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Citation Guide

The purpose of this guide is to provide information on the different citation styles you will use in your classes, as well as basic information on plagiarism and how to avoid it.

This guide will direct you to information and resources on using different citation styles for your course projects.

In this guide you will find generic information about the importance of citing your sources, different citation styles you may be asked to use, and links to helpful plagiarism and citation related resources. You will also find useful information on how to incorporate resources into your paper using quotes, paraphrases and summaries, as well as information on patchwriting and how to avoid it.

Already know what citation style you need to use?  Use the navigation tabs on the left to jump to the guide for that style and find the information you need.

Have questions or need further assistance? Contact a librarian!

Citation Styles

Citation styles are specific methods of formatting research papers and projects and citing sources to give appropriate credit to authors for their ideas and work.

The two main citation styles you are likely to use in your courses are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).

Additional citation styles you may use include Chicago, and AMA (American Medical Association).

Plagiarism & Citations

Citing is important because it...

  • Shows your readers you've done proper research into your topic
  • Allows readers to track down the sources you used
  • Shows you are a responsible scholar who gives credit to other researchers and acknowledges their ideas
  • Allows you to avoid plagiarism and the associated consequences when you use another's words or ideas

(adapted from Overview - Citing sources - LibGuides at MIT Libraries)

Type of Content/Information Definition & Examples Do I Cite it?
Quotes When you use exactly the same words used by a source Yes
Paraphrases or Summaries When you reword or summarize the sentences or ideas presented in a work using your own words Yes
Visual Materials (graphs, images, etc.) When you reference or include a piece of artwork, diagram, chart or other visual element not created by you in your work Yes
Facts & Statistics Data collected and/or reported by another agency or person
ex.) 88.1% of Norwalk, CT residents age 25 or older have a high school degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Words or Ideas not your own (regardless of medium - i.e. text, spoken word, computer code, music, interview, etc.) When you quote, paraphrase, summarize, or otherwise reference any words or ideas not your own, including but not limited to information gathered through an interview, computer codes, and music Yes
Common Knowledge Basic information that can be found in multiple sources
ex.) Historical events (including dates), myths & folklore, "common sense observations"
Your own Thoughts, Ideas, or Experiences When you write about your own lived experiences, form your own conclusions, interpretations, or thoughts about a topic or piece of information, create your own work (artwork, music, writing, etc.) No
"Generally accepted facts" Facts that are widely accepted to be true globally or within a particular discipline
ex.) Exercise is good for your health.

(adapted from UT Arlington Acknowledging Sources tutorial and with permission from Purdue University Online Writing Lab - Plagiarism FAQs)

Check out Purdue OWL's "Should I Cite This?" flow-chart for help deciding if something should be cited.

When in doubt, cite! It's better to be safe than sorry and give credit where credit is due.
Ask a librarian if you're not sure whether or how to cite something.

Common knowledge is generally understood to be any information that the average, educated person would know or accept as true without needing to look it up.

The Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning defines common knowledge as information "that most educated people know or can find out easily in an encyclopedia or dictionary."

Purdue OWL says that common knowledge refers to information that can be found uncited in at least 5 reliable sources.

Types of Common Knowledge

In keeping with the definitions of "common knowledge" above, there are three main categories that common knowledge could fall into:

  • General Information known by the majority of people
    • This includes, but is not limited, to basic facts, geographical locations/features, and long-established theories or equations, etc. 
      • A tomato is a fruit.
      • Seoul is the capital of Korea.
      • Einstein's theory of relativity or E=MC2 (energy = mass x the speed of light squared)
  • Cultural-Specific Information shared by people within a particular country or cultural group
    • This includes historical people and events
      • The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
      • Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington D.C.
      • Kamala Harris was the first woman to be elected Vice-President of the United States.
  • Discipline-Specific Information shared by members of a specific field
    • This includes information that may be generally known and accepted by students or experts within a field-of-study, but not widely known outside it
      • In astronomy, it is widely known that black holes are the result of stars that go supernova.
      • In psychology,
      • In literature, it's common knowledge that Frankenstein is not the name of the monster, but the name of the scientist who created the monster.

(inspired from What is Common Knowledge? | Academic Integrity at MIT)

Questions to Consider

Since the concept of "common knowledge" is so broad consider the following questions when deciding whether to cite something that could be considered common knowledge in your work:

  • Did I know this information before doing research?
    • If yes, the information might be considered common knowledge.
    • If no, the information is likely not considered common knowledge and should be cited.
  • Who is my audience and what can I assume they know?
    • If you're writing for an audience of experts in the field, you might be able to consider a basic piece of discipline-specific information common knowledge.
    • If you're writing for a general audience, you should not consider the information common knowledge and cite your source.
  • Could my reader ask me to back up this statement with evidence?
    • If the information is considered foundational in your field it can likely be considered common knowledge.
    • If you're reader might be surprised by your statement or it could be refuted by other sources it's probably not considered common knowledge and you should cite your source.

(adapted from What Is Common Knowledge? | Definition & Examples (

When in doubt, cite! It's better to be safe than sorry and give credit where credit is due.
Ask a librarian if you're not sure whether or how to cite something.

Plagiarism is when you intentionally or unintentionally use another person's words or ideas without giving them proper credit (i.e. citing them) and pass off their ideas or words as your own. At it's most basic level, plagiarism is intellectual theft.

The CSCU Student Code of Conduct defines plagiarism as "the submission of work by a student for academic credit as one’s own work of authorship which contains work of another author without appropriate attribution."

Did you know that the word "plagiarize" comes from the Latin word for "kidnapper" thereby implying that some who plagiarized has stolen another person's words or ideas? (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Examples of Plagiarism
Intentional Plagiarism Unintentional Plagiarism
  • Copying large sections or entire contents of a resource without attributing the work to the appropriate author(s) through proper citations
  • Hiring someone or using an AI service (like ChatGPT) to write your paper or do your project for you
  • Intentionally leaving out a citation in an effort to claim someone else's words or ideas as your own
  • Accidentally leaving out key elements of a citation (for example, forgetting to include an in-text citation, or not including the title of the work in the works-cited entry)
  • Accidentally quoting a source and forgetting to use quotation marks
  • Accidentally misattributing a quote or idea to the wrong source

(adapted with permission, Purdue University Online Writing Lab - Plagiarism FAQs)

Plagiarism is a very serious offense and depending on the intent and level of plagiarism you could face consequences ranging from relatively minor to severe. If you are found to have plagiarized, some possible consequences you might face include:

  • A failing grade on the assignment
  • A failure for the course
  • Being put on academic probation
  • Being suspended or expelled from the college
  • If you plagiarize outside the college environment you could be fired from your job or face legal action against you

See the CSCU Student Code of Conduct beginning on page 25 for more information on disciplinary procedures and sanctions at CT State Community College.

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to ALWAYS cite your sources, whether you're quoting a source directly, paraphrasing, or summarizing words, or ideas from another person or entity. Both in-text citations and works-cited entries are always necessary. Below are some specific tips on avoiding plagiarism:

  • Use quotation marks when using the same exact words from your source
  • Longer quotations (generally more than 3 sentences) are typically NOT put in quotation marks but indented on a separate line. Check the appropriate style gudie (MLA, APA, etc.) for proper formatting.
  • Always include both an in-text and works-cited citation
Paraphrasing and Summarizing
  • To correctly paraphrase or summarize, the wording AND sentence structure must be changed to reflect your own understanding of the information
  • Always include both an in-text and works-cited citation
  • Give explicit credit to ALL sources you took ideas, information, or language from regardless of the initial format (written, audio-visual, graphic, etc.).
  • Clearly differentiate between your own ideas and any thoughts or information borrowed from another source by including in-text citations in the appropriate locations
  • Make sure your in-text citations and works cited page (also known as reference list or bibliography) are properly formatted according to your citation style. Use our citation style guides to check your formatting. Ask a librarian if you have questions.
  • Always include both in-text citations and a works-cited page listing all sources used

(adapted from Plagiarism - Academic Integrity & Plagiarism - LibGuides at Kwantlen Polytechnic University)

Additional Resources

General Resources

Citation Generators

*Be cautious when using a citation generator! Citation generators are machines that take the available information and format it into a citation using the indictated style (i.e. MLA, APA, etc.). Since they are automated, they can be prone to error including missing information or mistakes in formatting like missing punctuation or italicis. As such, you should ALWAYS double check the citation generated by a machine and make sure it's accurate yourself. Use the resources available in our citation guides to check the correctness of a citation or ask a librarian for help.

For more information, see Purdue OWL's guide on Using Citation Generators Responsibly. 


General Resources

Plagiarism Detectors