of your paper, or in a footnote or end note. 

It’s important to use in-text citations to show who else has influenced your thinking. In text-citations allow you to do this in very specific spots throughout your writing. 


I’ve heard sometimes a source comes with a citation, or that there’s a “cite tool.” Do these work?

The short answer is, maybe. 

The long answer is that certain search tools and websites, like Academic Search Premier, will generate a citation for you with a citation tool. Sometimes the citation is provided in the text or on the webpage.

These citations could be correct. We recommend double-checking generators or citations provided by the text. Citation styles change and sometimes generators make mistakes. Also, try not to use multiple generators for your citations. By using one generator, you’ll be able to learn the quirks and common mistakes to look for. 

Use these citations as a starting point. Not as your finished citation in your paper. At least not until you’ve double-checked that the citation is correct. 


What happens if I don’t cite something correctly?

If you don’t cite something correctly, your reader will be unable to reference the information that helped you arrive at your thoughts. When citing something correctly, we direct our reader to the exact spot where we found our information. 

In a college context, correctly citing sources helps your professors and peers see the effort you put into writing your paper, and exploring information around your topic.

Looking for more help with citations? Make an appointment so we can support you with your writing.  

What type of citations can the Writing Center help you with?

At the Writing Center, our consultants can guide you through writing citations for any citation system. Whether you’re writing with MLA, APA, Chicago, or another citation system, we’re here to help!

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Getting Started Writing Sources on Your Own

Getting started writing with sources on your own

There is lots of information online to help you start citing sources on your own. Once you get in the habit of writing citations, it may surprise you how comfortable you can become with them. And, even if you never quite feel comfortable with citations, the Writing Center is available to help.

Here are some links for a couple of the more common citation styles: 

  • APA: You can look for citation information in the APA Blog. Search for key terms like “in-text citation” or “how to cite a webpage”. 
  • MLA: Check out this search result if you’re looking for resources. There, you’ll find 10 separate web pages that can help you with your citations. And, if you need the most up-to-date information on MLA citations, check out the 9th edition formatting guide
  • Chicago: To get started with Chicago, check out the information on Purdue Owl. Here you can find a formatting and style guide, a sample paper, and citation examples.

Additional Helpful Resources

The Auraria Library has created course pages with helpful resources on researching in different disciplines. A list of those pages can be found here:

Auraria Resource Guide

Strategies and Help Avoiding Plagiarism

Research Tutorials

How to Cite Legal Documents in APA