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Citation Styles Playbook

The purpose of this playbook is to help you cite the sources used in your academic research.


The purpose of this playbook is to help you cite the sources you use for your academic papers and essays.  Different disciplines use different citation styles, but the two most used styles at PVCC are the MLA Style and the APA Style

What Is a...?

A citation is a way to tell your readers where you found your sources, and it also gives your readers enough information (such as author, title, page numbers, etc.) to find the sources themselves.  Citations are located both in the body of your essay or paper (in text citations) and at the end of your essay/paper (References or Works Cited).

There are two kinds of in text citations: narrative (when the citation information is part of a sentence) and parenthetical (where the citation information is in parentheses).  Typically, a paper or essay will include both types. 

A citation style is a set of rules that tells you how to format your citations and what information you have to include. It is a standardized documentation format set and regulated by a specific organization, such as the Modern Language Association, which governs the MLA style. Citation styles are used not only in formal publishing, but also in colleges and universities.

In MLA Style, the Works Cited list is the last page of your paper/essay, where you list your sources. In APA style, this list is titled References.

A bibliography is a list of works (books, articles, etc.) that can be used for background or further reading. Sometimes these lists contain descriptive notes, which add details to the list. If this is the case, then the list is referred to as an annotated bibliography.


Why Cite?

"Why do I have to cite my sources?"

When you do research, you work with other people's ideas as well as your own.  This is an integral part of research, to combine your ideas with the ideas of others and create something new. It is very important that you give credit where credit is due, and this is one reason you need to cite your sources. If you don't, you're committing plagiarism, which is is both lying and stealing. When you cite your sources, you tell your readers about where you found some of the inspiration for your work, and you credit those who inspired you, or those whose work you used. Also, when you cite your sources, you help your readers find those sources if they wish to read more about the ideas presented in your work. 

"How do I decide when to cite a source?"

Whenever you use information from articles, books, interviews, etc., you must credit the authors of those works by citing the sources.  When the information you're using is your own idea, or when the information is common knowledge (for example, that Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States), then you do not need to cite.

"What if I take the information and reword it?"

Rewording something is called "paraphrasing." If you paraphrase, you still have to cite your source, because the ideas you are using belong to another person.

"So what do I do if I paraphrase?"

When you're going to paraphrase, introduce this in a way that makes it clear the ideas belong to someone else. For example, you could say, "Peterson argues that...," or "In her book, the author mentions several times that...."  Make sure you understand the requirements of the citation style you're using; some require a page number after paraphrases and some do not.