We cite in order to give credit to the research and ideas of other people, help our readers find our original sources and learn more about a topic, demonstrate how our work participates in a larger academic conversation, and prove our ideas are backed up by existing research. If we do not cite, we wrongly take credit for research and ideas that do not belong to us, and it is considered plagiarism, a violation of the Middlebury Honor Code.
A citation style is a set of agreed-upon rules for presenting citations in a standard format. Among other things, a citation style tell you whether or not titles should be capitalized, where to list the date of publication, and how to cite a webpage. When everyone uses the same format, it makes it easier to understand citations accurately. Different academic disciplines use different styles, so ask your instructor which one you should use. Some examples of common citation styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago.
You should cite both within your paper and at the end of your paper. You should cite according to the citation style (e.g., MLA, Chicago, APA) recommended by your instructor or common to your discipline.
Within your paper: use an in-text citation immediately following the quote, summary, or paraphrase. Depending on the citation style you use, an in-text citation may include the author’s last name, page number, and/or year of publication. Alternatively, some citation styles recommend the use of footnotes.
At the end of your paper: list all sources you referenced in your paper. Each listing should include the complete citation information (author, title, year of publication, place of publication, etc.). Your instructor will tell you whether this should include only sources you directly cited within your paper or a list of all sources you researched, even if you did not cite them directly.
An in-text citation is an abbreviated, parenthetical reference to a source immediately following a quote, paraphrase, or summary. Depending on the citation style you use, an in-text citation may include the author’s last name, page number, and/or year of publication--enough information to help readers find the full citation in your bibliography. (As an alternative to in-text citations, some citation style recommend the use of footnotes.)
A bibliography is a list of all sources you used in your paper. Each listing should include the complete citation information (author, title, year of publication, place of publication, etc.).
Both in-text citations and footnotes point to your sources within the context of your paper. Some citation styles use in-text citations (e.g., MLA); other citation styles use footnotes (e.g., Chicago’s Notes & Bibliography system).
Even if the citation style you follow recommends in-text citations, you may additionally use footnotes or endnotes to elaborate on specific points you do not wish to detail in the main paper.
An annotated bibliography includes a citation and a written statement or abstract about each work to help potential readers decide if an item is relevant to their interests. See our documentation for more details.
We have provided examples of how to cite some common types of sources (e.g., books, articles, websites) in this research guide. (Check the MLA, Chicago, or APA tabs.)
How you cite ebooks varies by citation style. Consult the appropriate style manual for guidance (you will often find ebooks listed in the index of the manual as “digital file” or “ebook”). A general rule of thumb is to cite the digital source in the same way you would cite its print analog, (i.e., treat ebooks like books). In your citation list, add the file type to the end of the citation (e.g., PDF file, MOBI file, etc.).
For in-text citations, if the ebook has stable page numbers, use those. If the ebook has unstable page numbers (often true of ebooks with reflowable text), do not use page numbers. Instead, cite the section in which the quote appears (this may be a chapter number). For example, this is the recommendation by MLA.
When you're referring to a single source throughout a paragraph, it's not always necessary to provide a citation at the end of every sentence. You must, however, make it clear that you're referring to an outside source rather than describing your own ideas. After you've cited the source once in the paragraph, use language that refers back to the source. (This is sometimes called a "narrative citation," or a "signal phrase"). These blog posts from the Chicago Manual of Style (How do I cite the same source many times?) and the American Psychological Association (Does APA use Ibid?) provide an explanation of how to do this.
Davis says that most people only need one cup of coffee to stay alert (2019). But some people, Davis finds, need a double shot of espresso.
It is not necessary to cite common knowledge. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what will be considered common knowledge and what will not be. You might think of common knowledge as information that can be found in a reputable general encyclopedia. (Example: George Washington was the first U.S. president.) When in doubt, cite your source.
You can make citing easier if you:
Accidental plagiarism can happen if you jot down someone else’s words in your notes but forget to list the source, and then later assume the words are you own. However, this is still considered plagiarism; poor note taking does not excuse you from plagiarism charges.
To avoid this, take clear and consistent notes. Always put quotation marks around any text quoted verbatim. If you are finding it difficult to take notes using your own words, quote directly instead and use quotation marks. (Paraphrases that are too similar to the original are considered plagiarism.) Don’t copy notes from someone else, since that person may have quoted another source without citing it appropriately. Always include basic citations in your notes, including page numbers.
If you think you might be committing plagiarism, err on the side of caution. Track down the original source, use quotation marks around any text quotes verbatim, and cite the source correctly. If you need more help or have any further doubts, always contact your professor in advance of handing in the assignment. Remember, your professors want to help you!
If you do not cite your source, it is plagiarism. Plagiarism is academically dishonest and a violation of the Middlebury Honor Code. When you plagiarize, you are not giving credit to those whose research paved the way for your own. You also do a disservice to your readers, who are not able to consult your sources for more information.
Even if you cite the work of someone else, in some instances you may be plagiarizing, committing academic dishonesty, or violating copyright guidelines:
Ask a Middlebury librarian if you would like more help. We are available in person at the Research Desk most days and some evenings. You can also call, email, text, or IM us.