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Library Services for Brandeis Online Programs

This research guide highlights the services and resources that will be most helpful to you throughout your Brandeis Online program. The guide also includes tips on searching more effectively and ways to get help with research, writing, and citations.

Citing your sources: Why and how

What are citations?

Citations are notes that indicate that you used information from other sources in your own work. They tell your readers which sources you used, where in your work you built on the other sources, and how to track down those sources if they want more information.

Why do citations matter?

Citing your sources gives evidence to support your claims, allows you to build on other people's prior work, gives credit to the original author(s), and tells your readers how to find the sources you used.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is "[th]e action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own1."

Plagiarism can be intentional, like copying a paragraph word-for-word from another source or borrowing too much from an original source's words or sentence structure.

Plagiarism can also be unintentional, which happens when you aren't sure how to cite your sources properly.  

Avoid plagiarism

 The Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) offers guidance on how to avoid plagiarism and cite sources in the most popular styles. Their guides on Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing and Avoiding Plagiarism will help you learn the basics and avoid unintentional plagiarism.

Looking for additional support? Contact the Library's Research Help Desk or make an appointment with Lauren (the GPS librarian). While we are not able to proofread your citations for you, we will help you understand how to cite your sources properly and work through a few example citations with you. We can also help you figure out how to cite tricky sources, like stuff you find online.

Parts of a citation

A citation usually has two parts:

  • an in-text (or parenthetical) citation that shows exactly where you used a particular source in your own work.
  • a full reference at the bottom of the page (a footnote) or end of the paper (an endnote).

Citation Styles

The format of your citations will look a little different, depending on which citation style you're using. Sometimes instructors tell you which citation style to use (i.e. APA), and sometimes you get to pick a style. 

Purdue OWL offers in-depth, easy-to-use guides on many of the most common citation styles:

1 Plagiarism. (n.d.) In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from